CNO’s Revised ‘Design for Maintaining Maritime Security’ Pushes Columbia SSBN Schedule
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Senior Editor
ARLINGTON, Va. — The chief of naval operations (CNO) is pushing to accelerate the development of the Navy’s next-generation ballistic-missile submarine (SSBN) so that it is ready to deploy “as quickly as possible.” He also is pushing the more rapid acquisition timeline of new ships, aircraft, weapons, and networks.
In the new “Version 2.0” of his “A Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority” strategy document, Adm. John M. Richardson emphasized the Navy’s No. 1 acquisition priority, the Columbia-class SSBN, as necessary to sustain the nation’s nuclear strategic deterrent force.
Richardson stated his goal is to “be ready to deploy USS Columbia (SSBN 826) as quickly as possible — beating the current schedule — in order to preserve our ability to defeat the threat. Refresh and fortify the nuclear command and control system. Develop the nuclear capabilities directed in the Nuclear Posture Review.”
Construction of the first Columbia-class SSGN is scheduled to begin by 2021, with strategic certification expected in 2026, the first patrol in 2031 and complete replacement of the Ohio class by 2039. The tight schedule for the new submarine is dictated by the need for a seamless phase-out of the 14 Ohio-class SSBNs as they reach the end of their 42-year service lives and the nuclear deterrent patrols are assumed by the Columbia class.
With the new era of peer competition in the maritime arena, Richardson also is calling for rapidly acquiring other key platforms and payloads, as listed in the document.
■ Award the Future Frigate contract in 2020 to deliver as soon as possible (ASAP).
■ Award the Large Surface Combatant contract in 2023 to deliver ASAP.
■ Award the Large Unmanned Surface Vehicle contract in 2023 to deliver ASAP.
■ Award the Future Small Auxiliary contract in 2023 to deliver ASAP.
■ Award the Future Large Auxiliary contract in 2023 to deliver ASAP.
Underwater Unmanned Vehicles:
Contract for and field the family of Underwater Unmanned Vehicles (Orca, Snakehead, Razorback, Knifefish) ASAP, and no later than (NLT) 2025.
Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, Aircraft, Weapons:
■ Reach MQ-25 first flight in 2021 and initial operating capability ASAP.
■ Reach MQ-4C Triton initial operating capability in 2021.
■ By the end of 2019, identify requirements across the family of systems to replace the F/A-18E/F and EA-18G by 2030.
■ Develop and field an offensive hypersonic weapon by 2025.
■ Develop and field the family of laser weapons (low-power lasers, high-power lasers, Surface Navy Laser Weapons System) beginning in 2019 and NLT 2025.
Improve the performance of our current enterprise networks in 2019. Modernize these networks under the NGEN-R contract.