Implementing the Integrated Undersea Strategy: VIRGINIA and VPM
This past weekend, on September 7, we commissioned the 10th submarine of the VIRGINIA Class - the USS MINNESOTA (SSN 783). MINNESOTA is the 6th and final submarine of the Block II construction contract, each of which was delivered to the Navy early to its contract delivery date and within budget. Of the 10 VIRGINIA Class submarines in the fleet, seven were delivered ahead of their contractual requirement. The next submarine of the class, PCU NORTH DAKOTA (SSN 784), the first of the Block III submarines, is on track to deliver next January and will take approximately 59 months to build - the shortest construction period yet for a VIRGINIA Class submarine.
NORTH DAKOTA's early delivery is important to note as it incorporates design changes to about 20% of the boat. Included in those design changes is a redesigned bow with a new sonar array and the introduction of VIRGINIA Payload Tubes - or VPTs. VPTs allow the submarine to deploy with the same load-out of TOMAHAWK cruise missiles as Blocks I and II, but also increase the submarine's payload volume from 1,300 to 2,100 cubic feet of space to accommodate the use of future payloads as they come online.
The combination of repeated early deliveries and the improved capabilities afforded by the Block III design changes is impressive in its own right. However, the true measure of our success is the quality of the submarines we place in the hands of the warfighter. With each successive VIRGINIA Class submarine we build, we are improving quality. USS MINNESOTA had the highest readiness score to date of any VIRGINIA Class submarine as measured by the Navy's independent Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV). VIRGINIA Class submarines are surge ready within months of delivery, capable of conducting their full mission set ahead of schedule. These submarines are on track to go from construction start to a fleet-ready asset in less than six years.
We are currently negotiating the Block IV construction contract which we anticipate will be signed in the first quarter of the next fiscal year. While the Block IV does not include design changes on the order of those in Block III, it embraces our plan for the Reduction of Total Ownership Cost - or RTOC. Under RTOC, we will reduce the lifecycle costs of the VIRGINIA Class while simultaneously increasing their operational availability. RTOC will allow us to reduce the number of maintenance availabilities for each VIRGINIA Class submarine by one-- to three--over the life of the submarine while increasing the number of deployments by one to 15. This effort provides a net positive for the tax payer and the warfighter, saving money while increasing the operational capacity of our assets.
Looking beyond Block IV, we are now doing the early concept design work on the VIRGINIA Payload Module planned for insertion into Block V submarines. As discussed earlier, VPM is vital as the most cost effective option to mitigate the undersea TOMAHAWK strike shortfall we will face when our four SSGNs are decommissioned between 2026 and 2028. To recapitalize this strike volume, we have begun efforts to add four large-diameter VPTs each capable of firing seven TOMAHAWKS within the existing VIRGINIA Class SSN design. VPM represents a low risk effort using proven technology yielding a high return on investment. VPM utilizes the proven VIRGINIA Class platform, the same missile tubes as the VPTs used on our Block III submarines, and the same Multiple All-Up-Round canisters that hold and launch TOMAHAWKS aboard our current SSGNs. Additionally, the Submarine Force has a proven track record of inserting hull sections into existing designs, most recently demonstrated on USS JIMMY CARTER (SSN 23). VPM does not entail a radical design change to the submarine - in fact the investment to complete the VPM design is on the same order of magnitude as the Block III design - the first of which is will be the fastest delivery yet for a VIRGINIA Class submarine.
With each VIRGINIA Class submarine we put to sea, the Navy, our shipbuilding partners General Dynamics Electric Boat and Huntington Ingalls Industries - Newport News Shipbuilding, and our over 4,000 suppliers in all fifty states are gleaning valuable lessons learned that can and will be applied to our future designs such as VPM and the OHIO Replacement Program.
Our success is dependent on those that have come before us and who have performed the programmatic, engineering, and technical rigor and analysis that have made our Submarine Force without peer and we must continue to build upon to enable our future successes. To that end, the OHIO Replacement and VIRGINIA Class Programs have developed a highly collaborative construct ensuring every lesson learned and efficiency from the VIRGINIA Class be applied to the OHIO Replacement. These submarines are a vital part of our Nation's current and future undersea strategy, providing the .on scene, but unseen. guarantee of safety and security to our Nation.
In closing, I would like to highlight three points:
1. The importance of the undersea is growing - both economically and militarily - and in the future we will need to place increasing emphasis on stealthy undersea forces, to include our sea-based strategic deterrent.
2. This increasing importance is painted against an undersea force structure baseline that will decline - as a result of a long series of decisions made over many years -- by nearly 30 percent between now and 2030.
3. Your Navy has in place and is executing an integrated undersea capability plan that makes the most of a declining submarine force structure by marrying it with a forward-leaning payload volume and undersea system family that will deliver strategic influence, deterrence and, if necessary, robust warfighting capability.
The United States is fortunate to have what is by any objective measure the finest undersea force in the world. We face significant challenges to maintaining our undersea dominance, but we understand the challenges and are executing a realistic and economically feasible plan to address them.
I would like to thank the Committee for the opportunity to be here today to speak with you on our Undersea Warfare programs and the vital role they play in our national security today and well into the coming decades. I am happy to answer any questions you may have. Thank you.
Read this original document at: http://docs.house.gov/meetings/AS/AS28/20130912/101281/HHRG-113-AS28-Wstate-BreckenridgeR-20130912.pdf