SECNAV: New Virginia Attack Boat Contracts Still Stalled Over Missile Insurance Issue; Lockheed, Northrop Clear Hypersonic Deal with Navy

ARLINGTON, Va. – The Navy and General Dynamics are still at an impasse over an insurance spat that has resulted in the 11-month delay to contracts for two Virginia-class attack submarines, Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro told USNI News on Wednesday. The service and the submarine builder disagree on the share of responsibility […]

Rendering of Block V Virginia-class submarine with Virginia Payload Module. General Dynamics Electric Boat Image

ARLINGTON, Va. – The Navy and General Dynamics are still at an impasse over an insurance spat that has resulted in the 11-month delay to contracts for two Virginia-class attack submarines, Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro told USNI News on Wednesday.

The service and the submarine builder disagree on the share of responsibility in the event of an accident occurring either during construction or operations aboard attack boats that field Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles. Until 2018, the Navy had financially protected General Dynamics Electric Boat from liability in the event of a Tomahawk accident in new submarine construction under an unusually high-risk provision due to its higher energy propellant.

The Navy says that EB should cover the risk, while General Dynamics has said they are unable to secure an insurance policy that would cover any accidents with high-energy propellant in the missiles that could cost billions in damages and be an existential risk for the company, several sources familiar with the negotiations have told USNI News.

“The American taxpayers have the right that when a company does something that is willful and wrong … and it results in a catastrophic event, that they not be the ones to be held accountable, that industry be held accountable for that. That’s my responsibility to the American taxpayer, as a U.S. government official,” Del Toro told reporters during a press roundtable at the Surface Navy Association symposium.
“I’m going to hold the ground and I’m willing to compromise on some things. I’m not willing to compromise on everything. They’re going to have to come to the table with reasonable language that the American taxpayer can accommodate on that ground.”

A spokesman for General Dynamics declined to comment on the contract dispute when contacted by USNI News.

Del Toro would not elaborate on the specific divisions between EB and his office when asked by USNI News.

“I’m not going to go into the details of what the negotiation is exactly over. What I’m saying is, you need to come back with reasonable language that is acceptable to the American taxpayer and that myself and the Secretary of Defense and everybody else is comfortable with before we sign the agreement,” he said.
“We continue to have those discussions and I just spoke to one of their senior VPs and basically encourage them to come to the table with language and compromises that make sense for the U.S. government.”

The split between the service and the shipbuilder has stalled the advance procurement contracts for two Block V Virginia-attack boat that were set to start in Fiscal Year 2024 and are now almost a year late, several sources confirmed to USNI News over the last month.

The lag in the contracts for the submarines and indemnification issues from Tomahawks and the emerging hypersonic missiles came up in the Fiscal Year 2023 defense policy bill.

“We remain concerned with the lack of resolution regarding open indemnification requests related to the Conventional Prompt Strike program, other weapons programs, and the associated planned employment platforms. We note these delays could lead to significant delivery delays for both Navy and Army hypersonic weapons programs, the next block of Virginia-class submarines, and other programs,” reads the explanatory statement accompanying the compromise Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act.

In terms of hypersonic missiles, which will be fielded on attack boats with the Virginia Payload Module and the Zumwalt-class guided missile destroyers, the Navy signed an indemnification agreement on Tuesday with Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin, Del Toro told USNI News.

“Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman came to the table in a reasonable way and we came to an agreement on what the language should be,” he said.
“So, there’s no reason why General Dynamics can’t do the same.”

Navy Issues General Dynamics Electric Boat $5.1B Contract Mod for Columbia-Class Submarine Program

The Navy on Wednesday issued General Dynamics Electric Boat a $5.1 billion contract modification for the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine contract. The modification is for spare parts, long lead items for missile tubes, making the missile tubes, sustainment work both for Columbia and the United Kingdom’s Dreadnought-class ballistic missile submarine program, and other advanced procurement […]

Artist’s rendering of the Columbia-class SSBN submarine. US Navy Image

The Navy on Wednesday issued General Dynamics Electric Boat a $5.1 billion contract modification for the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine contract.

The modification is for spare parts, long lead items for missile tubes, making the missile tubes, sustainment work both for Columbia and the United Kingdom’s Dreadnought-class ballistic missile submarine program, and other advanced procurement items, according to the Defense Department’s contract announcements.

“This modification also includes additional Submarine Industrial Base (SIB) enhancements as part of the Integrated Enterprise Plan and multi-program material procurement supporting Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines and the nuclear shipbuilding enterprise (Virginia-class and Ford-class). The industrial base development work is for the furtherance of the Navy’s plan of serial production of Columbia and Virginia submarines,” the DoD contract announcement reads.

Electric Boat laid the keep for the future USS District of Columbia (SSBN-826) in June. The Groton, Conn.,-based shipyard is already building the first two submarines in the class – District of Columbia and the future USS Wisconsin (SSBN-827).

“The award funds advance procurement and advance construction of critical components and material to support Build II (the next five ships in the class), efforts to support continuous missile tube production, enhancements to develop the Submarine Industrial Base, and sustained class maintenance and support,” GD Electric Boat said in a company news release.

The Columbia-class boats will ultimately replace the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines as the sea-based leg of the nuclear triad.

In November 2020, the Navy issued Electric Boat a $9.47 billion contract modification to start building the lead Columbia-class boat and for advanced work on the second boat, USNI News reported at the time.

Virginia Attack Boat Program Stalled Over Tomahawk, Hypersonic Missile Insurance Rift

THE PENTAGON — Advanced procurement contracts for two of the Navy’s Block V Virginia-class attack submarines have been stalled for 10 months due to an impasse between the service and its lead submarine builder over insurance related to Tomahawk missiles and future hypersonic weapons, USNI News has learned. General Dynamics and the Navy are split […]

Rendering of Block V Virginia-class submarine with Virginia Payload Module. General Dynamics Electric Boat Image

THE PENTAGON — Advanced procurement contracts for two of the Navy’s Block V Virginia-class attack submarines have been stalled for 10 months due to an impasse between the service and its lead submarine builder over insurance related to Tomahawk missiles and future hypersonic weapons, USNI News has learned.

General Dynamics and the Navy are split over which organization should be financially responsible if an accident occurred, either during construction or operations, aboard attack boats that field Tomahawks. The disagreement has held up the final long lead items contracts for the two submarines the Navy plans to buy in Fiscal Year 2024, four sources familiar with the conflict have told USNI News. Long lead contracts are typically issued two years ahead of the final construction contracts.

Since 2018, the Navy has not extended the liability protections for Tomahawks to General Dynamics’ new submarine construction, arguing the company should provide its own insurance to cover any accidents that result from its vertical launch system, according to a July report to Congress from the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment obtained by USNI News. The company in turn has told the Navy it’s unable to obtain adequate insurance to meet the risk of an explosive accident that could result in billions of dollars in damages, the sources told USNI News.

USS Vermont (SSN-792) makes her way up the Thames River and past New London as she returns home after routine operations to Submarine Base New London on Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. US Navy Photo

The dispute over the obscure insurance issue between the defense company and the Navy could further delay new submarine construction. The Navy also denied a similar request from Lockheed Martin to indemnify the company from liability should an accident occur with the under-development Conventional Prompt Strike hypersonic missile, a move that could further delay a new weapons program the Navy plans to field on the Virginia-class attack boat’s Virginia Payload Module. Hypersonic weapons and new attack submarines are high among the Department of Defense’s acquisition priorities, officials have said during the rollout of the latest Pentagon budget.

Under the current law, Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro makes the final decision on indemnification for Navy and Marine Corps contracts.

The current Fiscal Year 2023 defense policy bill — passed by the House last week and awaiting a vote in the Senate — includes language requiring the Department of Defense to study the indemnification issue and the Navy to deliver a report to Congress on the indemnification issue for the Conventional Prompt Strike weapon system.

Sailors assigned to the submarine tender USS Emory S. Land (AS-39) weapons handling division conduct an offload of a Tomahawk missile from the Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Asheville (SSN-758) on Feb 1, 2022. US Navy Photo

The provision is a compromise from the House version, which would have stripped the indemnification authority from the service secretaries and put it under the purview of the Secretary of Defense.

“We remain concerned with the lack of resolution regarding open indemnification requests related to the Conventional Prompt Strike program, other weapons programs, and the associated planned employment platforms. We note these delays could lead to significant delivery delays for both Navy and Army hypersonic weapons programs, the next block of Virginia-class submarines, and other programs,” reads the explanatory statement accompanying the compromise Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act.

“We are aware of the language in the draft NDAA and continue to actively work with industry to address any concerns related to conventional prompt strike, other weapons, and their employment platforms,” Capt. J.D. Dorsey, the spokesman for Del Toro, told USNI News this week.

‘Unusually High Risk’

Sailors assigned to the Emory S. Land-class submarine tender USS Frank Cable (AS-40) lower an inert Tomahawk missile training shape from the Frank Cable into the Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Springfield (SSN-761), April 24, 2022. US Navy Photo

For decades, the Navy financially indemnified General Dynamics Electric Boat against a Tomahawk accident on its submarines under an “unusually high risk” provision born from the service’s nuclear ballistic missile program.

The Tomahawk and the Navy’s ballistic missiles, like the retired Poseidon and current Trident II D5s, employ a high-energy solid rocket propellant that has been used for years without incident but carries a small risk of devastating explosions.

“The actual or potential cost of this indemnification is impossible to estimate since it is contingent upon the occurrence and of a nuclear incident or unusually hazardous incident attributable to the utilization of high-energy propellants,” reads a 2008 indemnification memo from then Secretary of the Navy Donald Winter.
“Such incidents may never occur; but in the event of a major event, losses could be catastrophic … In the event of a major incident arising from nuclear risks or unusually hazardous risks attributable to the utilization of high-energy propellants, the possible claims against and loss to the contractors and subcontractors could exceed amounts that contractors should be expected to cover and could easily exceed available insurance.”

The future USS Oregon (SSN-788) pierside at General Dynamics Electric Boat on Feb. 28, 2022. USNI News Photo

For example, if the propellant exploded at a naval base or at a repair yard, the results would not only damage the submarine but also other nearby ships and infrastructure, with damages that could easily roll into the billions, not including additional claims related to anyone killed or injured in the blast.

The Navy fielded a nuclear variant of the Tomahawk for decades and the service grouped the Tomahawk Land Attack Missile with the other nuclear submarine-launched missile in terms of indemnification, according to a July Pentagon report to Congress.

“In the past, DON approved indemnification requests for nuclear-capable Tomahawk missiles (TLAM-N) and related systems. In 2015, the Navy completed all actions related to the retirement of the TLAM-N, but the Tomahawk continued to be included in the Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) annual indemnifications through 2018,” reads the report.

Image of Nuclear TLAM. via U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings

“The period of coverage for the non-nuclear version of the Tomahawk was brief, and DON adjusted its indemnification decision in a reasonable period of time … DoN never considered Tomahawk propellants to present an unusually hazardous risk on their own, nor does DoN believe contractors lack the ability to obtain adequate insurance for the risks this missile system now presents.”

The Navy does not indemnify Tomahawks aboard surface ships as an unusually hazardous risk, but the risk of an accident on a surface ship is much lower than it is aboard an underway submarine, one source familiar with the system told USNI News.

General Dynamics is the prime contractor for the Tomahawk vertical launching systems aboard the Navy’s Los Angeles and Virginia-class attack submarines, but Raytheon builds the actual missile.

“General Dynamics Electric Boat’s request for indemnification is different, as the company is under contract solely for the launch systems, not the missiles,” reads the July Pentagon report.

The fear from a company like GD is that claims from a catastrophic incident could be an existential threat to the company, three sources familiar with the company’s reasoning told USNI News.

Virginia-class submarine Delaware (SSN-791) was moved out of a construction facility into a floating dry dock using a transfer car system in 2018. HII Photo

A General Dynamics spokesman acknowledged a request for comment but referred USNI News to the Navy. A Raytheon spokesperson declined to comment on the issue when contacted by USNI News. A Lockheed Martin spokesman referred questions from USNI News on their indemnification request to the Navy.

Defense contractors involved in the effort have been unsuccessful in finding an insurer to cover the risk of a Tomahawk accident, one lawmaker said during a May House Armed Services Committee hearing.

“One issue, which I think the Navy has created some schedule risk was the change in policy for unusual hazardous risk indemnification, which again, there’s just no question the Navy changed its policy in the last administration, in terms of how, you know, who bears the cost in terms of indemnification,” Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), who chairs the House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee chair, said during an exchange with Jay Stefany, who at the time was performing the duties of the assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition.
“[Private industries] have found insurance coverage that is the maximum allowed in the market, $2 billion of coverage, which I think is certainly a good faith effort.”

In a July military readiness hearing, Courtney said repair work on both Virginia-class and Los Angeles-class attack boats at the private shipyards could stall due to the indemnification rules.

“This issue really is just screaming out for a resolution. And I honestly believe there’s a compromise here,” he You know, we can have contractors get insurance — risk insurance to the maximum that’s available in the market. But that — as was the case for 40 years, that the Navy will be there sort of as a backstop… this high-risk activity.”

STRATCOM Nominee: U.S. Dealing with Expanding Nuclear Threats from China, Russia

Russia and China’s nuclear capabilities require continual assessment due to the threats these powers pose to the United States and its allies, the nominee to head U.S. Strategic Command told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday. Testifying Thursday, Air Force Gen. Anthony Cotton said the assessment needs to cover how “the two might work […]

General Anthony Cotton, Air Force Global Strike Command commander, speaks during the Striker Stripe event May 9, 2022, at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana. Cotton emphasized the importance of familiarizing Airmen with today’s complex strategic environment. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Chase Sullivan)

Russia and China’s nuclear capabilities require continual assessment due to the threats these powers pose to the United States and its allies, the nominee to head U.S. Strategic Command told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday.
Testifying Thursday, Air Force Gen. Anthony Cotton said the assessment needs to cover how “the two might work together” and “how they might not work together” in a crisis. He pointed to Russia’s warnings that it could use limited nuclear weapons to take over Ukraine and China’s breathtaking advances in building its nuclear triad in fewer than four years. Cotton said this is the first time, since the dawn of the nuclear age in 1945, that the United States had to weigh the threats coming from more than one power with strategic weapons.

That assessment will play a crucial role in understanding “what needs to be done” in force shaping and future security and nuclear strategy and the role the command plays in carrying them out, he added.

“I absolutely believe that our nuclear deterrent” helped deter Russia from using nuclear weapons in Ukraine.

Cotton, who heads the Air Force’s Global Strike Command, said he supports accelerating the development of nuclear weapons systems, platforms, command and control, and infrastructure modernization when possible.

“We have to roll up our sleeves” to meet the challenges of modernization in facing two near-peer competitors, he added.

To do this, “we’re going to need stable, predictable funding” from Congress and the administration. In turn, the same stability and predictability needs to come from the Pentagon in defining requirements for nuclear programs across the board.

While Cotton on several occasions voiced his support for modernizing all three legs of the triad in both oral and written testimony, the only direct question about the Navy’s ballistic missile submarine program concerned extending the service life of some Ohio-class class boomers.

Cotton said that he needed to understand “what aging we really see” in extending some of the Ohio boats’ service lives to 42 years instead of the originally planned 30. Will the extension “get the result we want” or build new is the question that has to be answered, he said.

He also voiced his support for the continued development of the long-range stand-off cruise missile for the Air Force’s bomber fleet to keep that leg of the triad viable. His support also kept the door open for a nuclear long-range sea-launched cruise missile, an effort the Biden administration canceled earlier this year. Long-range in these cases means missiles capable of covering distances over 1,500 miles.

This spring, Adm. Charles Richard, the current STRATCOM commander, and Adm. James Grady, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee that they favored the continued development of the sea-based weapon.

“I have seen that capability gap as well,” referring to the long-range strike program in general, Cotton said.

Now that electro-magnetic and spectrum warfare falls under STRATCOM, Cotton said, “it’s going to be a front-burner issue.” He added that over the years the program in the Pentagon has atrophied. Cotton said he intends to have the command “not pace our adversaries, but lead our adversaries” in this domain.

The command is still feeling the pandemic’s impact on defense production and delivery, he added. Even with American-made parts, he said that in some areas it is taking 90 days to deliver components versus 10 before COVID-19 reached pandemic levels.

The committee and full Senate are expected to confirm Cotton’s nomination.

CNO: Navy Will Lead DDG(X) Design Effort, Wargames Call for Fewer Large Surface Warships

The design of the next American guided-missile destroyer will be led by the Navy in move that Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday says will reduce technical risk in the program. The service brought in Ingalls Shipbuilding and General Dynamics Bath Iron Works to jointly develop DDG(X), the planned follow-on to the Arleigh Burke Flight […]

Notional Navy DDG(X) hull design. PEO Ships Image

The design of the next American guided-missile destroyer will be led by the Navy in move that Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday says will reduce technical risk in the program.

The service brought in Ingalls Shipbuilding and General Dynamics Bath Iron Works to jointly develop DDG(X), the planned follow-on to the Arleigh Burke Flight III, but the Navy will firmly be driving the design, Gilday said speaking at the DefenseOne State of Defense conference on Wednesday.

“What we’ve done with DDG X is we brought in private shipbuilders, so that they can help inform the effort. It’s a team, but it’s Navy led. And so, both of the companies that produce DDGs are involved in that initial design. Our intent is to go into build with a mature design,” he said.
“I think it’s important that the Navy maintain the lead on design.”

The move for the Navy to take the lead in design is in response to the technical risk the sea service has endured in other ship classes. He cited success with the detailed design of the Columbia-class nuclear ballistic missile submarine being 80 percent complete before fabrication began on lead ship District of Columbia (SSBN-826).

“Technical risk has been a challenge for us, whether it’s Zumwalt, [Littoral Combat Ships] or [Gerald Ford-class carrier], in particular. [In] those three builds, we’ve accepted technical risks and it’s cost us in terms of keeping those ships, not only within budget, but also on schedule,” Gilday said.

The Navy is set on having the next destroyer, planned to start fabrication in 2028, be a new hull wrapped around existing systems as a further risk reduction.

“An example might be the shift from the Ticonderoga cruiser to the Arleigh Burke destroyer, where we use where we essentially use the same combat system, the same weapon system but the hull is different,” Gilday said.
“Our intent for DDG(X) would be much the same, that we would use a proven combat system on that ship. But we need a ship that has more space and allows for more weight and for capability growth over time. An example might be hypersonic missiles, just based on the size of those missiles. We couldn’t fit those in a current Arleigh Burke, or even a Flight III. [DDG(X) is] a deeper ship, if you will, from that standpoint.”

The Navy is pushing for future surface ships to be armed with hypersonic missiles for offense and directed energy for defense — both require more power and more space than is possible with the current Burke hulls — even the 10,000-ton Flight IIIs, Gilday said.

Jack Lucas (DDG-125) launched on June 5, 2021. HII Photo

It’s unclear how many of the new ships the Navy needs and how it would feather in with the existing Flight III ships underway at both Ingalls and HII.

Gilday said ongoing wargames that are testing out the Navy’s developing distributed maritime operations concept are pushing the service to field less large combatants like DDG(X) and more smaller ones like the Constellation-class guided-missile frigate (FFG-62) along with more nuclear attack submarines.

“The trends that we’re seeing — as we take a look at distributed maritime operations and as we take a look at a number of for structure assessments going back to 2016 — are more submarines, definitely more supply ships. In terms of the surface force, we’re seeing a rebalancing. The demand as we war game, as we exercise as we do more analysis is the trend for surface ships is all less larger surface combatants and more smaller surface combatants.

In the short term, Congress is pushing the Navy to buy more Flight IIIs with House pending defense policy bills calling for an up to 15-hull, five-year contract that would extend the class to a total of 104 ships.

At that rate, the shipyards would need to produce three hulls a year, a number Gilday said the industrial base couldn’t meet now.

“Right now, we’re not at a point where the industrial base can support three destroyers a year. They’re somewhere at two, two and a half,” he said.
“We want to make sure if we’re going to put that money down against shipbuilding, that the capacity is actually there. So that money is well spent… sending them a clear signal.”

Gilday pointed to an overall strain in the industrial base for shipbuilding as the limiting factor.

“It’s across the board,” he said.
“We’ve seen challenges with the industrial base, producing submarines on time, on schedule, and within budget. Same thing with aircraft carriers — destroyers are coming around but we still have some work to do. We’re seeing challenges… whether it’s shipbuilding, whether it’s aircraft production, the defense industrial base right now is strained. And a lot of that has to do with the workforce, as we recover from COVID.”

Senate, Navy Pushing for Bath Iron Works, Ingalls DDG(X) Destroyer Team Up

The push to develop the Navy’s next-generation destroyer will be a team effort between General Dynamics Bath Iron Works and HII’s Ingalls Shipbuilding if the Navy and the Senate Armed Services Committee have their way. Instead of competing for the primary contract to build DDG(X), the service wants the two yards to take a page from […]

Notional Navy DDG(X) hull design. PEO Ships Image

The push to develop the Navy’s next-generation destroyer will be a team effort between General Dynamics Bath Iron Works and HII’s Ingalls Shipbuilding if the Navy and the Senate Armed Services Committee have their way.

Instead of competing for the primary contract to build DDG(X), the service wants the two yards to take a page from the teaming agreement between General Dynamics Electric Boat and HII’s Newport News Shipbuilding to design and construct the Columbia-class nuclear ballistic missile, several legislative and service officials told USNI News this week.

On Monday, the Senate Armed Services released its Fiscal Year 2023 authorization bill, which includes language that directs the Navy to pursue the teaming agreement for DDG(X) without naming Ingalls and Bath. But the Navy wants the arrangement for those two shipyards, USNI News understands.

Citing a string of problems with the Navy’s surface ship programs over the last 20 years, the bill’s report language directs the Navy to adopt a similar teaming plan to the submarine yards.

“The committee notes that many recent Navy shipbuilding programs, including the DDG-1000 and Littoral Combat Ship programs, experienced significant cost increases, program delays, and reliability issues due to flaws in the earliest acquisition strategies,” according to the report language paired with the bill that was filed on Monday.

“Accordingly, the committee believes it is critical that the Navy work closely with industry to ensure appropriate design and technical maturity in developing lead ship acquisition strategies. The committee further believes that the DDG(X) acquisition strategy should be modeled on and leverage the best practices of the Columbia-class Integrated Product and Process Development (IPPD) contract, with integrated lines of effort in design, technology maturation, and construction.”

For Columbia, the IPPD construct centers on a digital design tool that allows both yards and the Navy to work from the same set of plans simultaneously to increase the design efficiency and identify production problems ahead of fabrication. While in the submarine teaming agreement Newport News and Electric Boat build different sections of the same boat, in the DDG(X) arrangement, each yard would build a complete warship, USNI News understands.

The advantage would alleviate the growing pains of bringing a second yard in to build the same design after an original award, since all the yards would craft their fabrication plans at the same time. However, the arrangement would limit the work to the two yards and prevent a wider competition for other shipyards beyond Ingalls and Bath, USNI News understands. Some legislators are skeptical of the lack of a wider contest, Hill sources have told USNI News.

The House did not include a similar provision in its version of the NDAA that was approved earlier this month.

The next-generation destroyer is set to follow the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer and Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser, an effort the Navy has attempted since the 2000s.

At the time, the Burkes and Ticos were going to be superseded by the Zumwalt-class guided-missile destroyer and a massive 20,000-ton next-generation cruiser called CG(X). CG(X) was canceled for cost and the Zumwalts were trimmed to just three as part of the Fiscal Year 2010 defense budget.

Since then, the Navy has restarted the Burke line between Ingalls and Bath and adapted the hull to accommodate what would become the AN/SPY-6 air and missile radar in the Flight III configuration. Cementing a strategy for a Burke successor has been elusive.

The most recent strategy, unveiled in January, would take the combat system from the Flight III and the integrated propulsion system from the Zumwalts to create a combination that would be designed to field hypersonic missiles and high-powered directed energy weapons, Navy officials said at the time.

“When we upgraded the Flight III … we took up all of the service life allowance on that platform. All of the space, weight and power has all been allocated. There is not enough room on that ship to put a new combat capability that takes more power or a larger footprint within the ship,” deputy DDG(X) program manager Katherine Connelly said at the time.

“The first ship will focus on a new hull form and a new integrated power system. We will use the proven combat system from the Flight III ship so we are designing the ship with the flexibility and the margins to accommodate the future of the Navy and the needs for where we’re going.”

GAO Report on Risk in Defense Industrial Base

The following is the July 7, 2022, Government Accountability Office report, Defense Industrial Base DoD Should Take Actions to Strengthen Its Risk Mitigation Approach. From the report The Department of Defense’s (DOD) Industrial Base Policy office does not yet have a consolidated and comprehensive strategy to mitigate risks to the industrial base—the companies that develop […]

The following is the July 7, 2022, Government Accountability Office report, Defense Industrial Base DoD Should Take Actions to Strengthen Its Risk Mitigation Approach.

From the report

The Department of Defense’s (DOD) Industrial Base Policy office does not yet
have a consolidated and comprehensive strategy to mitigate risks to the
industrial base—the companies that develop and manufacture technologies and
weapon systems for DOD. The office is using a combination of four previously
issued reports that were created for other requirements because it devoted its resources to completing other priorities. Collectively, the reports do not include several elements GAO has previously identified that would help DOD achieve results, evaluate progress, and ensure accountability.

DOD must update its industrial base strategy following the submission of the next National Security Strategy Report, which is expected to be issued later in 2022. By including all elements in a consolidated strategy, DOD could better ensure that all appropriate organizations are working toward the same priorities, promoting supply chain resiliency, and supporting national security objectives.

DOD is carrying out numerous efforts to mitigate risks to the industrial base. This includes more than $1 billion in reported efforts under Navy submarine and destroyer programs and $125 million to sustain a domestic microelectronics manufacturer. However, DOD has limited insight into the effectiveness of these efforts and how much progress it has made addressing risks.

GAO Image

For example:

  • The Industrial Base Policy office and military services have not
    established enterprise-wide performance measures to monitor the
    aggregate effectiveness of DOD’s mitigation efforts.
  • DOD’s annual Industrial Capabilities Reports do not include information
    about the progress the department has made in mitigating risks.

GAO’s prior work on enterprise risk management establishes that agencies
should monitor and report on the status and effectiveness of their risk mitigation efforts. Without key monitoring and reporting information, DOD and Congress do not have sufficient information to help determine whether industrial base risks have been mitigated and what additional resources or actions may be needed.

Download document here.

Navy Attack Sub PEO Goggins to Lead American AUKUS Effort, Says SECNAV

The admiral who oversees U.S. attack submarine construction has been appointed to lead the Australia-United Kingdom-United States (AUKUS) partnership that promises to develop a nuclear-powered attack boat for the Royal Australian Navy, the Department of the Navy announced Friday. Goggins, who currently serves as the program executive officer for attack submarines, will report to the […]

Rear Adm. David Goggins

The admiral who oversees U.S. attack submarine construction has been appointed to lead the Australia-United Kingdom-United States (AUKUS) partnership that promises to develop a nuclear-powered attack boat for the Royal Australian Navy, the Department of the Navy announced Friday.

Goggins, who currently serves as the program executive officer for attack submarines, will report to the assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition, according to the sea service’s news release. He will turn the PEO over to Rear Adm. Jonathon Rucker.

As the special assistant in support of AUKUS, Goggins will lead the planning and standup of the Navy’s implementation of the approach selected by Australia after a consultation period, Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro said in the release.

“Adm. Goggins selection to lead AUKUS will further our efforts to strengthen our strategic partnerships with Australia and the United Kingdom,” Del Toro said in the release. “Dave comes to us at a critical time in the consultation period of AUKUS and is the right person to spearhead the analysis of the submarine development production and testing efforts. Under his leadership, I’m confident the AUKUS team will help meet the objective of determining the best path toward equipping the Royals Australian Navy with a nuclear-powered, conventionally-armed class of attack submarines by March 2023.”

Goggins previously served as the Virginia-class program manager. He oversaw the delivery of three submarines for the Navy and started the design for the Block V Virginia Payload Module and Acoustic Superiority upgrades as part of the Virginia-class submarines.

He also previously worked on the Columbia-class submarine as the program manager.

The AUKUS partnership, announced in September and formalized in December, allows Washington and London to share technical secrets of nuclear submarine propulsion with Canberra. The move caused Australia to abandon its deal with the French to buy conventionally-powered submarines that would replace the RAN’s Collins-class boats.

The AUKUS effort is now in the middle of an 18-month study period to determine the best way to move forward with the effort.

In addition to nuclear propulsion, the agreement is designed “to spur cooperation across many new and emerging arenas: cyber, AI – particularly applied AI – quantum technologies and some undersea capabilities as well,” according to a summary of the agreement.

Joint Chiefs Vice Chair, STRATCOM CO Still In Favor of Navy Nuclear Cruise Missile

The vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs and Strategic Command’s top officer told a Senate panel Wednesday they favored continued development of the Navy’s low-yield Sea-Launched Cruise Missile-Nuclear capability, despite last year’s guidance the program be abandoned and being zeroed out in next year’s budget. Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee, STRATCOM’s […]

Navy Adm. Charles Richard, commander, U.S. Strategic Command provides testimony at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in review of the fiscal 2023 budget on March 8, 2022. DoD Photo

The vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs and Strategic Command’s top officer told a Senate panel Wednesday they favored continued development of the Navy’s low-yield Sea-Launched Cruise Missile-Nuclear capability, despite last year’s guidance the program be abandoned and being zeroed out in next year’s budget.

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee, STRATCOM’s Adm. Charles Richard said, “without [SLCM-N], adversaries may perceive an advantage.”

Adm. James Grady also testified that he was in favor of the missile development continuing.

His answer echoed that of the chairman, Army Gen. Mark Milley, who told the House Armed Services Committee last month that research into SLCM-N would give the president more options in a crisis.

The missile with a range of about 1,500 miles could fill a “deterrence and assurance gap” against China and Russia and with allies and partners, Richard testified.

“To address this gap, a low-yield, non-ballistic capability to deter and respond without visible generation is necessary to provide a persistent, survivable, regional capability to deter adversaries, assure allies, provide flexible options, as well as complement existing capabilities. I believe a capability with these attributes should be re-examined in the near future,” Richard wrote in an April 5 letter to Congress, first reported by Defense News.

He repeated that observation Wednesday.

“We don’t know where China is going in capacity and capability,” Richard told the panel.

He reminded the senators of Russia’s threat to use low-yield tactical nuclear weapons to get its way in Ukraine after the poor performance of its conventional ground forces and the possibility of China using nuclear coercion to bring Taiwan under its control.

In last year’s budget request, the Navy sought about $15 million for the missile’s research and development, as well as its warhead.

Cutaway image of a nuclear tipped Tomahawk cruise missile

“The Navy indicated that the program was ‘cost prohibitive and the acquisition schedule would have delivered capability late to need.’ According to the Navy, this cancellation would save $199.2 million in FY2023 and $2.1 billion over the next five years,” according to the Congressional Research Service’s most recent report on the program.

Although the missile and warhead were called for in the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review, a Pentagon official said last month the program’s cancellation was called for in the Biden administration’s review, which was released earlier this year.

At Wednesday’s hearing, William LaPlante, under secretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, said the Pentagon will be sending its latest report on the sea-launched cruise missile-nuclear program to Congress soon.

When asked, LaPlante said he expects “larger numbers to come” in future budget requests for the nuclear enterprise. The request for Fiscal Year 2023 is $34.4 billion, $7 billion above last year’s. He added this amounts to about 4.5 percent of the overall Pentagon request. In addition to modernizing all three legs of the triad, the budget is providing for the development of five new warheads plus the rebuilding facilities at Los Alamos and other laboratories that date to World War II.

“Moving at the speed of relevance is a must,” Grady said about all three efforts.

Citing his two predecessors’ warnings to Congress, Richard said, “I very little ability to mitigate risk” if the modernization program stalls. “What we have is the absolute minimum” now.

Citing China’s “breakout” as a nuclear power, Richard said it “rivals the biggest expansion of any nation” including the United States and Soviet Union in the 1960s.

Beijing doubled its stockpile in two years — much faster than intelligence agencies expected, Richard said. He added China went from zero to 360 intercontinental ballistic missile silos in a few years, doubled the number of its mobile missile launchers, plussed up its ballistic missile submarine fleet and can count its air-launched nuclear missiles as an effective part of its own nuclear triad.

As Beijing was developing its strategic intercontinental nuclear force, Richard said it continued expanding its intermediate-range nuclear capabilities. Although the United States withdrew from the intermediate-range nuclear treaty [IMF] with Russia during the Trump administration, China was never a party to the agreement.

CNO Gilday: Navy Balancing New SSN(X) Attack Submarine Design Against Need For NGAD, DDG(X)

ABOARD THE NUCLEAR ATTACK SUBMARINE USS SOUTH DAKOTA – A banner over the sonar operators in the control room of one of the Navy’s most technologically advanced submarines declares the attack boat is the service’s “Apex Predator.” The sign – complete with a portrait of the alien from the 1987 sci-fi adventure film “The Predator” […]

USS South Dakota (SSN-790) stand at parade rest during a change-of-command ceremony onboard Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, Conn., Sept. 27, 2022. US Navy Photo

ABOARD THE NUCLEAR ATTACK SUBMARINE USS SOUTH DAKOTA – A banner over the sonar operators in the control room of one of the Navy’s most technologically advanced submarines declares the attack boat is the service’s “Apex Predator.”

The sign – complete with a portrait of the alien from the 1987 sci-fi adventure film “The Predator” – refers to a package of sensors and quieting technology the service installed for testing aboard USS South Dakota (SSN-790). Commissioned in 2019 as one of the last Block III Virginia-class attack boats, five years ago the Navy chose South Dakota to be the service’s acoustic superiority test ship.

“Stealth is the cover charge, stealth is the price of admission,” then-director of undersea warfare, now U.S. Strategic Command head, Adm. Charles Richard told USNI News at the time.

The boat received coatings that keep the ship quieter, a quieter water jet propulsor and additional sonars mounted on the sides of the hull to increase the crew’s ability to detect enemy ships and submarines, USNI News reported in 2016.

On Monday, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday toured the boat as part of a day-long trip to Naval Submarine Base New London, Conn., and submarine builder General Dynamics Electric Boat.

Overview of USS South Dakota (SSN-790) upgrades for teh XXX program. US Navy Image

Speaking to USNI News en route to the submarine, Gilday said the trip would help him assess the progress in building the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine and the Virginia-class attack boat, as the Navy weighs the direction of its next crop of attack boats.

While the upgrades over the baseline Block III boat make South Dakota among the most dangerous submarines in the fleet in 2022, its basic design and mission set is more than 20 years old.

The Virginia attack boats were a post-Cold War departure for the Navy to develop multi-mission submarines that had an expanded land-attack capability and special operations and signals intelligence capacity to operate closer to shore. The class was a departure from the bigger, faster and more heavily armed Seawolf-class boats that are still widely considered to be the most dangerous submarines in the world.

Now, with Russia and China both expanding their submarine forces, the Navy is again looking to build an attack boat that looks more like USS Seawolf (SSN-21) than South Dakota.  The service wants larger hull diameter and more horizontal weapons like torpedoes to take on ships and submarines, rather than vertically launched land-strike weapons like Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles.
“We don’t know the specific characteristics that will be in SSN(X). But we do believe that the next submarine will have a large horizontal payload capacity. You can read that as it’s going to carry a lot of torpedoes,” Rear Adm. Doug Perry, the current director of the undersea warfare division on the chief of naval operations staff (OPNAV N97) said in November.
“The heavyweight torpedo will remain the weapon of choice for the submarine for this for the foreseeable future, primarily due to its inherent stealth, its destructive effects in the battlespace, and [it’s] pretty difficult to defend against and it also [preserves] the stealth of launch platform.”

Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Mike Gilday departs from the Virginia Class submarine USS South Dakota (SSN-790), after a tour of the submarine on Feb. 28, 2022. US Navy Photo

“Submarines are for the foreseeable future going to continue to be our most survivable, lethal strike platform. We’ve taken great pains during constrained budgets in the past several years to eliminate that divot in attack boats that we’re going to see in the late 2020s,” Gilday told USNI News.

EB and Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Newport News Shipbuilding are now working through the Block IV Virginia attack boats that have suffered months-long delays in delivery due to complications from the COVID-19 pandemic and other shortfalls. There was more than a two-year gap between the delivery of the first Block IV Virginia – USS Vermont (SSN-792) on April 17, 2020 – to USS Oregon (SSN-793), two weeks ago.

While the Block IVs are still under construction, EB and Newport News have started the construction of the Block V Virginias that will push the limits of the existing Virginia design by including the Virginia Payload Module, which installs an 84-foot-long extension that will have the capacity for the submarines to field more Tomahawks and eventually hypersonic weapons.

“We go from 12 tubes to 40, which is a significant increase and we start bringing those online in 2025-2026. The third hull will be configured for hypersonics,” Gilday said.

But like the Flight III Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, the Navy is pushing the limits of Virginia’s 1990s-era design and has to decide when it will need to develop a new hull.

“There’s the possibility that this Virginia line gets extended beyond the Block V and the planned 10 Block V submarines. There’s the possibility we continue that line,” Gilday said.
“We’re also looking at SSN(X). That would be a mid-2030s [start]. In the Fiscal Year 2022 budget proposal to Congress, we had [$98] million in [research and development] requested for SSN(X). That’s with respect to advanced propulsion, plant machinery, acoustic superiority that we want to maintain. We need to stay ahead of China and Russia and we sure we can’t lag them. So that’s an important effort, the exact timing when we start building those boats is yet to be determined.”

Notional Navy DDG(X) hull design. PEO Ships Image

However, development of SSN(X) comes at the same time the Navy is looking to design the new DDG(X) guided-missile destroyer to succeed the Arleigh Burkes and the aging Ticonderoga-class cruisers, and develop the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program, the service’s sixth-generation fighter meant to replace the F/A-18E/F Super Hornets in the next decade.

“That [SSN(X)] aim point is important for the bigger picture as we take a look at other lethality upgrades, Gilday said.
“We’re working our way through the late 20s with respect to NGAD and DDG(X), but there needs to be progress in both of those. In terms of priority, they’re both important. I think what we’ll come down to is the pace that we move through both of those programs.”

While there is a chance the Navy could get more money to develop the new programs as a result of a recently reported budget expansion for Fiscal Year 2023, last year’s assessment from then-acting Navy Secretary Thomas Harker was bleak.

An F/A-18E Super Hornet attached to the ‘Gladiators’ of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106 approaches USS Gerald R. Ford’s (CVN -8) flight deck on Nov. 1, 2020. US Navy Photo

“The Navy cannot afford to simultaneously develop the next generation of air, surface, and subsurface platforms and must prioritize these programs balancing the cost of developing next-generation capabilities against maintaining current capabilities,” a June 2021 memo from Harker reads. “As part of the POM23 budget, the Navy should prioritize one of the following capabilities and re-phase the other two after an assessment of operational, financial, and technical risk.”

Faced with three major acquisition projects, in addition to the introduction of new unmanned systems into the surface, air and undersea domains, Gilday said he’s committed to a measured approach to the new programs.

“We’re not looking for consecutive miracles here like we’ve done in the past. It’s just too much,” Gilday said. “We’ve seen it from Zumwalt, Ford, even [Littoral Combat Ships], obviously LCS. I’m trying to avoid that with unmanned. I just prefer to get it right, rather than rushing,”