Congress Adds $60 Million to Navy Submarine Upgrades


Ohio-class submarineLawmakers have added $60 million toward submarine upgrades to include unmanned aerial vehicles, torpedo enhancements and combat systems modernization.

The funding initiative, which moved the $60 million from Navy destroyer modernization over to submarine research and development, was put in place during the 2016 defense bill mark up by Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee.

“The undersea domain has been an area of historical US advantage, from World War II to the Cold War. To ensure our dominance in the years ahead, we must begin investing in technologies that hold the potential to sustain American undersea power. As our potential competitors make significant investments in the undersea realm, the U.S. must continue researching and developing the undersea technologies of the future,” Forbes said.

The R&D submarine funding is specifically earmarked for particular projects, including the development and deployment of undersea underwater and aerial unmanned vehicles.

One of the programs is called Fleet Modular Autonomous Unmanned Vehicle — a rapid development program to provide the Navy with the capability to safely ship, stow, and deploy an autonomous undersea vehicle with lithium batteries from a submarine torpedo tube. This technology also provides the capability to download mission data without physically docking to the submarine, Congressional sources said.

In addition, the dollars are allocated toward engineering submarine-launched Unmanned Aerial Systems also designed to deploy from a submarine torpedo tube for over-the-horizon targeting.

Additional funding for this effort will accelerate the development of a militarized antenna as well as an electronic warfare and cyber payload for the platform.

About $5.5 million of the funding is slated for hardware and software upgrades to the MK48 Heavyweight Torpedo weapons system. Additional torpedo upgrades include an initiative called the Torpedo Advanced Processor Build designed to improve computer processing speeds for the weapon and improve its probability of destroying targets. These improvements impact the weapon’s navigation system, target motion analysis and improved payload ballistics, Congressional officials explained.

Other areas of undersea innovation specified by the funding initiative are referred to as submarine combat and weapons control modernization efforts. This program will develop commercial off-the-shelf based software and hardware upgrades to integrate improved weapons control technologies for several submarine classes.  This includes a technology which enables a torpedo to prepare to fire in less than one minute.

Called “attack in a minute,” this new technology hinges upon new software prototypes and designs, officials explained.

The stepped up funding for submarine technology is not surprising in light of the increased attention to the pace of global undersea modernization. Russia and China, in particular, are known to be making great strides when it comes to undersea technologies.

A recent study said emerging submarine detection technologies, computer processing power and platforms such as underwater drones could quickly erode the U.S. military’s global undersea dominance and ability to operate in high-threat areas such as locations near enemy coastlines.

The U.S. military relies upon submarines and undersea technological superiority for critical underwater intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance missions, which place assets near the surface fleet or coastline of a potential adversary.

In coming years, the technological margin of difference separating the U.S from potential rivals is expected to get much smaller, requiring the U.S. the re-think the role of manned submarines and prioritize innovation in the realm of undersea warfare, according to a January report by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments titled “The Emerging Era in Undersea Warfare.”

— Kris Osborn can be reached at

About the Author

Kris Osborn
Kris Osborn is the managing editor of Scout Warrior.
  • blight_

    Not sure I like the account they took the money out of. FMAUV sounds promising though, as it will allow almost any submarine in the Navy to fire an espionage drone from at torpedo tube..or any other drone of a particular size constraint. I am unsure what kind of aerial drone can be launched from a torpedo tube, we can launch tomahawks from torpedo tubes using a launch booster, so it can’t be all bad.

    Worth nothing that whatever drone is launched from a torpedo tube, few provisions are available to recover the unit.

  • Dave Barnes

    “The undersea domain has been an area of historical US advantage, from World War II…”
    Not sure I believe the WW2 part.

  • Charles

    The navy (and congress) need to get realistic, and start building AIP boats in addition to nukes. These AIP boats are ideal for littoral missions, and can be forward based in Japan or other forward located friendly nations - or used to patrol US waters, since the ChiComs are building nuclear subs that will (if not already) soon be patrolling off the American coast.

    Added bonus: We’d have something to sell to Taiwan, while sending the ChiComs a direct message/warning at the same time.

  • changey

    Seawolf II anyone? Dives deeper than Virginia class to try to avoid those pesky software enhancements to spot anomalies underwater.

  • Curt

    So let’s see, the subcommittee adds money to the DDG modernization, something the Navy specifically asked for, then transfers it to submarine R&D which it didn’t ask for. Makes sense to me.

  • blight_

    This needs to be challenged by SCOTUS. I don’t recall re-appropriating funds for whatever the hell people wanted being something explicitly allowed for in the Constitution.

    What’s next, appropriating money for veteran’s affairs and then spending the money on tax returns for people in a certain powerful person’s Congressional district? We are getting close to patronage and corruption all over again. Stupidity must stop.

  • cjkosh

    One thing never mentioned is that with the potential of Chinese or Russian/Chinese combined attack sub numbers surpassing the US in the near future, and with supposed new laser etc sub detecting technologies (sat sea surface diff detection (not that new)etc) - our few boomers will be at greater risk. Do we want such a large portion of our deterrence on subs in the future? Maybe invest in greater land missile defense numbers so we can at least get a shot off from the land based missiles.

    • blight_

      That article you reference was borderline science fiction. Waiting for more powerful magnetometers, combined with USGS reference magnetometry data to provide that increase in submarine detection needed…