(From the National Interest)
By Dave Majumdar
The U.S. Navy is working on developing a new ballistic missile submarine to replace the service’s current Ohio-class boomers, but should the Navy build some of those vessels as cruise missile carriers?
The Navy should consider building additional Ohio Replacement Program (OPR)submarines to serve as cruise missile carriers. Or alternatively, the Navy should design the twelve planned boomers so that those vessels can accept the current seven-shot Multiple-All-Up-Round Canisters (MACs) found on the first four Ohio-class boats that were converted into guided missile submarines (SSGNs). That should not be a huge technical challenge because the OPR is being designed to use the same Trident II D5 submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) as the Ohios.
Indeed, former Navy Capt. Jerry Hendrix, director of the defense strategies and assessments program at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), has gone so far as to say that such a submarine could potentially replace the aircraft carrier as the centerpiece of the U.S. Navy fleet. “If the Navy chooses to not pursue unmanned combat aerial vehicles in order to keep the carrier relevant in the future, then it is the time to move on to another generation of weapons, perhaps submarines carrying long range conventionally armed missiles and operating with impunity in the waters denied to the carrier,” he wrote in a piece for The National Interest today.
Many on Capitol Hill and in the Navy—including the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA)—share similar ideas. But cost is always a potential sticking point—the twelve ORP boats are already breaking the bank with their roughly estimated $5.5 billion price tag. However, the Navy has no choice but to pay for those submarines since the research and development cost and production costs are mandatory—those boomers are part of the strategic nuclear deterrent. Since the upfront development costs are mandatory, the Navy might as well take advantage of it and extend the production run and gain additional economies of scale. Read more