Sinking the Navy, One Unbuilt Ship at a Time

The oceans aren’t shrinking, but our submarine force is — and will continue to shrink indefinitely:

There’s little chance of the Navy boosting production of new submarines, which cost more than $2.5 billion apiece. Even the current shipbuilding plan is arguably too expensive. “If the Navy received the same amount of funding (in constant dollars) for new-ship construction in each of the next 30 years that it has received, on average, over the past three decades, the service would not be able to afford its 2016 plan,” Labs wrote.

“CBO’s estimate of $18.4 billion per year for new-ship construction in the Navy’s 2016 shipbuilding plan is 32 percent above the historical average annual funding of $13.9 billion (in 2015 dollars). And CBO’s estimate of $20.2 billion per year for the full cost of the plan is 28 percent higher than the $15.8 billion the Navy has spent, on average, annually over the past 30 years for all items in its shipbuilding accounts.”

To partially compensate for the shrinking undersea fleet, the Navy and some representatives in Congress want add more missiles to the subs. The sailing branch had planned to add a 70-foot hull extension to one new Virginia-class boat per year starting in 2019 at a cost of around $400 million per extension. The “Virginia Payload Module,” or VPM, adds four vertical missile tubes to the two tubes that current Virginias already feature.

The VPM tubes each pack seven Tomahawk cruise missiles. The existing tubes are smaller and fit only six missiles each. In other words, today’s Virginias carry 12 missiles. A future Virginia with a VPM could carry 40 missiles.

More missiles is always nice, but a submarine can’t be on patrol if it doesn’t exist.

And please allow this landlubber to remind you one more time that “I dread any further cuts to the Navy.”