We have a lot to be proud of as undersea warriors. This month we commissioned our newest submarine, USS Minnesota (SSN 783), the final ship in Virginia Block II. Like her sister ships, she delivered months early, on budget, and brings incredible capability to the fight—not least because the Navy and our submarine shipbuilders continue to leverage the most advanced technology in each new ship that we build. This issue of UNDERSEA WARFARE Magazine focuses on that technology, including the science and R&D processes that create it, the innovative thinking that figures out how to use it, and the training that turns it into greater operational capability. All this combines to provide the U.S. with a distinctive comparative advantage in the undersea domain, yielding highly leveraged, strategic, global influence.
The intelligent and efficient use of advanced technology has always been central to the success of our undersea forces and will be every bit as important in the future. From the outstanding diesel engines and surface search radars that multiplied the combat capabilities of our World War II fleet boats, to the nuclear know-how that’s keeping our Ohio-class SSBNs in service for 40% longer than originally designed, to the versatile Virginia-class components that will be grafted into our Ohio Replacement SSBNs to provide the most potent capability at the lowest possible cost, our engineers and operators know how to squeeze the most advantage out of each and every piece of gear. This technological savvy has allowed us to defer building a new class of SSBNs by almost two decades, providing the taxpayers a tremendous return on their investment. This mind-staggering endurance will carry over into the next-generation SSBN. The Ohio Replacement is currently under design with a planned 42-year service life and will incorporate a life-of-the-ship reactor core, shortening the mid-life overhaul period and generating the same operational availability as our current class of 14 Ohio-class boats with just 12 next-generation SSBNs. Other technological advancements will make the ship quieter and more capable while continuing to drive down cost, giving the taxpayer the most bang for the buck and ensuring a survivable strategic deterrent well into the 2080s. The future looks very bright indeed as we continue to maintain our undersea dominance for decades to come.
R. P. Breckenridge