Chinese Fleet Expansion Pushing U.S. Navy to Catch Up on Maintenance as Backlogs Persist

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — The rapid expansion in size of the People’s Liberation Army Navy is at the forefront of the maintainers working to reduce the U.S. fleet’s maintenance backlog, senior enlisted leaders said on Tuesday. “When we talk about maintenance with our leaders, peer competitors are the first thing that comes out of their […]

USS Preble (DDG-88) and USS Russell (DDG-59) in maintenance on Feb. 15, 2022 in San Diego, Calif. USNI News Photo

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — The rapid expansion in size of the People’s Liberation Army Navy is at the forefront of the maintainers working to reduce the U.S. fleet’s maintenance backlog, senior enlisted leaders said on Tuesday.

“When we talk about maintenance with our leaders, peer competitors are the first thing that comes out of their mouth,” Naval Sea Systems Command Command Master Chief Justin Gray said at the American Society of Naval Engineers’ annual Fleet Maintenance and Modernization Symposium.
“We know that China has three times our industrial capacity, which means that we can’t afford to waste any of the time.”

While the Chinese fleet this year grew beyond 355 ships, the U.S. still has a backlog of about 4,200 days of maintenance delays in the surface ship program – the equivalent of reducing the fleet by about 10 ships for a year.

More complex warship modernizations and a need for more qualified shipyard workers are resulting in a continued backlog of Navy surface ship maintenance, senior Navy maintenance officials said on Tuesday.

At the end of Fiscal Year 2022, Naval Sea Systems Command expects to finish only 36 percent of its maintenance availabilities on time – down from 44 percent last year, said Rear Adm. Bill Greene, the fleet maintenance director for U.S. Fleet Forces Command.

“We’re going in the wrong direction in terms of on time delivery,” he said at the ASNE symposium.

The Navy currently has 41 surface ships in availabilities across the service with about a 100 more in the works, Greene said.

The service has spent more than a decade on its effort to catch up on surface maintenance, which was neglected for years at the height of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. A major driver of maintaining delays a decade ago were the effects of deferred maintenance in unplanned work, like corrosion in tanks that hadn’t been opened in years

Today, much of the delay is due to the installation of modernized combat systems on legacy hulls, Greene said. In addition to the testing, the combat system work includes installing complex electrical and information technology components that can make it difficult to feather in other maintenance priorities during an availability.

“We continue to struggle in this area,” Greene said.

To test the combat systems mods, much of the work on the ship electrical and propulsion systems needs to be completed ahead of time. That exacerbates delivering the ships on time from the availabilities, Greene said.

“Modernization is absolutely critical in our ability to maintain our advantage over our adversaries,” he said.
“[But] there’s constant tension between getting the latest and greatest capabilities on our ships, and getting our shipyards and our private teams time to get the work done.”

Further complicating getting ships out on time is a lack of qualified shipyard workers in both the public and private yards.

The four Navy public shipyards – responsible for mostly submarine and aircraft carrier maintenance – are seeing “record attrition” and are short 1,000 shipyard workers, Greene said.

Private yards are also struggling to recruit and keep talent, specifically engineers, experienced trade workers and information technology workers.

The Navy has seen some relief in the backlog from big data-intensive efforts like the service’s Performance to Plan (P2P) and Naval Sustainment System (NSS) efforts, which more efficiently chart out the course of a maintenance period. But the delays persist.

Adding to the planning headaches for the service are changing decommissioning schedules.

Congress has rejected and revised the Navy’s most recent decommissioning plans for some of the guided-missile cruisers and Littoral Combat Ships the Navy has asked to shed.

“The biggest problem we have right now is the uncertainty we have in our decommissioning schedules,” Greene said.
“When we put a ship on the decommissioning list, funding for future availabilities and modernization is reprogramed.”

Meanwhile, maintainers are looking for more ways to improve the maintenance to deliver the ships to the fleet.

“Those sailors cannot employ those instruments of war if they’re tied up in maintenance. So we got to deliver those assets,” Gray said.
“If there’s one thing I’ve communicated to you today is a sense of urgency.”

Fincantieri Begins Construction of First Constellation-class Frigate

THE PENTAGON – Fincantieri Marinette Marine will officially start building the first Constellation-class frigate at its yard in Marinette, Wis., today. The start of fabrication comes nearly two and a half years after the Navy issued Fincantieri the detail design and construction award for the first frigate in April 2020. After finishing the critical design […]

Rendering of USS Constellation (FFG-62). Fincantieri Marinette Image

THE PENTAGON – Fincantieri Marinette Marine will officially start building the first Constellation-class frigate at its yard in Marinette, Wis., today.

The start of fabrication comes nearly two and a half years after the Navy issued Fincantieri the detail design and construction award for the first frigate in April 2020.

After finishing the critical design review in May and the production readiness review in July, the Navy green-lit the shipbuilder to start production, Rear Adm. Casey Moton, the program executive officer for unmanned and small combatants, told reporters in a roundtable this week.

Asked why it took the shipyard two and a half years to begin building the lead ship, Moton said both the service and Fincantieri wanted to complete the design as much as possible before beginning construction.

“It was maturing the design. It is a pretty healthy process that’s got to go on … that’s a fairly lengthy process of going through the functional design where you’re looking system by system. And then it’s a little bit of a spiral, right. If you change some things that they have impact on another [thing],” Moton said.

“It just takes a while to move through that process. In order to complete the design, the shipbuilder has to get all of their major vendors on contract because we’re literally at the level where it’s not just, okay here’s a pump, but we need to know which pump because we got to have the right circuit breakers to feed that pump. It is at quite [a] detailed level. That takes time. And mutually we and the shipbuilder agreed that design maturity was probably the single biggest factor we could do to reduce the risk of production,” he added.

While Fincantieri is the lead for the functional design, Gibbs & Cox is in charge of designing the ship’s 3D model, Moton said.

“Since the contract for Constellation-class detail design and construction was awarded in April 2020, Fincantieri and its team have been completing the detail design of ship systems – placing material suppliers under contract and developing the three dimensional model that is used for supporting production,” he said.

Fincantieri has also embarked on a capital improvement effort at the Marinette shipyard so it’s ready to build the frigates.

A Fincantieri Marinette Marine model of the proposed USS Constellation (FFG-62). USNI News Photo

The detail design is just over 80 percent finished, which was the Navy’s goal prior to fabrication, Moton said.

“That’s a percentage beyond just the number. That percentage reflects two things – one is that we wanted to ensure the functional design was largely complete and that’s important because that’s what sets the systems and the equipment selection and all those types of things,” he told reporters. “The other part of it is making sure that the 3D model was complete enough to know that there’s still work that will happen a kind of the modular level, almost compartment level – but making sure that those ship-wide things were mature and stable.”

The lead ship in the class is slated to deliver to the Navy in 2026. The service’s requirement is 20 frigates and it has the option to bring in a second yard to build the small combatants. But Congress in Fiscal Year 2022 legislation mandated a pause on the second yard effort, arguing the Navy must mature the design before bringing in a second shipbuilder.

The Navy previously planned to buy two frigates per year starting in FY 2023, but slowed down that effort in the most recent budget submission. A service official during the FY 2023 budget rollout said the frigate’s procurement projection, which alternates between buying one ship per year and then two, reflects what one shipyard could build in the next five years.

Moton said the cadence at which the service buys the ships will depend on funding and industrial base capacity.

“The pace that we will build that frigate class is a function of that measured approach that we took initially. It’s a function of an approach that is balanced against topline constraints. It’s an approach that’s balanced against the entire industrial base and how quickly we might need to go to a second builder,” Moton said.

Navy officials would not give details on when they’d need to make a decision about a second yard, but said it would take Fincantieri about a year to put together the technical data package the service would have to give to the second builder.

“They are essentially producing a set of documents – electronic documents – that we could then hand to another shipbuilder to take a look at it. So we’ll keep an eye on that, we’ll see how it’s informed by the portfolio. We’ll know here as the next couple of years progress. As I said, there is a lot of advantage in terms of holding on getting that package because as the shipbuilder moves through production, there will be fixes and changes and things that need to happen,” Moton said.
“It’s kind of to our advantage to sort of wait as long as we can to get those good fixes, but also support when it looks like we’re going to need to put our an [request for proposal] if and when we do that for a second builder.”

Both HII’s Ingalls Shipbuilding and Austal USA are positioning themselves to bid for second line of the Constellation-class frigates, USNI News recently reported.

The Navy and Fincantieri adapted the Italian FREMM multi-mission frigate parent design so the Constellation-class frigates can field U.S. systems like Aegis Baseline 10 and C4I systems, Moton said.

Report on Virginia-class Attack Submarine Program

The following is the July 27, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, Navy Virginia (SSN-774) Class Attack Submarine Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress. From the report The Navy has been procuring Virginia (SSN-774) class nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs) since FY1998, and a total of 36 have been procured through FY2022. Since FY2011, Virginia-class boats have […]

The following is the July 27, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, Navy Virginia (SSN-774) Class Attack Submarine Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress.

From the report

The Navy has been procuring Virginia (SSN-774) class nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs) since FY1998, and a total of 36 have been procured through FY2022. Since FY2011, Virginia-class boats have been procured at a rate of two per year. Virginia-class boats scheduled for procurement in FY2019-FY2023 are being procured under a multiyear procurement (MYP) contract.

The Virginia-class design has been updated multiple times since FY1998. Most Virginia-class boats procured in FY2019 and subsequent years are to be built with the Virginia Payload Module (VPM), an additional, 84-foot-long, mid-body section equipped with four large-diameter, vertical launch tubes for storing and launching additional Tomahawk missiles or other payloads. When procured at a rate of two boats per year, VPM-equipped Virginia-class SSNs have an estimated procurement cost of about $3.6 billion per boat.

The Navy’s proposed budget requests the procurement of the 37th and 38th Virginia-class boats. The two boats have an estimated combined procurement cost of $7,250.6 million (i.e., about $7.3 billion). The two boats have received $1,938.3 million in prior-year “regular” advance procurement (AP) funding, and $778.1 million in Economic Order Quantity (EOQ) funding, which is an additional kind of AP funding that can occur under an MYP contract. The Navy’s proposed FY2023 budget requests the remaining $4,534.2 million needed to complete the two boats’ estimated combined procurement cost of $7,250.6 million. The Navy’s proposed FY2023 budget also requests $2,025.7 million in AP funding for Virginia-class boats to be procured in one or more future years, bringing the total amount of FY023 procurement and AP funding requested for the procurement of Virginia-class boats in FY2023 and subsequent years to $6,559.8 million (i.e., about $6.6 billion). The Navy’s proposed FY2023 budget additionally requests $304.5 million in cost-to-complete funding to cover cost growth on Virginia-class boats procured in prior years.

The Navy’s current force-level goal, which was released in December 2016, calls for achieving and maintaining a fleet of 355 manned ships, including 66 SSNs. The Navy and the Office of the Secretary Defense have been working since 2019 to develop a successor Navy force-level goal to replace the 355-goal of 2016. Studies of this emerging force-level goal that have been released by the Navy in summary form suggest that the new force-level goal could call for achieving and maintaining a force of 66 to 72 SSNs.

The Navy’s FY2023 five-year (FY2023-FY2027) shipbuilding plan includes a total of 10 Virginia-class boats, to be procured at a rate of two per year. The Navy’s FY2023

Download the document here.

Report to Congress on Constellation-class Frigate Program (FFG-62)

The following is the July 15, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, Navy Constellation (FFG-62) Class Frigate (Previously FFG[X]) Program: Background and Issues for Congress. From the report The Navy began procuring Constellation (FFG-62) class frigates (FFGs) in FY2020, and wants to procure a total of 20 FFG-62s. Congress funded the first FFG-62 in FY2020, the […]

The following is the July 15, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, Navy Constellation (FFG-62) Class Frigate (Previously FFG[X]) Program: Background and Issues for Congress.

From the report

The Navy began procuring Constellation (FFG-62) class frigates (FFGs) in FY2020, and wants to procure a total of 20 FFG-62s. Congress funded the first FFG-62 in FY2020, the second in FY2021, and the third in FY2022. The Navy’s proposed FY2023 budget requests the procurement of the fourth FFG-62.

The Navy’s FY2023 budget submission estimates the procurement cost of the fourth FFG-62 at $1,091.2 (i.e., about $1.1 billion). The ship has received $6.0 million in prior-year advance procurement (AP) funding. The Navy’s proposed FY2023 budget requests the remaining $1,085.2 million needed to complete the ship’s estimated procurement cost. The Navy’s proposed FY2023 budget also requests $74.9 million in AP funding for FFG-62s to be procured in future fiscal years.

Four industry teams competed for the FFG-62 program. On April 30, 2020, the Navy announced that it had awarded the FFG-62 contract to the team led by Fincantieri/Marinette Marine (F/MM) of Marinette, WI. F/MM was awarded a fixed-price incentive (firm target) contract for Detail Design and Construction (DD&C) for up to 10 ships in the program—the lead ship plus nine option ships. The other three industry teams reportedly competing for the program were led by Austal USA of Mobile, AL; General Dynamics/Bath Iron Works (GD/BIW) of Bath, ME; and Huntington Ingalls Industries/Ingalls Shipbuilding (HII/Ingalls) of Pascagoula, MS.

As part of its action on the Navy’s FY2020-FY2022 budgets, Congress has passed provisions relating to U.S. content requirements for certain components of each FFG-62 class ship, as well as a provision requiring the Navy to conduct a land-based test program for the FFG-62’s engineering plant (i.e., its propulsion plant and associated machinery).

The FFG-62 program presents several potential oversight issues for Congress, including the following:

  • the Navy’s emerging force-level goal for frigates and other small surface combatants;
  • the reduction in the FFG-62 program’s programmed procurement rate under the Navy’s FY2023 five-year (FY2023-FY2027) shipbuilding plan;
  • the accuracy of the Navy’s estimated unit procurement cost for FFG-62s, particularly when compared to the known unit procurement costs of other recent U.S. surface combatants;
  • whether to build FFG-62s at a single shipyard at any one time (the Navy’s baseline plan), or at two shipyards;
  • whether the Navy has appropriately defined the required capabilities and growth margin for FFG-62s;
  • whether to take any further legislative action regarding U.S. content requirements for the FFG-62 program;
  • technical risk in the FFG-62 program; and
  • the potential industrial-base impacts of the FFG-62 program for shipyards and supplier firms in the context of other Navy and Coast Guard shipbuilding programs.

Download the document here.

Former BIW Head Lesko to Helm Canadian Shipyard

The former president of General Dynamics Bath Iron Works is headed north to oversee Halifax-based Irving Shipbuilding, the Canadian shipyard announced on this week. Dirk Lesko, who headed BIW from 2016 until his abrupt departure in April, will now lead the yard that is at the center of the Canadian plan to recapitalize its fleet […]

Irving Halifax Shipyard

The former president of General Dynamics Bath Iron Works is headed north to oversee Halifax-based Irving Shipbuilding, the Canadian shipyard announced on this week.

Dirk Lesko, who headed BIW from 2016 until his abrupt departure in April, will now lead the yard that is at the center of the Canadian plan to recapitalize its fleet starting in September, according to the statement from Irving.

AT BIW, Lesko oversaw the construction of the Arleigh Burke-class and Zumwalt-class guided-missile destroyer programs, which have fallen behind schedule. He left the company with little warning following a negotiation with the shipyard workers represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers’ Local S6.

Dirk Lesko. Irving Photo

Lesko replaces Kevin Mooney, who resigned in June for personal reasons after two years at the head of the yard.

Mooney, a former U.S. Navy submariner, had succeeded former U.S. Naval Sea Systems Command head Kevin McCoy as president of the yard. McCoy led the yard from 2013 to 2021 following his retirement from the Navy.

For the last decade, Irving’s Halifax Shipyard has been working through a plan to recapitalize the Canadian Navy’s surface combatant fleet. The plan calls for six Harry DeWolf-class arctic offshore patrol vessels and 15 Canadian variants of the Type-26 guided-missile frigate. HMCS Harry Dewolfe (AOPV 430) commissioned last year. Second in-class HMCS Margaret Brooke (AOPV 431) delivered last year and is in sea trials.

The Type-26s will replace the Iroquois-class guided-class destroyers and the Canadian Navy’s dozen Halifax-class frigates. The first of the new class is expected to start construction in 2024, company officials told the Ottawa Citizen last month.

In total, Canadian officials estimate the 15 Type-26s could cost up to $60 billion.

Navy Awards $537M Option for Third Constellation Frigate Chesapeake

The Navy has awarded a $537 million contract option to shipbuilder Fincantieri Marinette Marine for the third Constellation-class frigate, according to a Thursday Pentagon announcement. The contract modification for the detail design and construction of Chesapeake (FFG-64) follows Constellation (FFG-62), awarded in 2020, and Congress (FFG-63), awarded in 2021. Combined with government-furnished equipment, the ship’s […]

A Fincantieri Marinette Marine model of the proposed USS Constellation (FFG-62). USNI News Photo

The Navy has awarded a $537 million contract option to shipbuilder Fincantieri Marinette Marine for the third Constellation-class frigate, according to a Thursday Pentagon announcement.

The contract modification for the detail design and construction of Chesapeake (FFG-64) follows Constellation (FFG-62), awarded in 2020, and Congress (FFG-63), awarded in 2021.

Combined with government-furnished equipment, the ship’s total cost will be about $1.5 billion.

Marinette’s Wisconsin shipyard will build the 7,300-ton frigate, which is based on Fincantieri’s FREMM multi-mission design used by the French and Italian navies.

The award comes as ship designers Gibbs & Cox are working to finalize an approved design for the class that would allow the shipyard to start fabrication of the first ship. Construction was due to start in April, but the design has yet to pass its critical design review, USNI News understands.

The frigate is set to be the Navy’s key anti-submarine warfare platform and a crucial node in the service’s emerging Distributed Maritime Operations concept, officials have told USNI News.

While the new Connies are based on an existing frigate design, the plans have gone through an extensive revision to accommodate new capabilities and meet the Navy’s survivability standards, service officials have told USNI News. That design work has taken longer than initially anticipated.

Earlier this year, the long-delayed Fiscal Year 2022 appropriations bill placed a pause on the Navy seeking a second shipyard to construct more Constellation-class frigates.

“While the [frigate] is based on a proven hull design and mature shipboard technologies, it remains a new class and the Navy and the shipbuilding industrial base have had past production challenges in managing costs, technical concurrency, design changes and schedule of lead ships of a class,” reads language from the FY 2022 appropriations law. “There is concern that prematurely adding a second [frigate] shipyard before the first shipyard has identified and corrected technical and production issues will inject unneeded risk and complexity into the program.”

The service was expected to buy two frigates a year starting in FY 2023, but alternate between one and two awards a year for a total of buying three every two years. 

Over the next five years, the service anticipates buying seven of the FFGs for a total of ten if the Navy exercises all of the contract options, according to its FY 2023 budget submission.

In the latest budget submission, the service asked for one Connie for $1.2 billion.

VIDEO: LCS USS Montgomery Fires Hellfire Missiles in Land Attack Test

An Independence-class Littoral Combat Ship launched three Longbow Hellfire missiles that hit a land-based target in a demonstration last week, the Navy announced. USS Montgomery (LCS-8) launched the AGM-114L Longbow Hellfire missiles in the Pacific Ocean, the service said in a news release. The missiles, with a range of about five miles, make up the […]

An AGM-114L Longbow Hellfire missile launches from the Surface-To-Surface Missile Module (SSMM) aboard Independence-variant Littoral Combat Ship USS Montgomery (LCS-8) on May 12, 2022. US Navy Photo

An Independence-class Littoral Combat Ship launched three Longbow Hellfire missiles that hit a land-based target in a demonstration last week, the Navy announced.

USS Montgomery (LCS-8) launched the AGM-114L Longbow Hellfire missiles in the Pacific Ocean, the service said in a news release. The missiles, with a range of about five miles, make up the LCS surface-to-surface mission module, one of the three original components of the LCS mission package.

“This test proved the critical next step in increasing lethality of the Littoral Combat Ship,” Cmdr. Dustin Lonero, the commanding officer of the ship, said in a Navy news release. “Using our speed and shallow draft, we are now uniquely optimized to bring this level of firepower extremely close to shore in support of our warfighters and operators on the beach.”

The Navy in 2019 wrapped up the structural testing required to ensure the LCS could fire the Hellfire missiles, USNI News reported at the time.

“The Longbow Hellfire missile already plays a key role in the up-gunned surface warfare mission package,” the Navy said in the news release. “Originally fielded by both variants of the littoral combat ship in 2019, the missile has repeatedly demonstrated the capability quickly defeat multiple swarming Fast Attack Craft/Fast Inshore Attack Craft (FAC/FIAC). Each LCS is capable carrying twenty-four missiles.”

The Hellfires replaced the Navy-Army joint Non-Line of Sight Launch missile system (N-LOS) that Navy officials initially planned to put onto the LCS in 2014, USNI News reported at the time.

Report to Congress on Constellation-class Frigate Program (FFG-62)

The following is the May 11, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, Navy Constellation (FFG-62) Class Frigate (Previously FFG[X]) Program: Background and Issues for Congress. From the report The Navy began procuring Constellation (FFG-62) class frigates (FFGs) in FY2020, and wants to procure a total of 20 FFG-62s. Congress funded the first FFG-62 in FY2020, the […]

The following is the May 11, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, Navy Constellation (FFG-62) Class Frigate (Previously FFG[X]) Program: Background and Issues for Congress.

From the report

The Navy began procuring Constellation (FFG-62) class frigates (FFGs) in FY2020, and wants to procure a total of 20 FFG-62s. Congress funded the first FFG-62 in FY2020, the second in FY2021, and the third in FY2022. The Navy’s proposed FY2023 budget requests the procurement of the fourth FFG-62.

The Navy’s FY2023 budget submission estimates the procurement cost of the fourth FFG-62 at $1,091.2 (i.e., about $1.1 billion). The ship has received $6.0 million in prior-year advance procurement (AP) funding. The Navy’s proposed FY2023 budget requests the remaining $1,085.2 million needed to complete the ship’s estimated procurement cost. The Navy’s proposed FY2023 budget also requests $74.9 million in AP funding for FFG-62s to be procured in future fiscal years.

Four industry teams competed for the FFG-62 program. On April 30, 2020, the Navy announced that it had awarded the FFG-62 contract to the team led by Fincantieri/Marinette Marine (F/MM) of Marinette, WI. F/MM was awarded a fixed-price incentive (firm target) contract for Detail Design and Construction (DD&C) for up to 10 ships in the program—the lead ship plus nine option ships. The other three industry teams reportedly competing for the program were led by Austal USA of Mobile, AL; General Dynamics/Bath Iron Works (GD/BIW) of Bath, ME; and Huntington Ingalls Industries/Ingalls Shipbuilding (HII/Ingalls) of Pascagoula, MS.

As part of its action on the Navy’s FY2020-FY2022 budgets, Congress has passed provisions relating to U.S. content requirements for certain components of each FFG-62 class ship, as well as a provision requiring the Navy to conduct a land-based test program for the FFG-62’s engineering plant (i.e., its propulsion plant and associated machinery).

The FFG-62 program presents several potential oversight issues for Congress, including the following:

  • the Navy’s emerging force-level goal for frigates and other small surface combatants;
  • the reduction in the FFG-62 program’s programmed procurement rate under the Navy’s FY2023 five-year (FY2023-FY2027) shipbuilding plan;
  • the accuracy of the Navy’s estimated unit procurement cost for FFG-62s, particularly when compared to the known unit procurement costs of other recent U.S. surface combatants;
  • whether to build FFG-62s at a single shipyard at any one time (the Navy’s baseline plan), or at two shipyards;
  • whether the Navy has appropriately defined the required capabilities and growth margin for FFG-62s;
  • whether to take any further legislative action regarding U.S. content requirements for the FFG-62 program;
  • technical risk in the FFG-62 program; and
  • the potential industrial-base impacts of the FFG-62 program for shipyards and supplier firms in the context of other Navy and Coast Guard shipbuilding programs.

Download the document here.

Report on Virginia-class Attack Submarine Program

The following is the April 28, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, Navy Virginia (SSN-774) Class Attack Submarine Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress. From the report The Navy has been procuring Virginia (SSN-774) class nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs) since FY1998, and a total of 36 have been procured through FY2022. Since FY2011, Virginia-class boats have […]

The following is the April 28, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, Navy Virginia (SSN-774) Class Attack Submarine Procurement: Background and Issues for Congress.

From the report

The Navy has been procuring Virginia (SSN-774) class nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs) since FY1998, and a total of 36 have been procured through FY2022. Since FY2011, Virginia-class boats have been procured at a rate of two per year. Virginia-class boats scheduled for procurement in FY2019-FY2023 are being procured under a multiyear procurement (MYP) contract.

The Virginia-class design has been updated multiple times since FY1998. Most Virginia-class boats procured in FY2019 and subsequent years are to be built with the Virginia Payload Module (VPM), an additional, 84-foot-long, mid-body section equipped with four large-diameter, vertical launch tubes for storing and launching additional Tomahawk missiles or other payloads. When procured at a rate of two boats per year, VPM-equipped Virginia-class SSNs have an estimated procurement cost of about $3.6 billion per boat.

The Navy’s proposed budget requests the procurement of the 37th and 38th Virginia-class boats. The two boats have an estimated combined procurement cost of $7,250.6 million (i.e., about $7.3 billion). The two boats have received $1,938.3 million in prior-year “regular” advance procurement (AP) funding, and $778.1 million in Economic Order Quantity (EOQ) funding, which is an additional kind of AP funding that can occur under an MYP contract. The Navy’s proposed FY2023 budget requests the remaining $4,534.2 million needed to complete the two boats’ estimated combined procurement cost of $7,250.6 million. The Navy’s proposed FY2023 budget also requests $2,025.7 million in AP funding for Virginia-class boats to be procured in one or more future years, bringing the total amount of FY023 procurement and AP funding requested for the procurement of Virginia-class boats in FY2023 and subsequent years to $6,559.8 million (i.e., about $6.6 billion). The Navy’s proposed FY2023 budget additionally requests $304.5 million in cost-to-complete funding to cover cost growth on Virginia-class boats procured in prior years.

The Navy’s current force-level goal, which was released in December 2016, calls for achieving and maintaining a fleet of 355 manned ships, including 66 SSNs. The Navy and the Office of the Secretary Defense have been working since 2019 to develop a successor Navy force-level goal to replace the 355-goal of 2016. Studies of this emerging force-level goal that have been released by the Navy in summary form suggest that the new force-level goal could call for achieving and maintaining a force of 66 to 72 SSNs.

The Navy’s FY2023 five-year (FY2023-FY2027) shipbuilding plan includes a total of 10 Virginia-class boats, to be procured at a rate of two per year. The Navy’s FY2023 30-year (FY2023-FY2052) shipbuilding plan, released on April 20, 2022, includes three alternative 30-year shipbuilding profiles for the period FY2028-FY2052. Under these profiles, SSNs would be procured during FY2028-FY2052 at a rate of 1.76 to 2.24 boats per year. Based on the three alternative shipbuilding profiles, the FY2023 30-year shipbuilding plan projects that the SSN force will reach a minimum of 46 boats in FY2028, return to 50 boats in FY2032, and grow to 60 to 69 SSNs by FY2052.

Potential oversight issues for Congress regarding the Virginia-class program include the SSN force-level goal and procurement rate, the industrial-base challenges of building both Virginia-class SSNs and Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) at the same time, and cost and schedule risk in building the latest (i.e., Block V) version of the Virginia-class design.

Download the document here.

2021 U.S. Navy Board of Inspection and Survey Annual Report

The following is the 2021 report from the Navy’s Board of Inspection and Survey. The report to Congress is an annual summary of the health of the Navy’s fleet. According to Naval Sea Systems Command, “The Board of Inspection and Survey was initially established in 1868 by Congress to ensure that the ships of the […]

The following is the 2021 report from the Navy’s Board of Inspection and Survey. The report to Congress is an annual summary of the health of the Navy’s fleet.
According to Naval Sea Systems Command, “The Board of Inspection and Survey was initially established in 1868 by Congress to ensure that the ships of the United States Navy are properly equipped for prompt, reliable, sustained mission readiness at sea. In 1882, Congress enacted legislation which established the Board of Inspection and Survey under statutory authority, U.S Code Title 10, 7304, which requires a Board of Naval Officers to conduct a Material Inspection of all naval ships at least once every three years, if practicable. INSURV has been operating continuously under this authority since that date.”

From the report

Overall Fleet material condition showed a positive trend for FY 2021, matching the 6-year average that reversed a steady negative trend seen over the previous three years. Surface ship and submarine inspections drove this trend. FY 2021 CVN inspections slightly exceeded the 6-year CVN average. MSC inspections continued on a positive trend, with a significant increase in the number of inspections. Overall, some functional areas and subsystems remain degraded or show declining trends, indicative of areas where material readiness is stressed. All FY 2021 Material Inspections were conducted with minimal notice (30 days) given to the crews of the vessels. This is a substantive change from previous years. See section 6 for details.

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New construction INDEPENDENCE-class LCS, SPEARHEAD-class EPF, and LEWIS B PULLER-class ESB programs performed well on trials. The remaining programs experienced significant deviations from OPNAV trials requirements, missed key program milestones, or had declining trial performance during this fiscal year.

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