Friday, October 9, 2015

POV: Ohio submarine replacement program preserves America's nuclear deterrent

U.S. Vice Admiral Terry Benedict addresses symposium.

Peter Huessy, Family Security Matters
8 October 2015

On September 17, 2015 the Minot Task-Force 21 sponsored a fourth annual Strategic Nuclear Triad symposium in Washington, D.C. in association with the Air Force Association, National Industrial Association, and Reserve Officers Association.
When we protect our nation's security we are not just Navy or Air Force, we are a nation, armed forces and a triad together, and we are interconnected. One of the people in the military that represents this interconnectedness is Vice Admiral Terry Benedict, Director of the Navy's Strategic Systems Programs. He's responsible for the development, production and life-cycle support of the Navy's fleet ballistic missiles strategic weapons system. This includes, among other things, maintaining and extending the life of the Trident II SWS, assuring the security of nuclear weapons in U.S. Navy custody, and
assuring Department of the Navy compliance with all applicable arms control treaties and agreements.
He also has been the god-father of a lot of the co-work between the Air Force and the Navy. He was one of our speakers at the 2014 Crane, Indiana Triad event, in fact the initiator of the idea, to which I am greatly thankful. He has been a great friend of not just the Navy, but the Air Force programs. He is truly a triad advocate and truly a very valuable public servant and friend.
His remarks are especially relevant given comments recently by columnist George Will of the Washington Post who concluded that conventional missile variants could be added to the new Ohio Replacement Submarines now being acquired by the US. Unfortunately, if that were done, and you had a mixed missile load of both conventional and nuclear weapons aboard the same platform, distinguishing the launch of either missile would be problematical, a point made by senior Congressional appropriation experts some time ago, to say nothing of the loss of nuclear deterrent capability if the missile submarines carried less missiles than planned to undertake the nuclear deterrent mission. Here are the Admiral's remarks.
ADM. TERRY BENEDICT: Good morning and thank you, Peter, for that introduction. I was asked to talk on the challenges of securing nuclear deterrence in the 21st century. So I'm going to do that from the context of the Director of SSP, a position I've been privileged to have now for the better part of five-and-a-half years. And so what I'd like to do this morning is just take a moment and talk to you about where we are in the program, where I believe the program is going, and then I want to finish up with, as Peter mentioned, the effort that we are conducting collaboratively with the United States Air Force on commonality and give you sort of a status on where we are on that effort.
I'm talking to a bunch of experts, so it's a little intimidating here when I've seen so many of what I call mentors are here in the room. But as all of you know, the Navy provides the most survivable leg of this triad with ballistic missile submarines armed with the Trident II D-5 weapons system. This leg provides, as General Kehler said, the assured second strike capability that we all believe is vital to the national requirement today and into the foreseeable future. This is especially relevant considering that under the New START Treaty SLBMs will make up 70 percent of this nation's operationally deployed nuclear warheads.
I want to digress here for just one second, because just this Tuesday we finished the exhibition with the Russians down in Kings Bay, Georgia where we validated the process that we have developed in order to convert four tubes on every Ohio-class submarine as part of the New START Treaty. That was successfully done this last Tuesday down in Georgia. This, along with the fact that our strategic ally, the United Kingdom, uses the Trident II as their sole weapons system for deterrence, places an even greater need to maintain an accurate, reliable and proven Trident II system.
And today as we sit here and I speak, we actually have for the first time in many, many years, a United States SSBN sitting alongside the pier in Faslane, Scotland. The USS Wyoming made a port visit there. She'll be there for about five days and depart early next week and continue on with her strategic patrols.
At the same time, we have the UK submarine Vanguard alongside the pier in Kings Bay, Georgia. She was there over the last two weeks conducting a strategic off-load in preparation for her maintenance period. So under the Polaris-Sales Agreement, which was signed in 1963, the relationship of our key strategic ally, the United Kingdom, has never been stronger, has never been more visible, as it is today.
The outgoing CNO, Admiral Greenert, and the incoming CNO, Admiral Richardson, their change of command will take place tomorrow. Both have stated that the Navy's number one priority is to maintain a credible, modern and survivable sea-based strategic deterrent. In order to maintain this capability in our nation's key mission area, there must be proper funding for the Ohio Replacement Program to include strategic weapons systems.
In order to do this, as the director, I am focusing on several priorities, and that's what I'll talk about this morning: the D-5 life extension program; the Ohio Replacement Program; and collaboration with the United States Air Force. So let me start with the Ohio Replacement Program.
The Ohio replacement program is a team consisting of SSP Naval Reactors and TEO Submarines. As a team, we remain on-track accomplishing several critical milestones to ensure that this submarine is ready to do its first patrol on time. At SSP we continue the modernization efforts for the D-5 strategic weapons system to be re-hosted on the new U.S. and UK platforms. Because of the aging of both U.S. and UK platforms, the weapons systems, it is critical that we execute two plans and that we deliver SSP hardware in order to support Electric Boat and the construction timelines.
The Ohio Replacement Program is currently in the technology development phase and is heading towards Defense Acquisition Milestone B in August of 2016, and we are on-track. A critical part of the program is the design of the common missile compartment. This is a unique undertaking between the U.S. and the United Kingdom because for the first time we are building the missile compartment in a series of four-tube quad packs that will be a part of not just the U.S. submarine but the UK Successor SSBN as well.
Last October, a year ago, we actually awarded sub-contracts to both U.S. and UK vendors for the first 17 missile tubes to support this effort. The 17 tubes comprise the four tubes for the first U.S. first article, 12 tubes which we sold to the United Kingdom which will be installed in
their first submarine, and one tube for our new facility down in Florida, the Strategic Weapons System Ashore.
Sequestration caused the Navy to make some hard decisions in order to achieve the required cost caps. One of those decisions was to delay the delivery of the first eight of the U.S. Ohio Replacement Hulls by two years. Because of this, as many of you know, the UK Vanguard's Successor will achieve initial operating capability before our Ohio Replacement submarine does. This is the first time that this has ever happened in the history of the relationship under the Polaris-Sales Agreement.
To mitigate risk to both the U.S. Navy and our closest ally, the United Kingdom, SSP continues the development of the Strategic Weapons System Ashore down at Cape Canaveral, Florida. Once operational this facility will usher the program into a new era whereby fleet impacts and modernization efforts will be mitigated via preparation and testing of new equipment and alterations ashore, instead of on an operational SSBN.
Launch performance is likewise a critical factor that we must understand at the systems level to ensure we maintain the high reliability as we transition the weapons system to the next class of SSBNs. To mitigate risk to the re-start of the launcher system production effort, we broke ground on a surface launch facility at NAS China Lake, California. Beginning in fiscal year '17, one year from now, we will start launching refurbished Trident II D-5 test shapes. We have a program that will launch approximately 37 test shapes. This facility will demonstrate that the launcher industrial base can replicate the performance on the Ohio-class Trident II launch system for the U.S. and the UK.
For the strategic weapons system itself, we remain diligent to ensure both the ship-board systems and the flight hardware, maintain their reliability and accuracy. Every sub-system in the strategic weapons system: launcher, navigation, fire control, missile guidance and re-entry, is either undergoing or has recently completed life extension efforts to ensure the long-term reliability and success of the program. The D-5 life extension program remains on track.
So far we have conducted three successful test flights of the D-5 life extension guidance system, two successful test flights of the command sequencer, and the first successful test flight of the flight controls and interlock suite. We have flown all three electronics packages and the guidance systems in various configurations. And in our next DASO later this year, we will flight test all of the next life extension packages together for the first time.
Life extension remains on schedule for fleet introduction in fiscal year '27. Starting this fall, the Trident II D-5 weapons system will flight test approximately 12 missiles in the next 12 months, something that we have not done in the program for a number of years.
We are undertaking a phased approach to life extension for the shipboard systems. In fiscal year '14 we completed the installation of the first phase of the Shipboard Systems Integration, or SSI, Increment 1 in both the U.S. and the UK fleets, where we integrated the launcher sub-system electronics into the fire control sub-subsystem. Currently, we are working on Increment 4, the navigational electronics. We'll start that within the next few months, and Inc 8, which is the inertial navigation replacement for our electrostatic gyro navigators.
We are also life extending the 76 re-entry system in partnership with the DOE's NNSA program. The 76 program maintains the military capability of the original 76 for an additional 30 years. To date, I am pleased to report that we have surpassed more than 60 percent of production and remain on-track.
Additionally, we have begun design and development of the refurbishment of the Mark V W-88 system. We are collaborating with the Air Force to reduce costs through shared modular components suitable for both the W-88 Mark V and the W-87 Mark 21 re-entry systems. The Alt 370 program is on-cost and schedule and the recent Nuclear Weapons Council decision to refurb the conventional high explosive will keep the W-88 a viable asset until approximately 2040. We are on-track to have an IOC for this program in 2019.
Strategic deterrence remains the cornerstone, as you've heard and you will hear all day, of our national security policy, as well as the security of U.S. allies and partners. We must maintain a strong, credible nuclear deterrent through the triad. Both the Navy and the Air Force do this by bringing unique and specific capabilities to the mission of nuclear deterrence, enabling us to manage risk and provide effective deterrence to prevent an attack.
However, we are rapidly approaching a crossroads where in the upcoming two to three decades both the United States Air Force ICBM and the Navy SLBM legs will require recapitalization to ensure their continued viability. In a recent CBO report, they estimated that DOD will need $227 billion over the next decade to carry out its plan for upgrading our nuclear forces. A bipartisan national defense panel last year called the military's nuclear modernization plan, projected to cost as much as $1 trillion over the next 30 years, unaffordable.
We can certainly come up with a range of options for what we need to do to carry the Navy through 2084, and that's how long my requirement is to support this program. The Ohio Replacement Program submarine that we are building today will be in the water through 2084. That platform exists for only one purpose, strategic systems programs.
But whatever we do, there will be costs associated with that effort. From that perspective, I would like to be able to rely on our current proven SWS for as long as possible. But then reality sets in, reality being inventory depletions due to flight tests and future technical obsolescence. Though we are unique and specific, and though the need to maintain strategic deterrence is undeniable, in today's fiscal environment we have no choice but to do something different, and I would contend, do something smarter.
Congress and our national leaders will have to make tough decisions in how they invest in this nation's
future defense. Therefore we, the United States Navy and the United States Air Force, those providing the triad, are obligated to our national leadership to present them with viable, realistic alternatives to increase the affordability of our deterrent forces. A key part of meeting this obligation is exploring the potential for what I call intelligent commonality between the two ballistic missile legs of the triad.
Earlier this summer, at the direction of the honorable Secretary LaPlante, the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisitions; the honorable Secretary Stackley, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition, and Admiral Haney, the Commander of U.S. Strategic Command, my staff and the staff of Major General Scott Jansson, the Program Executive Officer for Strategic Forces in the Air Force, began in intensive examination of the current and planned modernizations of both systems to better understand what could be made common between our two systems.
The assessment, which began in July of this year, is looking at the entirety of both strategic weapons systems, including both flight and non-flight elements, in order to better understand the benefits, the potential risks and cost implications of increasing the level of intelligent commonality between the two services. The team participating in this assessment includes many of my most experiences senior executives and subject matter experts to ensure that the study remains on-track and delivers the best, most cost-effective technical solutions that we can possible provide. Additional relevant stakeholders are also participating in the assessment, and those include U.S. Strategic Command, Air Force A-10, Air Force Global Strike Command, and the Navy's OpNav staff.
The letter directing Scott and I to do this effort told us to focus on examining three possible scenarios for the future. First, consider moving forward with GBSD as currently planned and sustaining the Trident II D-5 system through the entire life of the Ohio replacement submarine, that being 2084, as the baseline scenario in the current POM. In my opinion, this is not realistic from a cost perspective.
In the next scenario, the team is considering component and sub-system level commonality, focusing on the development and the production of substantially common weapons systems that can be used by both services, resulting in minimized non-recurring engineering costs and providing for more robust production and sustainment programs. The outgrowth of that would be to sustain core competency, whether it's in the United States government or whether it's in the industrial base. In this scenario, each weapons system would feature technologies, materials and specifications that are as common as possible. Weapons system elements developed by one service would explicitly consider and plan to enable technology reuse in the follow-on system provided by the other service. The Joint Fuse Program that we are currently executing to schedule and cost, is an example of this approach and how they would envision it for the future.
A third scenario the team is considering system level commonality, including the development and the production of an evolved common weapons system with only minor tailored differences for use by both the Navy and the Air Force. And again, in my opinion, this may be a bridge too far right now. Given schedules and the cultures and the cost constraints that we'd have to operate on and still meet the schedule for GBSD.
As part of doing this work, we have empowered the teams to make an unconstrained evaluation of what an evolved common system would look like. The only ground rules that were proposed to the proposed solution is that they must meet current schedules, no empty silos or missile tubes would be permitted, the solution must fit in the Ohio replacement launch tubes and in the current Air Force silos, and it must not drive large re-qualification costs into NNSA and the nuclear complex. It must accommodate the current warheads. Beyond those ground rules the teams are free to explore any potential concept, including concepts that do not meet current system level requirements, in order to identify opportunities to improve the affordability of the triad while ensuring that the United States Navy and the Air Force continue to deliver a nuclear deterrent that is safe, secure, effective and credible.
Let me pause right here and say that if anybody in this room believes commonality is not something that is being taken seriously, I would challenge you to think different. In Scott and my conversations with Secretary LaPlante, Secretary Stackley, Admiral Haney, and Secretary Kendall, everyone is very, very concerned about the costs that they are facing both today and in the future. Commonality is a big issue in the Department of Defense. Scott and I owe a briefing to the secretaries and Admiral Haney within the next month, and to Secretary Kendall shortly thereafter. This is something that we are not driving, Scott and I, this is something that the Department of Defense is driving because it has to be driven.
Our nation's sea-based strategic weapons system remains a critical component of the triad, and we must achieve national security through strategic deterrence. It's something that we continue to support, and in fact in just a few short weeks, Friday, October 2nd, SSP will celebrate its 60th anniversary as a program. We are on track with both our role in Ohio replacement and the D-5 life extension program.
But again, that's only one piece of the puzzle that we're dealing with here as a nation. I believe that the right path forward is we continue to work closely with the Air Force and with OSD leadership and other partners on collaborative efforts as we face major program decisions and cost challenges in modernizing our systems. I'm privileged to represent this unique organization. Thank you.

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