U.S. Navy Los Angeles-class submarines were built in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, yet remain critical to the services’ fleet today and remain in service to a larger extent than any other class as of today.
Although the Los Angeles boats will progressively and quickly retire in coming years, they form a key foundation of the Navy’s undersea power force and contain a handful of impactful technologies designed to counter Soviet subs in the Cold War.
Why the Los Angeles-Class Matters
The primary intent or mission for the Los Angeles-class boats, an interesting essay from the Federation of American Scientists describes, is to conduct Carrier Battle Group protection and conduct anti-submarine warfare operations against what was called the Soviet Surface Action Group.
“The new submarines showed another step improvement in quieting and an increase in operating speed to allow them to support the CVBG(Carrier Battle Group). Escort duties included conducting ASW sweeps hundreds of miles ahead of the CVBG and conducting attacks against the SAG,” the FAS report explains.
An ability to protect Carrier Battle Groups from several miles ahead undersea seems to be an extremely significant perimeter protection tactic, as it might be positioned to find and even destroy threats to surface ships at safer distances.
Old, But Powerful
Actually, the Navy and Congressional decision-makers have long expressed concern about a coming Navy submarine deficit in which the fleet size for attack submarines, according to service commanders, will drop low enough to massively increase the threat to the U.S.
For this reason, Congress and the Navy have been deeply immersed in a longstanding effort to “flex” the industrial base to “uptick” the number of Virginia-class boats being built each year from 1 to as many as 3, depending upon budget.
For example, the Navy’s 2024 Shipbuilding plan does call for the production of two Virginia-class submarines per year from 2024 to 2028. This budget request has been based upon extensive industrial base capacity studies, which have determined that Electric Boat and Huntington Ingalls Industries can “flex” to accommodate a higher production op-tempo.
This means that even as production massively revs up for the new Columbia-class, nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines in coming years, the Navy and its industry partners will still produce two Virginias per year. This is quite significant, should there be continued Congressional support, as the first Columbia-class boat is slated to arrive by the end of this decade for its first patrol in the early 2030s.
Kris Osborn is the Military Affairs Editor of 19FortyFive and President of Warrior Maven – Center for Military Modernization. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.