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The Navy’s Virginia-class submarine nightmare won’t be easy to end

Resume: The Virginia-class submarines, which are critical to the US naval force, are facing significant delays in their construction schedule, estimated to be 410 months behind schedule, and are expected to catch up by 2028. These delays are further compounded by existing maintenance and readiness challenges within rapid attack operations. submarine fleet. In response, recent legislation included a $5 billion provision intended to strengthen the submarine construction and maintenance industry.

Virginia Class

-This funding is part of a broader effort, including an investment of $3.4 billion between 2018 and 2023 and an additional $2.2 billion allocated last year for spare parts to improve operational readiness.

-The challenges have been highlighted by commitments such as the AUKUS agreement, which puts pressure on already stressed US shipyards. Despite these hurdles, there is a substantial federal commitment, including a proposed $17.5 billion over the next five years, to strengthen the submarine industrial base and ensure the U.S. can meet future strategic demands.

Behind Schedule: The Challenge of Virginia-Class Submarine Production

Submarines, especially the Virginia-class attack SSNs represent a core pillar of U.S. naval power. Virtually unparalleled in their technology and capabilities, they serve as a versatile and deadly force in any future conflict.

Virginia Class

There’s just one problem: the Virginia The construction program is estimated to be 410 months behind schedule and may not be on schedule until 2028. This shortage continues to impact a fast attack fleet that continually struggles with maintenance and readiness. Fortunately, the recent bill pledging military aid to Ukraine came with an important bonus, $5 billion to improve the submarine construction and maintenance industry.

The AUKUS deal and the Virginia-Class Subs

While U.S. fast attack boat readiness has been plagued for several years, new questions arose when the United States, United Kingdom and Australia struck an agreement to Virginia-class fast attack submarines to Australia in 2021.

On a Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies webcast last fall, Admiral Scott Pappano, the Navy’s strategic submarine program director, said: “If we were to add additional submarine structures to our industrial base, it would be detrimental to us at this time. ”, highlighting the challenges shipyards already face as they try to meet their Navy contract requirements and deliver two Virginiaclass and one Colombiaclass every year.

Ongoing work

The Navy recognizes these challenges and has already worked to address them, investing $3.4 billion in shipyard improvements between 2018 and 2023. These efforts will take some time to bear fruit, but they do sow the seeds of the industrial revival needed to meet submarine production. ask.

Virginia Class

In addition to production, the Navy faces supply problems, often cannibalizing one boat to make repairs on another. This has partly led to fast attack boats’ dismal operational rate of just 60 percent.

The Virginias are particularly plagued by a shortage of spare parts, which a separate $2.2 billion investment last year addressed by “providing parts suppliers with increased but stable demand while helping address widespread maintenance delays .”

White House request and congressional approval

Last fall, as Congress tried to negotiate multiple military aid bills, the White House included $3.4 billion for submarine production in its $50 billion request. This included funds for improvements to public shipyards, shipbuilding, procurement and spare parts, military construction, and naval reactors. The request came at the urging of Republican senators concerned about the lagging pace of submarine production.

Ultimately, the bill Congress passed included $5 billion to improve the submarine industrial base. Additionally, the Biden administration will request an additional $17.5 billion over five years to continue these efforts. While there is still a long way to go before the United States can produce and maintain subs at the rates planners say are necessary, there is clearly money and willingness to solve the problem.

Virginia Class

The timely introduction of more advanced fast attack submarines should be of paramount importance to U.S. officials given the current state of affairs between Beijing and Washington.

About the Author: Maya Carlin

Maya Carlin, National Security Writer at The National Interest, is an analyst at the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has had bylines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post and Times of Israel. You can follow her on Twitter: @MayaCarlin.