Ohio-class SSGN-726 Program
The Clinton Administration's Nuclear Posture Review was chartered in October 1993, and the President approved the recommendations of the NPR on September 18, 1994. As a result of the NPR, US strategic nuclear force structure will be adjusted to 14 Trident submarines -- four fewer than previously planned -- carrying 24 D-5 missiles, each with five warheads, per submarine. This required backfitting four Trident SSBNs, carrying the Trident I (C- 4) missile, with the more modern and capable D-5 missile system. Ironically, at the time the Navy was extending the life of the Ohio-class hull to 42 years.
The 2002 Nuclear Posture Review stated that the Department of Defense was going to convert the four boats being withdrawn from the strategic nuclear patrols to a conventional SSGN role. The one thing a Trident submarine had in abendance, compared to a SSN, was space. The combination of plenty of space, the ability to store and deploy a substantial payload, a powerful nuclear reactor to allow quick transits, and a proven capability to remain on station for a considerable amount of time, and an excellent stealth capability would make such a platform ideal for conversion.
In the 1990s DOD guidance called for a force of over 50 attack submarines, although some studies have called for raising the number of subs to as many as 72. According to Navy secretary Richard Danzig, as of October 1999 the Joint Chiefs of Staff were studying options for increasing the size and capability of the submarine force. The three options under review at that time included converting older Ohio-class SSBN submarines to so-called SSGNs at a cost of $420 million; refueling and extending by 12 years the service life of perhaps eight Los Angeles-class (SSN 688) subs at a cost per copy of $200 million; or building new Virginia-class (SSN 774) subs at a rate of at least four over the next five years, at a cost of roughly $2 billion per boat.
The FY2000 Defense Authorization bill required the Navy to study converting four of the oldest Tridents to the new SSGN configuration. The Senate added $193 million to convert four retiring Ohio-class ballistic missile subs to special platforms for conventional missiles and SEALs. The president had requested only enough money to convert two of the subs in the FY2002 defense appropriation bill.
On 26 September 2002 Electric Boat Corp., Groton, Conn., was awarded a $442,923,371 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for ship detail design, procurement and manufacturing of Long Lead Time Material (LLTM) for conversion of Ohio Class Ballistic Missile Submarines (SSBN) to Ohio Class Guided Missile Submarines (SSGN). The contract effort is to produce a complete, accurate, and producible ship detail design for conversion of up to four SSBN submarines to SSGN submarines. The contract also provides for the procurement and manufacturing of LLTM to support the conversions. Associated LLTM tasks include material acquisition, vendor oversight, manufacturing, inspections, test, storage, preservation, and vendor assistance in troubleshooting and resolving operational problems. Work will be performed in Groton, Conn. (91 percent), Quonset, R.I. (seven percent), and Newport, R.I. (two percent), and is to be completed by September 2007. The Navy could spend as much as $1.1 billion on the conversions by 2007.
The Navy entered into a unique partnership to bring the SSGN conversions to fruition. All four submarines required an Engineered Refueling Overhaul (ERO) in addition to extensive conversion work. Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Washington carried out the EROs for both Ohio and Michigan while Norfolk Naval Shipyard, located in Virginia, worked on Florida and Georgia. General Dynamics' Electric Boat was awarded the contract to convert the SSBNs into SSGNs and carried out that work within the Naval Shipyards-the first time such collaboration had been conducted. This first-of-a-kind partnership has proved highly successful.
As of early 2003 two of the four submarines had already completed their final strategic offload. The first two SSBN engineered refueling overhauls (EROs) were scheduled to start in FY 2003, followed by conversion to SSGN starting in FY 2004. The third and fourth SSBN EROs are scheduled to start in FY 2004 and FY 2005, respectively, followed by conversion to SSGN starting in FY 2005.
Two Tomahawk missiles were successfully launched from a missile tube of USS Florida (SSBN 728), an Ohio-class fleet ballistic missile submarine, in demonstration and validation (DEMVAL) tests in mid-January 2003 in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of western Florida. The successful launches provided confirmation that a key element of the planned conversion of SSBNs to SSGNs - the delivery of conventional weapons from the submarine's missile tubes - will work.
The first launch on January 14, 2003 was of an instrumented Tomahawk Block III missile configured with an MK 106 Rocket Motor Assembly to obtain a boosted energy profile similar to the Tactical Tomahawk missile currently in development. The unarmed missile was launched vertically from one of the submarine's missile tubes and transitioned to cruise flight, flying its planned mission at the Eglin Air Force Base C Range using global positioning satellite navigation, with recovery occurring at Eglin. A second launch on January 16 was also successful.
For both tests the missile was placed within a Multiple All-Up-Rounds Canister (MAC) in such a configuration that it was similar to the tightly packed cluster of Tomahawk All-Up-Rounds (AURs) planned for SSGN Trident tubes. An instrumented test vehicle was collocated in the Trident launch tube to measure the effect of nearby launches on adjacent missiles. The MAC provides the support structure for up to seven Tomahawk AUR missiles in each of the large diameter Trident tubes on an Ohio-class submarine.
The SSGN at-sea DEMVAL test was followed by and coordinated with the Giant Shadow experiment in late January 2003 in the Bahamas. The experiment, the first Limited Objective Experiment under the Chief of Naval Operations Sea Trial initiative, includes an Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance and Nuclear-Biological-Chemical Force Protection Mission Experiment in support of special operations forces utilizing the same submarine.
The SSGN at-sea DEMVAL test and Giant Shadow experiment demonstrate the advantages of the Sea Trial process, the key enabler for achieving the Navy's Sea Power 21 vision. These and future demonstrations will integrate war gaming, experimentation, and exercises into rapid concept and technology development that will deliver improved capabilities to the Fleet as swiftly as possible.
USS Ohio (SSGN 726), the Navy's first modern guided-missile submarine, took a significant step towards rejoining the fleet 19 December 2005, when it arrived at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Wash., with a broom atop its sail to signify its clean sweep of the ship's initial sea trials. Ohio's Commanding Officer, Cmdr. Michael Cockey, expressed satisfaction with the ship's performance and noted its great potential.
On 18 December 2003 General Dynamics Electric Boat Corp. (GD/EB) was awarded a cost plus incentive fee contract worth $222 million for the conversion of the first Ohio Class Guided Missile Submarine (SSGN), USS Ohio (SSGN 726), and for Long Lead Time Material (LLTM) and Conversion Installation Planning for the Conversion of Ohio Class Ballistic Missile Submarines (SSBNs), the USS Michigan (SSBN 727) and the USS Georgia (SSBN 729), to SSGN 727 and SSGN 729. SSGN 726 began its ERO at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in November 2002, and began conversion work in November 2003. SSGN 728 began its ERO at Norfolk Naval Shipyard in August 2003, with conversion start planned in April 2004. Both the SSGN 726 and the SSGN 728 were to complete conversion in fiscal 2006.
The SSGN Program Office converted four SSBNs into SSGNs in a little more than five years at a significantly lower cost than building a new platform and in a similar time span. USS Ohio (SSGN 726) entered the shipyard on Nov. 15, 2002, completed conversion in December 2005 [as planned] and deployed for the first time in October 2007. Conversion of USS Michigan (SSGN 727) started in October 2004 and the ship delivered in November 2006 [versus April 2006]. USS Florida (SSGN 728) commenced its conversion in August 2003 and returned to the fleet in April 2006 [versus October 2006]. USS Georgia (SSGN 729) returned to the fleet in December 2007 [versus April 2007].
The Navy conducted operational evaluation (OPEVAL) of the SSGN's Strike and SOF missions in FY07. Four US Navy Tomahawk Cruise Missiles were launched from the USS FLORIDA, SSGN-728 (Guided Missile Submarine Nuclear), while underway in the Gulf of Mexico recently. The tests were the first Tomahawk launches from the new SSGN Class submarine which included one Block III, and three Block IV variants of the Tomahawk missile as part of the SSGN's strike operational evaluation (OPEVAL).
The Navy's newest class of modern guided-missile submarine, the Ohio-class, reached a significant milestone 11 March 2008, when all four submarines in the class were underway at the same time. Ohio, the first of the SSGNs to be converted, was the first to deploy Oct. 14, 2007 and Georgia, the last SSGN conversion, began its maiden deployment Aug. 6, 2009. By June 2010 the four SSGNs had completed seven successful deployments and a combined 1,995 days underway. When the ships finish their post-conversion testing an average of 2.6 SSGNs will be forward deployed at all times.
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