The US Navy is going to create a new project of a multipurpose nuclear submarine and begin mass production of such ships. So far, this project bears the symbol SSN (X) and is in its earliest stages. The first submarines of the new type will enter service in the first half of the thirties, which will make it possible to begin replacing the aging Los Angeles-class ships.
In the early stages
The need to create a new multipurpose nuclear submarine to replace the old Los Angeles ships and to complement the modern Virginia has been discussed over the past several years. The fact is that over the next 10-15 years, the US Navy will have to write off the aging Los Angeles, and new submarines will appear in the arsenal of foreign countries. This leads to the need to develop a promising underwater "hunter".
However, real measures in this direction have been taken only recently. The FY2021 defense budget for the first time, expenses were envisaged for the development of the project of the future submarine SSN (X). However, this year only $ 1 million has been allocated for all activities. The draft budget for the next FY2022 includes 98 million dollars are already being requested for development. As work continues, a new increase in spending can be expected due to objective factors.
Construction of the lead nuclear submarine SSN (X) is expected to begin only by the end of the twenties, and the ship will enter service by the middle of the next decade. According to the estimates of the Congressional Budget Office, such a submarine can cost from 5, 8 to 6, 2 billion dollars, while the required number of submarines and their total cost have not yet been determined.
The exact price of the new submarine can be calculated only after the Navy determines the requirements for it, and the development organizations form its appearance. Work of this kind has already begun, but its results are still missing. At the same time, some wishes for a new nuclear submarine are already mentioned in the documents and statements of officials.
According to customer requirements
The first requirements for SSN (X) were disclosed in the draft defense budget for the current fiscal year. The document indicated that the goal of the project is to create a new multipurpose nuclear submarine capable of detecting and hitting a wide range of targets. Such ships will have to ensure the maintenance of their presence in all major regions of the oceans.
The new SSN (X) should differ from the previous Virginia project with increased driving characteristics and stealth parameters. It is proposed to increase the overall ammunition load, as well as to revise the composition of the armament. Unlike its predecessors, future SSN (X) should have more potential in finding and destroying underwater and surface targets.
The main armament should be torpedo tubes with the ability to use cruise missiles. Separately, the issue of using vertical launchers or abandoning them should be considered. At the same time, it was required to provide additional equipment, such as unmanned underwater vehicles.
A few days ago, the Sea Air Space 2021 conference was held in the United States, during which Rear Admiral Bill Houston, the head of the Undersea Warfare Division, revealed the new wishes of the Navy for the new nuclear submarine. In general, the fleet wants to get a submarine with high performance, which will become the "supreme predator" of the depths. It is planned to obtain such a result in different ways.
According to B.Houston, in the promising project SSN (X) it is necessary to combine the best qualities of submarines of existing projects. It is necessary to ensure the performance and payload at the level of the Seawolf-class ships, as well as to ensure stealth and use onboard instruments no worse than that of the Virginia. At the same time, operational characteristics, incl. service life, should be at the level of future strategic missile carriers Columbia.
Thus, the Navy is inclined to abandon previously used concepts and are considering the possibility of building nuclear submarines with new qualities. In the previous Virginia project, emphasis was placed on the ability to combat coastal targets, while maintaining anti-submarine and anti-ship capabilities. In the SSN (X) project, they can revise the goals and objectives of the submarine, making it mainly a hunter for sea targets.
The exact shape, tactical and technical characteristics, etc. have not yet been determined and will be formed only in the future, based on the results of current research activities. It can be expected that the size and displacement of the SSN (X) nuclear submarine will be close to the existing Virginia ships. At the same time, the rejection of separate installations for missiles can lead to a decrease in the submarine in comparison with the previous type.
Particular attention is paid to issues of reliability and durability. In this context, the possibility of using the developments of the new Columbia SSBN project is being considered. This means that SSN (X) can receive the most modern systems and units with a high resource. In addition, it is possible to use a nuclear power plant that does not require fuel replacement during its entire service life.
At a recent event, Vice Admiral B. Houston noted that the design team currently working on the Columbia submarine could be involved in the development of the SSN (X) project. They have already mastered modern technologies and can create ships with a backlog of decades. However, they will not be transferred to SSN (X) until they complete the Columbia work.
The plant, which is to build a new type of nuclear submarine, has not been determined. At the same time, only two enterprises have the necessary competencies, which are already loaded with orders for the construction and modernization of ships of current types.
Approximate plans for serial production are drawn up. In the early stages of the building program, the Navy will be able to receive one SSN (X) annually. After 2035, in connection with the completion of other programs, the release of production capacity is expected. This will increase the pace of work on SSN (X) and deliver two submarines annually. In addition, there is a fundamental possibility of further increasing production.
According to current estimates, the promising SSN (X) nuclear submarines will replace the aging Los Angeles. The oldest ships of this type, remaining in the Navy, have been in service since 1985. The newest this year celebrates 25 years of service. By 2035, all or almost all of Los Angeles will be decommissioned due to resource depletion. In addition, the oldest multipurpose Virginia will fit the service life limits.
The required number of SSN (X) submarines has not yet been announced and may not yet be determined. However, it should be expected that several dozen such ships will be built in the middle of the century. Due to this, in the distant future, it will be possible to maintain the number of submarine forces at the required level, despite the abandonment of old ships.
The fleet of multipurpose nuclear submarines, made up of ships Virginia and SSN (X), will be able to solve all relying combat missions. Each of the submarines will be able to search for and hit various targets. At the same time, the older "Virginias" will be more effective against coastal targets, and the new SSN (X) will take over the hunt for enemy ships and submarines. The competent organization of the combat service of such a submarine fleet will allow obtaining maximum results.
Thus, after lengthy preliminary discussions, the US Navy is still launching a program to develop a promising multipurpose nuclear submarine. The necessary funding has been found and preliminary work has begun. However, the project, as always, will be lengthy - the first ships of the SSN (X) type will enter service in the middle of the next decade. After that, for several decades, they will shape the US submarine fleet.
One of the reasons for the creation of SSN (X) is the observed progress in the development of the leading foreign fleets - Russian and Chinese. Accordingly, "probable opponents" will closely monitor the progress of the American project and take the necessary measures. This will lead to a new change in the situation in the underwater sphere and, possibly, present different requirements for the submarines. And the US Navy will have to take these processes into account so that promising SSN (X) nuclear submarines do not become obsolete at the time of their appearance.