The US Navy’s Ohio-Class SSBN will be active past it’s original service life of 30 years. Currently, the 2027 date for retirement will reflect 40 years of operational useage. This is remarkable for a submarine, considering the environment within which it operates. However, the Navy needs to find a replacemenr, and time is getting short.
Currently, there is a program to standardize the Trident missile system within both the US and British fleet, which makes a great deal of sense. However, we are looking at 17 years before the Ohio go into storage, and time is a-wasting, as it were. Russia is already underway with both a new missile and a new Boomer to carry it.
This article will bring you up to date on what the Navy is looking at.
The defense establishment has begun to examine what it will take to replace the Ohio-class SSBNs when the first one retires in 2027 and the remaining boats are retired at the rate of one per year through 2040. This planning is occurring at just the right time—not too soon, not too late. The eighteen years between now and 2027 represent the typical amount of time it takes to design and build a replacement class of submarines. The design and construction standard has been validated by our three most recent classes: Ohio, Seawolf and Virginia. But unlike the Ohio-class, which has an extended life of 40 years, the replacement to the Ohio will be designed and constructed up front initially for 40 years of operation.
Over the last year or so, much work has been done to lay the groundwork for the Ohio replacement. In June 2007, Commander, United States Strategic Command wrote the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Chief of Naval Operations that “Allowing Ohio-class SSBNs and the TRIDENT Strategic Weapons System to reach end of life without replacement will create an unacceptable gap in the nation’s Sea Based Strategic Deterrent (SBSD) capabilities.” This letter set into motion a series of studies, assessments and reviews to define the initial set of attributes for the Ohio replacement. Not surprisingly, the characteristics of our next SSBN will be very similar to those of our current SSBN fleet… stealthy, survivable, persistently present, adaptable, capable… attributes that are in concert with the Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower.