SSN (X) - Seawolf Redux or something far larger?

Ironmiked

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Navy's Next Attack Submarine Will Be Wider And Based On The New Columbia Class Missile Boats​

The SSN(X) design will be wider than the present Virginia class, offering improved capabilities and increased stealthiness underwater.​


Does anyone have any thoughts on displacement, size and weapon load-out for the this prospective follow-on to the Virginia Class SSNs?

"Unlike the Virginia Class Submarine, which was designed for multi-mission dominance in the littoral, SSN(X) will be designed for greater transit speed under increased stealth conditions in all ocean environments, and carry a larger inventory of weapons and diverse payloads," the budget request continues. "While SSN(X) will be designed to retain multi-mission capability and sustained combat presence in denied waters, renewed priority of the anti-submarine warfare (ASW) mission against sophisticated threats in greater numbers will influence the design trade space."

"We do expect it will be a larger type of submarine, probably in the size class of the Columbia, but there’s not much more to tell than that. But we’re working with our Navy customer in what that would look like and how we could take that into production,” Rex Geveden said, according to USNI News. “It has the moniker SSN(X) until it gets a class name, and there’s some thought, discussion, and analysis. It would be the follow-on to the Virginia fast-attack submarine, and it would feather in sometime in the late 2030s."
 

Grey Havoc

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The reported rough dimensions would suggest that they are actually aiming at a SSGN design, while trying not to admit the fact. Possibly because of (perhaps very well founded) fears that the new administration is hostile to things like new SSGNs.
 

Thorvic

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Probably being touted as use the Colombia design, replacing the launch tubs for ICBMS with other not strategic toys, like Cruise missiles, seal stuff and Unmanned stuff, keeps parts common, maintenance and training and of course the economies of scale.
 

Moose

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The reported rough dimensions would suggest that they are actually aiming at a SSGN design, while trying not to admit the fact.
Unlikely. If you "simply" gave the SSN industry the job of replicating SSN-21, but with the quieting and sensors needed to serve from the 2030s on, you'd get a bigger boat than the baseline Seawolf. The Navy's electric drive alone would soak up too much space, unless they went with a significantly less robust design than on the SSBNs, to fit in the same dimensions. Given that, if they're already looking at a large SSN (rather than a lighter LA/VA-style fleet sub) then it makes sense to take advantage of the tooling and systems already paid for to support the boomers. All of the above remains true whether they're looking at payload tubes, new external weapons, or simply a basic torpedo room.

Possibly because of (perhaps very well founded) fears that the new administration is hostile to things like new SSGNs.
The article being quoted predates the current Administration. The previous SECNAV had apparently expressed a desire to excise payload tubes from the SSNs, preferring a large, flexible torpedo room. As yet there has not been a new SECNAV confirmed, so it would be fairly unlikely for the acting Navy leadership to changes plans dramatically one way or another before the new leadership can come in. The silent service still enjoys significant bipartisan support, with legislators from CT, RI, and VA amongst the current Congressional leadership.
 

merriman

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The reported rough dimensions would suggest that they are actually aiming at a SSGN design, while trying not to admit the fact.
Unlikely. If you "simply" gave the SSN industry the job of replicating SSN-21, but with the quieting and sensors needed to serve from the 2030s on, you'd get a bigger boat than the baseline Seawolf. The Navy's electric drive alone would soak up too much space, unless they went with a significantly less robust design than on the SSBNs, to fit in the same dimensions. Given that, if they're already looking at a large SSN (rather than a lighter LA/VA-style fleet sub) then it makes sense to take advantage of the tooling and systems already paid for to support the boomers. All of the above remains true whether they're looking at payload tubes, new external weapons, or simply a basic torpedo room.

Possibly because of (perhaps very well founded) fears that the new administration is hostile to things like new SSGNs.
The article being quoted predates the current Administration. The previous SECNAV had apparently expressed a desire to excise payload tubes from the SSNs, preferring a large, flexible torpedo room. As yet there has not been a new SECNAV confirmed, so it would be fairly unlikely for the acting Navy leadership to changes plans dramatically one way or another before the new leadership can come in. The silent service still enjoys significant bipartisan support, with legislators from CT, RI, and VA amongst the current Congressional leadership.
Does RI still have a dog in this fight?
 

Ironmiked

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To clarify...SSN (X) is not a the planned replacement for the Ohio Class SSGNs or the Virginia Class Block V & VI boats. The Columbia Class derivative "Large-Volume Host Platform" will address that mission. Please see below. It seems like the Navy is going to end up with three very large boats (SSBN, SSN, & SSGN) all based on a common baseline platform. I think the Extra Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (XLUUV) will also be joining the fleet in large numbers too. Ultimatley, the real challenge will be getting the funding to buy this new undersea fleet the USN needs.

The WAR ZONE: Navy Plans For 'Large Payload Subs' Based On New Columbia Class To Take On SSGN Role And More​


The U.S. Navy has started exploring its options for a next-generation nuclear-armed submarine-launched ballistic missile to arm its future Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines and that design will incorporate elements of the existing Trident D-5. At the same time, the service will keep the Columbia production line "hot" to potentially build more of those boats or produce a conventionally-armed, multi-purpose "Large Payload Submarine." This latter design could end up packed with cruise missiles or hypersonic weapons, be able to act as an undersea mothership for special operations forces or large underwater drones, and more.

Various naval officers offered updates on the future of the Navy's strategic and other large submarine capabilities during talks at the Naval Submarine League’s annual symposium on Nov. 8, 2018. At present, the service expects to purchase at least 12 Columbias to replace its existing 14 Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines, or SSBNs. There are also plans to buy a minimum of five of the as yet unnamed Large Payload Submarine, also known as the Large-Volume Host Platform, primarily to replace the four additional Ohios that have been reconfigured as conventional cruise missile and special operations submarines, or SSGNs.
 

Grey Havoc

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I think you may have been right after all. They only have the Quonset Point Air National Guard Station there these days, the Naval base is still long gone, I believe.
 
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TomS

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I think you may have been right after all. They only have the Quonset Point Air National Guard Station there these days, the Naval base is still long gone, I believe.

He's talking about the GD Electric Boat facility there, which builds submarine hull segments and ships them to Groton or Newport News for assembly.

 

Grey Havoc

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Thought that had gone away in the late 2000s, thanks for the correction.
 

merriman

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Good question.
I stand corrected (should have done my homework before my reactionary post). The Quonset Point facility makes that state very much a player here. Sorry bout that.

I think you may have been right after all. They only have the Quonset Point Air National Guard Station there these days, the Naval base is still long gone, I believe.
Damn! That's what happens when I let Wikipedia be my primary source.
 

Moose

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Lotta people forgetting NUWC is still in Newport.
 

bobbymike

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isayyo2

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I'll be very curious to learn if the Nuclear-Turbo Electric machinery is noticeably quieter than the previous mechanical gearing. Seems like the best of both worlds of Nuclear and Diesel-Electric propulsion combined.
 

bobbymike

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Should be Columbia sized designated SS[G]N(X) carry massive load of hypersonic land attack and anti-ship missiles.
 

Ironmiked

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More info on the SSN (X):
Home»News»U.S. Navy Outlines the Next-Generation Attack Submarine SSN(X) Program

SSN(X) next generation US Navy Submarine
Artist impression of the possible features of SSN(X) the next generation nuclear-powered attack submarine of the U.S. Navy. Image by H I Sutton / Covertshores.com [Click to enlarge]

U.S. Navy Outlines The Next-Generation Attack Submarine SSN(X) Program​

The U.S. Navy has received $1 million dollars from Congress to start research and development in FY2021 for a successor to the current Virginia-class nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSN). This new submarine might be wider than the Virginia SSN (comparable to the diameter of the Seawolf-class SSN) and will be better optimized and designed to combat future surface and underwater threats, taking advantage of the latest silencing, propulsion, and combat submarine technologies.​

Peter Ong 25 May 2021

Peter Ong story with additional reporting by Xavier Vavasseur, artist impression by H I Sutton

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) provided a document on May 10, 2021 with outline details on the U.S. Navy’s Next-Generation Attack Submarine, dubbed SSN(X). According to the CRS SSN(X) report:
“Under the Navy’s FY2020 30-year (FY2020-FY2049) shipbuilding plan, the first SSN(X) would be procured in FY2031, along with a single Virginia-class boat. In FY2032 and FY2033, the final four Virginia-class boats would be procured, at a rate of two per year. Procurement of follow-on SSN(X)s, at a rate of two per year, would then begin in FY2034. The 30-year plan’s sustained procurement rate of two SSNs per year would achieve a force of 66 SSNs—the Navy’s current SSN force-level goal—in FY2048. Navy Next-Generation Attack Submarine (SSN[X]) Program: Background and Issues for Congress https://crsreports.congress.gov
A subsequent 30-year Navy shipbuilding document that the Trump Administration released on December 9, 2020—a document that can be viewed as the Trump Administration’s final published vision for future Navy force structure and/or a draft version of the FY2022 30-year shipbuilding plan—proposed a new SSN force-level goal of 72 to 78 boats. To meet this goal by the latter 2040s, it projected an SSN procurement rate of three boats per year during the period FY2035-FY2041, and two and two-thirds boats per year (in annual quantities of 2-3-3) during the period FY2042-FY2050.”

The new SSN(X) design places (renewed) emphasis on Anti-submarine Warfare (ASW) by increasing the SSN(X)’s transit speed and stealth features and characteristics over the current Virginia-class nuclear attack sub. Furthermore, the SSN(X) will also carry more weapons and a more diverse payload than the Virginia subs in order to deal with more advanced enemy submarines, unmanned underwater vessels (UUVs), and coordinate with allied warships and forces.

The CRS SSN(X) report stated that, “The Navy is examining three broad design options for the SSN(X)—a design based on the Virginia-class SSN design, a design based on the Columbia-class SSBN design, and a brand new design.
“An industry official stated that the SSN(X) might have a beam (i.e., hull diameter) greater than that of the Virginia-class design (34 feet), and closer to that of the Navy’s Seawolf-class SSN design and Columbia-class SSBN design (40 and 43 feet, respectively).
“An April 2021 CBO report on the December 9, 2020, 30-year Navy shipbuilding document states that in constant FY2021 dollars, the SSN(X)’s average unit procurement cost is estimated at $5.8 billion by the Navy and $6.2 billion by CBO.”

According to submarine expert H I Sutton, SSN(X) could feature new technologies such as:
  • Laser weapons,
  • Conformal bow sonar,
  • Quantum technology,
  • Larger weapons stowage compartment to accommodate more systems such as weapons and UUVs,
  • More torpedo tubes to deploy the systems mentioned above,
  • Very large flank arrays,
  • Quieter electric drive propulsion,
  • X-rudder for better maneuverability,
  • VLS for cruise missile and future hypersonic weapons
 

trose213

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I'll be very curious to learn if the Nuclear-Turbo Electric machinery is noticeably quieter than the previous mechanical gearing. Seems like the best of both worlds of Nuclear and Diesel-Electric propulsion combined.
The moving parts (propeller shaft) doesn't need to be connected to the outer parts of the sub now and so better soundproofing can be done.
 

stealthflanker

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On the subject of electric drive... there was USS Glennard P Lipscomb. But she suffers from overheating in her electric drive plant and overall being more difficult to support logistically as it's a sole boat in her class. Thus she served only for 15 years, about half of what other nuclear boat does.

Well technology have moved forward however with permanent magnet motors etc. See if USN if they do interested in making an electric boat, can apply lessons in what not to do from Glennard P Lipscomb.
 

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Grey Havoc

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coanda

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On the subject of electric drive... there was USS Glennard P Lipscomb. But she suffers from overheating in her electric drive plant and overall being more difficult to support logistically as it's a sole boat in her class. Thus she served only for 15 years, about half of what other nuclear boat does.

Well technology have moved forward however with permanent magnet motors etc. See if USN if they do interested in making an electric boat, can apply lessons in what not to do from Glennard P Lipscomb.

I would imagine that permanent magnet motors might be something that could be tracked. I wonder if a switched reluctance motor (i.e. non-permanent magnet) would be possible.
 

bobbymike

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Grey Havoc

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Given the fact the USN has seemingly failed to date to roll out the arctic upgrades to the Virginia-class SSNs despite being successfully tested, I have to wonder just have far this will get.
 

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The War Zone / The Drive:​

The Navy's Next Attack Submarine Will Be An “Apex Predator” According To Undersea Warfare Chief​

1627321643320.png

The Navy’s future attack submarine will be more like the Seawolf class than the Virginia class, but it won’t come cheap.​

The U.S. Navy’s future nuclear attack submarine, or SSN(X), should bring together the best fighting qualities of its predecessors and provide the service with what one top admiral described as the “ultimate apex predator.” This, and other details, emerged on Wednesday, July 21st, that shed some more light on a program that remains extremely secretive and is still in its early stages.

Rear Admiral Bill Houston, the director of the Undersea Warfare Division within the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, spoke about his hopes for the new hunter-killer submarine during a panel discussion as part of the Navy League’s Sea Air Space 2021 event. According to Houston, quoted by Defense News, the next-generation attack submarine should combine the payload and speed of the Seawolf class with the acoustics and sensors of the Virginia class. Those are two of the SSN classes that the new design is planned to succeed, the other being the Cold War-era Los Angeles class. However, SSN(X) should also incorporate the operational availability and service life of the Columbia class, the Navy’s hugely expensive next-generation ballistic missile submarine (SSBN), another new design that you can read more about here.

The result should be a new class of hunter-killer that’s “going to be faster, carry a significant punch, bigger payload, larger salvo rate; it’s going to have acoustic superiority,” Houston confirmed. "We’re taking what we already know how to do and combining it together,” Houston added, noting that he was confident it would be possible to “mesh together” these various attributes in a single platform. At the same time, however, it’s clear that the Navy is at least considering incorporating some new-generation technologies in the SSN(X) as well, including, for example, a potential inflatable sail to enhance speed, maneuverability, and acoustic stealth.

That the SSN(X) would leverage technology being developed for the Columbiaclass was already expected, together with the fact that it would likely be wider than the Virginia class. In fact, there may be scope for further spin-offs from the Columbia design, too, with thought having been given to a conventionally-armed, multi-purpose "Large Payload Submarine," using the same hull form, for example.

It certainly sounds as though the Navy wants its future attack submarines to focus on the same kinds of performance as the highly capable Seawolf class. These boats were schemed as the ultimate hunter-killers at the end of the Cold War, but spiraling costs saw the class restricted to just three hulls: USS Seawolf, plus USS Connecticut and USS Jimmy Carter. As a result, the boats have been widely used for developmental and special mission roles. The Jimmy Carter, with its big hull plug, is a one-off special missions submarine that deals largely in undersea espionage and highly classified operations.

The subsequent Virginia class, in contrast, is officially termed an attack submarine but is in fact more of a multi-purpose type. Smaller and less expensive than the Seawolf, it has vertical launch system cells for firing Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles and is optimized for operations in littoral environments, where it can be used to collect intelligence and insert and extract special operations forces. Already, it seems, the SSN(X) will likely mark a return to a laser focus on the classic hunter-killer attributes: speed, stealth, and potentially also on tube-launched torpedo weaponry to kill other submarines and ships, rather than vertical launch systems to attack targets on land.

That would tally also with a 2018 report from the Congressional Budget Office(CBO) that suggested the SSN(X) design would be expected to carry up 62 torpedoes or other torpedo tube-launched weapons, including anti-ship missiles, such as the UGM-84 Harpoon, plus future anti-ship weapons, and might do away with the vertical launch capability altogether. A high-end attack submarine makes sense for the Navy, especially when China and Russia are adding increasingly powerful new submarines to their fleets and operating them closer to U.S. areas of interest.

“It really needs to be ready for that major combat operations, it’s going to need to be able to go behind enemy lines and deliver that punch,” Houston said of the SSN(X). “It needs to be able to deny an adversary the ability to operate in their bastion regions.” All this raises the question of how the Navy will be able to pay for such a sophisticated design, which will surely come with a price tag to match. After all, as well as developing the new attacks boats, the Navy will have to fund the Columbia class, continue production of the last of the Virginia class, and run repairs on other submarines already in service.

The Navy will also have to fund the underwater drones that Houston expects will operate closely alongside SSNs of the future. He said that he envisages attack submarines controlling small and medium unmanned underwater vessels (UUVs) themselves, while larger UUVs are operated from shore installations.
1627321701357.png
In any case, all this needs to be paid for, too. It will be a challenge to avoid the same pitfalls that befell the Seawolf class, but by drawing upon the Columbia design, the service might be able to make some savings through commonality.

The SSN(X) and Columbia sharing a hull-form, shortened for the hunter-killer boats, as The War Zone has suggested, might be a possibility. But by pointing specifically to the new SSBN’s “operational availability and service life,” Rear Admiral Houston at least suggested that these new boats are expected to offer value for money, with longer lifespans and reduced maintenance requirements compared to current SSNs. If leveraged that, at least, could help drive down costs associated with SSN(X). Another option that Houston suggested was to time the Columbia and SSN(X) programs such that production of the first could be scaling back just as the manufacturing effort for the latter begins stepping up. That, however, depends upon the research, development, and tests efforts of the SSN(X) being wrapped up in time, with any delays to the timeline potentially becoming very costly. Similarly, if anything goes wrong with the Columbia program, that could have a knock-on effect for SSN(X).

Apart from maintaining a qualitative edge in underwater warfare, SSN(X) is also of fundamental importance to the Navy as it seeks to increase its atttack submarine fleet from the 50 boats now in service to the 70 examples that are projected under the Battle Force 2045 plan. To meet that target, the Navy will not only have to build new submarines but keep existing ones in service longer than planned, which will entail potentially costly refits and upgrades.
The Navy’s proposed Fiscal Year 2022 budget requests $98 million in research and development funding for SSN(X), but procurement of two boats per year is not expected until Fiscal Year 2034. The Congressional Budget Office expects that each boat will cost between $5.8 and $6.2 billion. Even taking inflation into account, that is a hefty increase over the Virginia class, each of which cost around $3.45 billion with its expanded payload module, or about $2.8B without.

All in all, it seems abundantly clear that what the Navy wants for its next-generation attack submarine is a design that can offer the high-end capabilities of a next-generation Seawolf-like class in a more modern hull. While that ambition seems achievable, finding the budget to buy these boats in significant numbers promises to be a challenge in itself.

Contact the author: thomas@the drive.com
 

sferrin

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I'm not going to hold my breath. They can't even figure out the next cruiser and that was a slam dunk.
 

Ironmiked

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I think the next cruiser will use the DDG-1000 plant and an enlarged but similar hull from plus Burke III sensors and systems. I think that will b the fastest way to get the new cruiser into inventory. Also it should have sufficient space for a much larger battery of weapons: including the Navy's Intermediate-Range Conventional Prompt Strike (IRCPS) system, lots of SM-3's, SM-6's, VLA and TLAMs. It's doable if they stay with the meat and potatoes of existing capabilities and don't try to get overly innovative.
 

jsport

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I think the next cruiser will use the DDG-1000 plant and an enlarged but similar hull from plus Burke III sensors and systems. I think that will b the fastest way to get the new cruiser into inventory. Also it should have sufficient space for a much larger battery of weapons: including the Navy's Intermediate-Range Conventional Prompt Strike (IRCPS) system, lots of SM-3's, SM-6's, VLA and TLAMs. It's doable if they stay with the meat and potatoes of existing capabilities and don't try to get overly innovative.
"dont try to get overly innovative" since the PLAN will be based on the Los Angeles docks by 2040 anyway.
 

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