In January, I relieved Rear Adm. Breckenridge as the Director of Undersea Warfare, and I’m thrilled to be here and be part of the OPNAV N97 team!
During this very dynamic time in the undersea warfare arena, I am privileged to be serving as our community’s resource sponsor. I am pleased to report that, even as we face uncertain financial challenges, things are going very well for the Submarine Force as we work within the Pentagon to ensure we remain a valuable asset in America’s warfighting arsenal for years to come.
As the new director, my orders to the helm remain the same: maintain an uninterrupted, survivable nuclear deterrent, continue to build Virginia-class SSNs at a rate of two per year, and deliver payload capacity and payloads to address our future global security challenges.
- Ohio Replacement SSBN(X) – As the most survivable leg of our nation’s nuclear triad, recapitalizing the SSBN force as the Ohio class begins to retire is a solemn duty we must take on. Submarines from this new class of SSBNs will be on patrol into the 2080s. There will be a lot of debate in the near future on how we can afford this investment as our defense budget continues to shrink, but rest assured, as the Navy’s #1 priority we will build this important national asset to maintain a credible, modern, and survivable sea-based deterrent as the Ohio class has done for the last three and a half decades.
- Two per year Virginia class – This program continues to deliver whole warfighting capabilities well ahead of contractual delivery dates and within budget. Building two per year ensures we maintain the SSN force structure that sustains the undersea capabilities needed to operate effectively in anti-access and area denial environments as a high number of 688s retire in the next 10 years.
- Deliver payloads – Continue the R&D needed to build the Virginia Payload Module (VPM). VPM will add three times the Tomahawk capacity at only 15% increase in cost to the current Virginia design. VPM is critical in mitigating the loss of undersea strike capacity as our powerful SSGNs begin to retire in 2026. Additionally we will explore new designs and improve current payloads to enhance the undersea influence of the submarine.
Let’s take a fix to see how we are moving down track.
- R&D for the Ohio Replacement remains fully funded and the program is on track to begin construction by 2021 for delivery in 2031. The Trident D5 Life-Extension (D5LE) is fully funded. Both of these will be necessary to ensure there is no gap in coverage as the aging Ohio class begins to retire.
- The Virginia-class shipbuilding program continues to be a model of excellence. PCU North Dakota (SSN 784) is scheduled to be delivered in May. This will be the first Block III and the seventh consecutive Virginia to deliver ahead of the contractual delivery date, a feat even more impressive considering the 20% design change incorporated into the Block III design.
- The Joint Requirements Oversight Committee approved the VPM Capabilities Development Document, and R&D is funded through FY18.
- This year we will restart MK 48 ADCAP production. This will be the first year since 1996 that a new heavyweight torpedo is produced.
I am humbled by the tremendous opportunity to serve the Submarine Force, and I look forward to another exciting and productive year. Thank you to everyone who is a part of this community. Nothing succeeds like success, and it is your hard work and dedication that has put the Submarine Force in a position to weather the current and future financial storms.