Monday, March 23, 2015

Navy wants Virginia-class subs to pack more punch

Staff, Chronicle Bulletin, Mar 20

The Navy wants to add much more firepower to its Virginia class submarines, which represent an critical chunk of company for Newport News Shipbuilding.
Some lawmakers like the thought a lot, and the Navy is now studying irrespective of whether to accelerate the timetable.
No matter if it does depends on a number of aspects, which includes how nicely the Navy can manage numerous priorities in its submarine plan and the capacities of Newport News and Electric Boat of Groton, Conn., which jointly develop the Virginia-class subs.
Starting in fiscal year 2019, the Navy wants Virginia-class boats to have 4 more vertical launch tubes that could carry a total of 28 Tomahawk cruise missiles — seven per tube. The midsection, about 70 feet extended, is generally referred to as the Virginia Payload Module.
It represents a important upgrade. It would raise the submarine's punch by 76 percent, giving it 65 torpedo-sized weapons, such as Tomahawks, as an alternative of 37, the Congressional Investigation Service reported last year. It would also add about $350 million to the contract, about a 13 % boost.
The president's proposed defense spending budget offers cash for study and improvement on the payload module. It anticipates 1 submarine per year, starting in 2019.
But in budget hearings more than the previous various weeks, important members of Congress pressed the Navy on whether or not VPM could be introduced 1 year sooner, in fiscal year 2018.
The Navy's answer: We'll get back to you.
At problem for the Navy — and the explanation they will need time to answer the query — is a looming bump in submarine production a few years down the road.
Lawmakers asking these questions involve those from Hampton Roads and Connecticut, two regions where submarines mean jobs. But it is not just about home-state economies, members say. They are worried about the U.S. submarine fleet losing its punch.
The Navy plans to retire 4 cruise missile/special forces submarines involving 2026 and 2028. These boats were converted from the current Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine fleet to carry traditional missiles. With all four leaving active service in a reasonably quick time, adding the VPM sooner will compensate for the loss in missile firepower.
Sean Stackley, assistant secretary of the Navy, stated he has examined no matter whether introducing VPM sooner will disrupt the Navy's submarine program.
Initially, he stated, the Navy need to continue to purchase Virginia class submarines in bulk and make them at the price of two per year. The most current contract, awarded in April 2014, was for ten ships to be constructed by means of the Newport News-Groton teaming arrangement.
The Navy also desires to replace its existing fleet of Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarines, which comprise an important portion of the U.S. nuclear deterrent. The Navy expects to obtain the initially-in-class of this new submarine in 2021. A contractor for this project hasn't been selected, but Hampton Roads lawmakers have vowed to press for Newport News to be involved.
Stackley said the Navy study has just begun on whether or not the Virginia payload module can be accelerated in light of other priorities.
"The potential to accelerate VPM can't be accomplished at the expense or stability across the rest of our submarine programs," he stated.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-New Hampshire, is ever mindful of submarine fleet given the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, located on the southern tip of Maine near Portsmouth, N.H. That yard performs submarine upkeep.
"That acceleration would be incredibly significant in terms of our undersea strike capability," she stated.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal is from Connecticut, residence of Electric Boat. In a separate hearing, he asked the very same question of Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations.
"We're going to appear at that," Greenert said. "We'd like to do that, but we have to look at the technical danger ... by May possibly, we should really have an answer."
Christie Miller, a spokesman for Newport News Shipbuilding, stated in an e-mail Friday it was "too early to gauge the influence of VPM on the corporation, but its introduction is anticipated to be handled within the constraints of the existing ... teaming agreement, as has been the case with other massive modifications to the class in the previous."
Huntington Ingalls Industries not too long ago reported that 2014 fourth-quarter revenues for its Newport News Shipbuilding division increased $58 million, or four.8 %, from the identical period in 2013. Revenues in submarines and power drove the increase.
Lessig can be reached by telephone at 757-247-7821.
Spending budget battle
Debate more than the 2016 defense budget has just begun.
The House and Senate budget committees have sophisticated competing blueprints of a spending strategy. Later this year, the Armed Services committees in both chambers ought to formally authorize spending, to be followed by the Appropriations Committees, which tackle the actual spending bill.

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