SSN(X) Next Generation Attack Submarine
Little information on SSN(X) program [0604850N] is available. The next generation attack submarine (SSN(X)) design concepts are focusing on adaptability. The legacy platforms they will replace continue to serve well, but have nearly exhaust ed their margins for modernization and require a broader spectrum of solutions. The SSN(X) will follow the FFG(X) model of partnering with industry early to define the art-of-possible, balance cost, and reduce risk ahead of requirements definition, and will include alternative platform concepts.
The U.S. Navy must produce and maintain a submarine fleet that is of sufficient capability to protect America from current and future threats. SSN(X) is required to maintain a submarine force structure, and will be designed to counter the emerging threat posed by near peer adversary competition for undersea supremacy. Unlike the VIRGINIA Class Submarine, which was designed for multi-mission dominance in the littoral, SSN(X) will be designed for greater transit speed under increased stealth conditions in all ocean environments, and carry a larger inventory of weapons and diverse payloads.
While SSN(X) will be designed to retain multi-mission capability and sustained combat presence in denied waters, renewed priority of the anti-submarine warfare (ASW) mission against sophisticated threats in greater numbers will influence the design trade space. SSN(X) will be required to defend against threat UUVs, and coordinate with a larger contingent of off-hull vehicles, sensors, and friendly forces. The primary goal of the SSN(X) program element will be to evaluate a broad range of submarine technologies, sensors, and combat system components required to produce an affordable platform which supports these mission requirements.
The SSN(X) design concepts are focusing on adaptability. The legacy platforms they will replace continue to serve well, but have nearly exhausted their margins for modernization and require a broader spectrum of solutions. The SSN(X) will follow the FFG(X) model of partnering with industry early to define the art-of-possible, balance cost, and reduce risk ahead of requirements definition, and will include alternative platform concepts.
The Navy requested $1 million to begin studies on the SSN(X) next generation attack submarine program 0604850N in the 2021 Fiscal Year budget request. The service planned to spend at least $1 million annually through the 2025 Fiscal Year. This is a "new start" program that should not be confused with the separate "New Design SSN," which covers research and development for future blocks of the Virginia class attack submarine.
This Program Element (PE) and Project is a new start, and is a realignment/reduction from PE 0604558N/Project 1947, which is used exclusively for Virginia Class Submarines. Amounts in years beyond FY21 will be adjusted and programmed commensurate with updated requirements as they become defined in future budget submissions.
Advanced Submarine Systems Development (SEA073) mission is to Bridge S&T and R&D through testing, demonstration and validation of innovative and promising technologies to provide undersea capabilities that are safer, stealthier, and lower cost. The major focus is on transitioning technologies to help the Virginia Block VI/VII/SSN(X) Fleet maintain Undersea Superiority.
Advanced Sea Platform Technology includes new and ongoing applied research related to critical S&T that supports platform design and advanced capability efforts related to propulsor, surface, and subsurface hydrodynamics; platform performance, and platform structural reliability. Specifically, efforts to utilize advanced analytics (machine learning and artificial intelligence), incorporate environmental effects on platform performance, research related to advancing unmanned sea surface vessel technologies and capabilities. Specific naval engineering and platform design efforts to support set-based design for the Next Generation Attack Submarine SSN(X), and efforts to mitigate technology and susceptibility risk for the COLUMBIA class submarine program and the Future Surface Combatant Force.
Sea Platform Survivability Technology includes new and ongoing applied research related to critical S&T to investigate efforts related to signature reduction; structural and machinery acoustics; machinery autonomy; and platform survivability (detectability and susceptibility); and acoustic and non-acoustic signatures. Specifically, efforts utilizing advanced analytics (machine learning and artificial intelligence) and the integration of environmental effects on platform performance and detectability, Specific naval engineering and platform design efforts to support the Next Generation Attack Submarine SSN(X), and efforts to mitigate technology and susceptibility risk for the COLUMBIA class submarine program and the Future Surface Combatant Force.
Delivery of the ASSET-Submarine Design tool software architecture in 2018 was vital to the Navy’s efforts to design two new classes of submarines. This high visibility effort was completed on a compressed timeline to meet Navy acquisition priorities. During the submarine tool development effort, the team managed to transition the tool’s dated software architecture to a current one that is also used by the surface ship RSDE development project. This allowed for a reduction to the total cost and manpower - by several full-time equivalents (FTEs) - needed to update the software. They delivered a highly capable automated design space exploration (DSE) capability for submarines to support SSN(X) analysis of alternatives in FY2020. This effort required significant dedication and personal commitment to success of a demanding team effort.
Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Mike Gilday spoke with Bradley Peniston, Deputy Editor of Defense One for the Defense One State of the Navy Online Event keynote interview, 13 October 2020.
BRADLEY PENISTON: " ... on the subject of sort of next-generation platforms, there’s SSN(X), the next attack submarine. It’s been speculated that this will be – look more like the Sea Wolf than the Virginia. That is to say, a bigger boat with bigger tubes. Any thoughts on that, and when that might be coming out?
ADM. GILDAY: "So I think lethality in terms of when it’s going to come out? No. In terms of a significant and important R&D effort underway, putting money against it now. So the advantage we have in the undersea is an advantage that we need to not only maintain, but we need to expand, right? I want to own the undersea forever because I know that I can be really lethal from the undersea. I know in terms of sea control and sea denial that that’s a significant advantage that I can – that we can bring to bear for an operational commander and the rest of the joint force.
"But I just don’t think it’s about – I just don’t think it’s about a lot of missiles. I also think that speed’s an important factor there that we have to take into account. The mobility – the inherent mobility of naval forces is really important. What I don’t need is a – when you think attack boat, you’re thinking an asset that I can move around so that I can, you know, meet the timing and tempo of an operational commander’s need to deliver ordnance on a target in a timely fashion. And so it’s got to be a fast sub as well."
FY 2021 Base Plans include : Develop requirements for the SSN(X) Program; Conduct advanced technology development in the areas of speed, stealth, and survivability; Conduct cost versus operational effectiveness trade studies for the core acoustic sensor suite as a function of limitations posed on the ship hull form; Generate trade studies for ocean interface concepts; Evaluate Concept of Operations platform for submarine mission areas. Acquisition Strategy is to utilize work requests for government warfare center initial concept and trade studies in FY21 to assit with requirements definition. Begin industry based engagement to inform, develop, and prepare for competitively awarded contracts. Additional R&D efforts will be performed by Navy laboratories, shipyards, private industry, and University Affiliated Research Centers.
The October 9, 2019 Congressional Budget Office report, "An Analysis of the Navy’s Fiscal Year 2020 Shipbuilding Plan" examined the Navy's 2020 plan [Department of the Navy, Report to Congress on the Annual Long-Range Plan for Construction of Naval Vessels for Fiscal Year 2020 (March 2019)]. In 2031, the Navy would purchase the frst ship of a new class of attack submarine, designated the SSN(X). After skipping two years, it would then buy the rest of the new class at a rate of 2 per year from 2034 through 2049, for a total of 33 ships.
"CBO estimates much greater costs for the SSN(X) than the Navy does. Te 2020 plan envisions a submarine that would be more capable than the Virginia in many respects but without the VPM. Specifcally, the Navy indicates that the next-generation attack submarine should be faster, stealthier, and able to carry more torpedoes than the Virginia class—similar to the Seawolf class submarine. CBO therefore assumed that the SSN(X) would be a Seawolf-sized SSN, which displaces about 9,100 tons when submerged, and would have an all-new design in keeping with the Navy’s description of it as a “fast, lethal next-generation attack submarine.”
"On the basis of those assumptions, CBO estimates that the average cost of the SSN(X) would be $5.5 billion per submarine, whereas the Navy estimates the cost at $3.4 billion per submarine. That diference amounts to $69 billion and accounts for more than a third of the diference between CBO’s estimate and the Navy’s estimate of shipbuilding costs under the 2020 plan. The large diference between the Navy’s and CBO’s estimates under the 2020 plan suggests either that the Navy’s cost estimates may be optimistic in light of the SSN(X)’s proposed capabilities or that the two estimates relied on widely diferent assumptions about the submarine’s size, capabilities, and design. As a result, the SSN(X)’s final capabilities and costs are highly uncertain."
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