US Navy: More Virginia-class submarines can be built

A new plan to build more attack submarines could be supported by the U.S. industrial base with careful planning and sufficient funding, a U.S. Navy report to Congress has concluded.

Titled “The Submarine Industrial Base and the Viability of Producing Additional Attack Submarines Beyond the Fiscal Year 2017 Shipbuilding Plan in the 2017-2030 Timeframe”, the report was delivered to Congress in early July.

The U.S. Navy did the study in order to evaluate whether the two major shipbuilders – Huntington Ingalls Industries and General Dynamics-Electric Boats – could continue building two Virginia-class even after the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine program starts construction.

Current plans would see the shipbuilders drop their Virginia-class submarine from two to one boat a year once the Columbia program starts in the 2020s.

However, maintaining the two-a-year building pace would allow the navy to receive additional seven Virginia boats and increase the total number of boats built between 2017 and 1030 to 29 instead of 22.

While the navy assessed the industrial base was theoretically capable of maintaining this construction tempo, it did note that adequate and timely funding would be needed to allow the two major shipbuilders to prepare facilities, workforce and the supplier base for the increased workload.

The increased submarine production would allow the navy to achieve the number of 66 attack submarines in service – as outlined in the navy’s 2016 force structure assessment – in fiscal year 2048.