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SSN(X): How The US Navy Plans To Build The Ultimate Submarine

SSN(X): The Future of the US Navy’s Submarine Force? The U.S. Navy appears that it will be getting its hands on the highly anticipated next generation of nuclear-powered attack submarines in the year 2031, according to a recently released Congressional Research Service In Focus report.

The U.S. Naval Institute noted that the “SSN(X) would be the successor to the Virginia-class SSN design, which the Navy has been procuring since FY1998. The Navy’s proposed FY2022 budget requests $98.0 million in research and development funding for the SSN(X) program.” “The U.S. Navy operates nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs), nuclear-powered cruise missile and special operations forces (SOF) submarines (SSGNs), and nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs). The SSNs are general-purpose submarines that can perform a variety of peacetime and wartime missions,” it continues.

Procurement Schedule

The release added that under the U.S. Navy’s 2020 thirty-year shipbuilding plan, “the first SSN(X) would be procured in FY2031, along with a single Virginia-class boat. In FY2032 and FY2033, the final four Virginia-class boats would be procured. Procurement of follow-on SSN(X)s, at a rate of two per year, would then begin in FY2034.” By acquiring two SSNs per year for three decades, the Navy “would achieve a force of sixty-six SSNs—the Navy’s current SSN force-level goal—in FY2048. A long-range Navy shipbuilding document released by the Biden Administration on June 17, 2021, proposed a new SSN force-level goal of sixty-six to seventy-two boats and envisaged increasing the SSN procurement rate years from now to something more than two boats per year.”

SSN(X): Seeking ‘Apex Predator’

“We are looking at the ultimate apex predator for the maritime domain,” Vice Admiral Bill Houston, the head of Naval Submarine Forces, Submarine Force Atlantic, and Allied Submarine Command, said of the program at a Navy League event this past summer. According to defense writer Benjamin Brimelow at Business Insider, “Houston said the boats would take the best features of the Navy’s three previous sub designs: the Seawolf- and Virginia-class attack submarines, or SSNs, and the still-in-development Columbia-class ballistic-missile submarines, classified as SSBNs.” The SSN(X) “really needs to be ready for major combat operations,” Houston asserted. “It’s going to need to be able to go behind enemy lines and deliver that punch that is going to really, really establish our primacy. It needs to be able to deny an adversary ability to operate in their bastion regions,” he concluded.