The Columbia-class, while expensive, is needed for the US Navy to continue nuclear deterrence and save guard the nation against countries like Russia and China: Congress just threw the U.S. Navy’s new boomer submarine a lifeline. The Columbia-class nuclear-powered SSBN ballistic missile sub recently got funded by Capitol Hill lawmakers in a temporary continuing resolution measure. The Columbia-class will eventually replace the Ohio-class to make up the Navy’s leg of the nuclear triad. While $500 million short of what the navy wanted, Congress approved $1.6 billion for the Columbia-class boomer.
Not A Good Way to Fund a Critical Acquisition Priority
The Columbia-class is at the top of the Navy’s acquisition wish list, and the branch wants 12 new boomers. But some members of Congress are not happy about continuing resolutions that they believe hamstring the naval procurement outlays. Small carveouts, according to Rep. Bobby Scott, (D-Newport News), are inefficient ways to fund the navy.
The Columbia-class could be one of the most expensive naval programs in history and will need every penny legislators can shake out of the piggy bank. Each sub will cost around $7.5 billion. But it’s necessary as the current Ohio-class is expected to be at the end of its life cycle in 2027.
The Columbia-class Will Be Deadly
Like the Ohio-class, these new subs will be outfitted with the Trident II D5 nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles with a range of 7,500 miles. Sixteen submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) tubes are on board. With three solid-fuel rocket propulsion systems, the three-stage Trident missile can “carry up to 14 multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles with W88 or W76 thermonuclear warheads,” according to Naval-Technology.com.
Why Not Bring On a Hearty Nuclear Reactor
But the real advantage is in the maintenance of the new nuclear reactor. Rather than requiring a nuclear reactor fuel exchange (refueling and complex overhaul) after half of its service life, the Columbia-class can avoid that expensive and lengthy maintenance period. This saves money and keeps it out to sea longer. This advantage along with reducing the size of the boomer fleet by two hulls could save $40 billion over the lifetime of the Columbia-class.
Biggest Sub Ever
The new Columbia-class will be the biggest submarine ever built by the Navy. The boats are 560 feet long with a beam of 43 feet and displacement of 21,000 tons.
This Sub-optimal Funding Process Risks Delays
The USS Columbia (SSBN-826) cannot be delayed if it is going to be ready by 2027. The $500 million shortfall due to the last continuing resolution to keep the federal government open is problematic, according to the Chief of Naval Operations.