US Navy may get shipbuilding boost from Congress (II)

The Congressional Research Service has published a report entitled "Navy Attack Submarine Force-Level Goal and Procurement Rate", which was updated on 09 April 2007 (Order Code RL32418). The report shows that, for a planned USN fleet of 313 ships, the current procurement rate in the 30-year fleet plan is insufficient to maintain the target level of 48 nuclear attack submarines.

The report examines several options for changes that would avoid a projected minimum of 40 boats in 2028-2029 (a 50-year low). The options include: extending the service life of submarines; compressing construction timelines; increasing operational activity to reduce the 'apparent shortage'; and advancing constructions plans - either in a methodical or sporadic way. The addition of as many as four submarines to the current pace of construction is discussed.

The approved submarine building plan calls for Virginia-class (SSN-774) attack submarines to be built at a rate of one-per-year until 2012, then two-per-year. The report has a series of tables that show the fleet will fall below 48 submarines unless either: a three-year life extension of all existing submarines is implemented and at least two additional submarines are built; or a four-year life extension programme is implemented. Adding more submarines earlier reduces the need to extend the life of existing submarines.