WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — U.S. submarines are retiring at a much faster rate than can be added to the growing demand for their use.

According to lawmakers in Congress and Navy leaders, the available submarines in the American fleet – 55 for the Navy currently will drop to 42 – is not enough to keep up with military plans.

The Navy anticipates a large drop in the available submarine fleet over the next 15 years, service leaders told lawmakers Sept. 12 at a House Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces hearing.

“With the accelerated retirement of Los Angeles-class submarines, our nation will drop below the 48-boat goal starting in 2025,” said Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., chairman of the HASC Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces. “We need to ensure strategy drives our budget and that we give a voice to our combatant commanders. We need to be sure that we provide them with every resource.”

According to Department of Defense buzz, there may not be enough funding to pursue continued development of several next-generation submarine programs such as the Virginia-class fast attack submarine and the Ohio Replacement Submarine program, a nuclear-armed replacement for the existing class of Ohio-class ballistic missile subs.

“The total submarine force will drop from 73 to 52 ships — a cut of 29 percent – before rebounding in the 2030s. The vertical strike payload volume provided by the undersea force will drop by well over half.

“This trough is borne of the submarine shipbuilding hiatus of the 1990s, and no realistic build plan could now prevent it,” said Breckenridge.

While outlining some of the details regarding how the Navy plans to address the large decline in fleet size and anticipated budget shortfalls, Breckenridge underscored the tactical and strategic advantages provided by undersea warfare technologies.

“Undersea warfare provides persistent undetected assured access far forward and the ability to deliver unique military advantages.

“By leveraging stealthy concealment, undersea forces can deploy forward without being provocative, penetrate an adversaries’ defense perimeter and conduct undetected operations,” he said.

As a whole, the Navy has a series of steps designed to address the budget and submarine fleet size concerns.


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