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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Trident Program Intent On Avoiding Past Shipbuilding Pitfalls

As the Navy begins to design its next ballistic-missile submarine, officials caution that the service must avoid shipbuilding practices of the past that have led to cost overruns and delays.

 Although the first of the Navy’s fleet of ballistic missile submarines won’t retire for another 17 years, the time to start the design work is now, said Vice Adm. Jay Donnelly. “This is the right time for the Navy to commence efforts to replace the Ohio-class SSBN. It’s not too early,” said Donnelly, who is the commander of the Navy’s submarine force.

The oldest of the nuclear-powered submarines have reached the mid-point of their service lives and are expected to remain in service for at least another 20 years. Although the Defense Department already has approved funding for the new submarine, Navy officials are under pressure to get the program on the right track in order to ensure long-term support for the program.

“We must start this work in earnest now in order to avoid a gap” and to sustain the industrial base, said Rear Adm. Cecil Haney, director of the submarine warfare division in the office of the chief of naval operations.

It takes an average of 20 years to design and build a new-generation submarine. “Anything as complex as a submarine takes time to get it right, and then to allow us to utilize it for 42 years,” he said at the Naval Submarine League’s annual symposium in McLean, Va.
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