Lee Hudson, Inside Defense, October 11

The Navy is considering whether to continue serial production of the Virginia-class submarine instead of designing an attack submarine replacement, according to a service official.
Capt. Michael Stevens, Virginia-class program manager, said Sept. 29 during an industry luncheon in Washington that the Navy may decide to not design an attack submarine replacement and instead purchase additional Virginia-class submarines. The Navy’s program of record for Virginia-class subs includes procuring 48 boats.
“There could be a Block VIII, we may not see a game changer that justifies a new SSN,” Stevens continued.
ITN reported in October 2014 the Navy chartered a small team to propose a five-year plan for SSN(X) or the new attack submarine program, which will come online in 2034 in lieu of Block VIII of the Virginia-class submarine.
Vice Adm. David Johnson, who was program executive officer for submarines, said in October 2014 an analysis of alternatives will begin for SSN(X) in 2024.
“2034 may seem far off but the design and research community needs to take action now,” Johnson said. “We need to estimate the environment the SSN(X) is going to live in out in the 2050 time frame.”
Johnson said it is important to determine what technologies will be necessary to counter the future threat. His team will have nine years to identify, develop and demonstrate any significant long lead technologies, he added.
“We’re going to start concept studies to explore capability cost and tech trade space, identify potential candidate technologies in the S&T community early enough to sufficiently mature,” he said.
SSN(X) will emphasize integration and interoperability especially with off board systems. The next-generation attack submarine will also take into account cyber-security, Johnson said.
Meanwhile, the service is preparing to purchase materiel for the Virginia Payload Module and will soon begin negotiations with industry for an advance procurement contract this fiscal year, according to a service official.
Stevens said FY-17 kicks off a two-year advance procurement contract for Block V. Block V spans ships built in FY-19 through FY-23 with the first boat on patrol in FY-27.
Block V includes the final major design change for the Virginia-class attack submarine with the introduction of the Virginia Payload Module, Stevens said.
“Advance Procurement (AP) funding can be awarded in Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 under a Continuing Resolution as the requested amount is less than the FY-16 appropriated amount and not a new start,” Naval Sea Systems Command spokeswoman Colleen O’Rourke wrote in an Oct. 3 statement to Inside the Navy. “The funding is considered a continued effort to support procurement of VIRGINIA Class SSNs.”
In late September, the Obama administration approved a three-month continuing resolution that spans from October through December. A continuing resolution is a stopgap funding measure that allows the government to continue operating under prior fiscal year spending levels.