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A Passion For Nuclear Submarines Part One

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Martin Sieff
Washington (UPI) Nov 9, 2007
Still fixated on expensive nuclear strategic submarines, unable to gets its crucial Littoral Combat Mission ships built, the U.S. Navy and its procurement practices are still stuck half a century ago in the dream days of the Cold War. And nowhere is the disconnect between past and present more striking than in procurement policies towards submarines.

The nuclear submarine USS Ohio has just started its first operational deployment in the Pacific Ocean following is conversion to carry non-nuclear cruise missiles and complements of Navy elite commandos, or SEALS for special operations and counter-terror missions.

The first of the four subs, the USS Ohio, has completed its conversion process and has started its first operational patrol since then in the Pacific Ocean, StrategyPage.com reported Nov. 3. Work is continuing on completing conversion of the other three Ohio-class subs, it said.

The enormous submarines will all be equipped with 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles and at least 66 elite commandos, generally expected to be SEALs, each, the report said.

Critics have charged that the conversion program is an enormous white elephant designed to create "make-work" to justify the continued operation of the giant Ohios. They cost $1 billion each to build and still cost $1 million a day to operate, StrategyPage.com noted.

Defenders of the program counter that each of the subs is a highly mobile and formidable system for projecting U.S. power around the world far more cheaply, flexibly and with vastly less risk of vulnerability than an aircraft carrier battle group. Each of them is capable of covering 720 miles a day.

There is in fact a case to be made that the United States does indeed need submerged floating platforms capable of firing large numbers of precision guided missiles with pinpoint accuracy against terror centers around the world. However, even if that is the case, going to the trouble to convert and then maintain four of the most expensive warships ever built to do the job is a waste of money that the U.S. government no longer has -- to put it mildly.

Even if submarine platforms are essential for such operations, building diesel-powered ones would do the job at less than 10 percent in construction or adaptation costs each. The Navy is currently being dramatically outstripped by China in the field of submarine construction. China is certainly -- very gingerly and cautiously -- moving ahead with developing nuclear-powered submarines carrying nuclear missiles that could serve as a strategic deterrent to the United States or other nations. But it is forging ahead dramatically with building diesel subs. In 2006 they built 14 to only a single -- nuclear-powered -- submarine built by the United States.

For the United States no longer builds non-nuclear powered submarines, and has not done so for decades.

It was not foreign competition, or the supposed backwardness or benightedness, of U.S. defense contractors or shipyard construction workers that destroyed this capacity: It was the implacable determination of the U.S. Navy itself. Decades of U.S. admirals following the guiding star of the late Adm. Hyman Rickover, creator and driving force behind the U.S. nuclear fleet, were determined that Congress should have no option to force it to buy cheaper non-nuclear diesel subs with -- as they believed -- vastly inferior performance to Adm. Sergei Gorshkov's formidable Soviet sub nuclear sub fleet.

But the old Red Navy has been a scrap-yard of rusting hulks and radioactive deathtraps for a decade and a half now, and while Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to rebuild its power and glory, it remains a fraction of the size of the U.S. nuclear undersea fleet.

(Next: Why China is betting on diesel subs)

Related Links
File image of the US nuclear submarine USS Ohio. Naval Warfare in the 21st Century



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Raytheon Awarded 27 Million Dollars For LPD 17 Life-Cycle Engineering And Support
Tewksbury MA (SPX) Nov 08, 2007
Raytheon has been awarded a $27 million U.S. Navy contract for life-cycle engineering and systems integration for LPD 17, the U.S. Navy's next- generation class of amphibious warfare ships. Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems (IDS) is the prime contractor for life-cycle engineering and systems integration for the LPD 17 ship class, providing integrated shipboard electronics support and engineering services. This contract exercises the second of three options included in the original contract awarded to Raytheon in 2005.







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