A U.S. Navy assessment warns the service might be unable to afford a planned complement of 12 new nuclear-armed submarines if it is to maintain a 300-vessel fleet of surface ships, Arms Control Today reported in its June edition.
Future budgets might not allow for buying the so-called SSBN(X) ballistic missile submersibles unless other ship procurement suffers, the Navy said in a fiscal 2014 shipbuilding plan submitted to Congress last month.
If the Navy underwrites the submarines through "its own resources," that move would "take away from construction of other ships in the battle force such as attack submarines, destroyers, aircraft carriers and amphibious warfare ships," the document warns.
Gen. Robert Kehler, who heads U.S. Strategic Command, told a House subcommittee on May 9 that "the ultimate number of submarines that we procure is still an open question."
The replacement for today's Ohio-class submarines would together cost roughly $90 billion to develop and build, and be loaded with 16 Trident D-5 ballistic missiles and about 80 atomic warheads, according to Arms Control Today.
Defense Department plans for nuclear-armed submarines, bomber aircraft and ICBMs could be affected by a high-level Pentagon assessment called the Strategic Choices and Modernization Review. The results were to have been briefed to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in late May and could be publicly released this month.