Navy Plans To Award Ohio Replacement R&D Contract In December
October 19, 2012
Service seeks to cut costs through design
The Navy is in the middle of negotiations for a four-year research and development contract for the Ohio-class replacement submarine program that will be awarded in December, according to a Navy official.
This contract includes R&D work and the products needed to actually build the ship such as qualified components, drawings and data, Rear Adm. David Johnson, program executive officer for submarines, said Oct. 18 during the Naval Submarine League's annual symposium in Falls Church, VA.
"I anticipate over these next three to four years we actually go through all of the detail of defining the ship and understanding our cost," he stated.
However, the Navy will have to make assumptions when it comes to multiyear contracts for the Ohio-class replacement submarine. Johnson said the Navy has briefed congressional staffers, but there is still work to do in defining costs on both the design and construction.
In August, the chief of naval operations signed a capabilities development document for the Ohio-class replacement. This will allow the program office to refine and readjust requirements, Capt. William Brougham, Ohio-class replacement program manager, said Oct. 18 during the symposium.
Also, the Ohio-class replacement program will reach the Joint Requirements Oversight Council in fiscal year 2015, according to Brougham's presentation slides.
The requirements for the Ohio-class replacement submarine must be solid because it will carry the service through this century, though the service could make additions to the sub in the future.
"We need Ohio replacement to continue our most critical mission: deterring war between major powers," Vice Adm. Michael Connor, submarine forces commander, said Oct. 17 during the symposium. "We've established the right requirements in the areas of size, stealth, payload volume and self-defense capability for that [which] has to meet our platform attributes out through about 2080."
Looking at trends in acoustic quieting and non-acoustic performance will help ensure the next-generation submarine will remain viable through the end of the century, Rear Adm. Barry Bruner, undersea warfare division director, said Oct. 18 during a media roundtable at the symposium.
"You could do different kinds of sonar arrays, you could do different kinds of hull coatings," Bruner stated. "We're building the ship flexible enough to make sure it is survivable throughout the rest of the century."
Johnson said this is a similar approach to what the Navy did with the Los Angeles-class submarine. Later on in the sub's life, the service added new masts, coatings and other things.
Connor also said the cost of the submarine is in the range that will fit into a smaller defense budget as long as the Navy keeps its priorities straight.
The Navy set a new affordability target in August of $4.9 billion. The service will have to shave $700 million off the cost to reach the new target, Johnson stated.
"I think one of the biggest effectors we can do is buying the ship smartly," he said. "We can probably get somewhere in the range of $300 million-plus per ship out, just by buying the ships smartly, encouraging a long production run in industry and the vendor base."
The Navy is also cutting costs of the sub through design. For example, submarines have 10 masts, but with the Ohio-class replacement there will be six masts, which reduces the operational cost associated with the ship, Bruner said.
An operational challenge for the fleet will be when the number of ballistic missile submarines is reduced to 10 for a little over a decade, he stated.
The service is planning ahead, and Bruner said Johnson is looking at the maintenance requirements both for the new and current Ohio-class subs to make sure the Navy meets combatant commander's requirements.
In the future, the ballistic submarine fleet will have 12 subs instead the current number of 14 submarines.
"It's because the midlife overhaul periods for the Ohio replacement will be much shorter than they are today because there's less work that will need to be done," Bruner explained. "They're designing a slightly different maintenance plan for the Ohio replacement so they can do more of what normally would be in the middle-of-the-life overhaul. We can do that piece meal throughout the life of the ship."