Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Admiral Michael Gilday has confirmed the US Navy’s plan to develop the sophisticated Colombia-class of nuclear powered submarines.
“The Navy’s first acquisition priority is recapitalizing our Strategic Nuclear Deterrent — [General Dynamics] Electric Boat [shipyard] is helping us do just that. Together, we will continue to drive affordability, technology development, and integration efforts to support Columbia’s fleet introduction on time or earlier”, he stressed in a press release on Wednesday.
Referring to an “unavoidable” situation” related to an increasing price tag of the Colombia-class submarines, Gilday said that “if you go back to the ’80s when we were building Ohio, it was about 35 percent of the shipbuilding budget,” while Columbia will be about 38-40 percent.
“The seaborne leg of the triad is absolutely critical. By the time we get the Columbia into the water, the Ohio class is going to be about 40 years old. And so we have to replace that strategic leg, and it has to come out of our budget right now. Those are the facts”, he pointed out.
The Pentagon announced plans in April to increase spending on the Columbia-class submarine program to $4.3 billion in 2021, which will see start of the construction of the first such sub.
By 2024, the program would get over $5 billion per year, according to a Congressional Research Office report on the proposal released earlier this year.
The reports put the cost of the 12 planned Columbia-class submarines, which are due to replace the ageing fleet of 14 Ohio-class subs, at about $109 billion.
While the Navy projected the costs to be roughly $115 billion, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report xcriticized this estimate as "not accurate because it relies on overly optimistic" estimates of cost reductions.
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These vessels are expected to form the backbone of the US strategic deterrent known as the nuclear triad, which includes an overlapping system of submarines, bombers and land-based ballistic missiles designed to guarantee Washington's ability to respond to a potential nuclear attack.