WASHINGTON: The Navy is “systematically” assessing each one of its Los-Angeles class submarines to determine if their service lives can be extended for two to three years, a process a senior officer says will result in a 20% improvement in force projections compared to previous forecasts.
Rear Adm. Doug Perry, director of undersea warfare requirements, told attendees at Naval Submarine League today that he most recently approved a three-year extension for the nuclear-powered attack submarine Alexandria (SSN 757) earlier this year.
He added that each boat’s extension is being assessed on a case-by-case basis.
“We are currently forecast to sustain a force of 50 SSNs throughout this decade,” Perry said. “And then as we build our Virginia-class submarines we will go above 50 and get up to the fiscal year 2016 force structure assessment requirement of 66 SSNs.”
At least one factor that has likely contributed to the Navy’s ability to squeeze out two or three extra years of service life on some of its submarines is, ironically, its maintenance backlog.
The service has taken harsh criticism from Capitol Hill for at times allowing some boats to sit in dock for several years at a time while awaiting servicing. That time in dock – and by extension time when the sub’s reactor was not being used – likely comes into play when assessing whether the boat can sail past its original service life.
The Navy is also starting to work on refueling “five still very capable” Los-Angeles submarines with new reactor cores, Perry said, potentially extending their service lives for an additional 10 years or more.
The service for several years now has been experimenting with whether it could effectively refuel the submarines and had previously stated additional refuelings would be contingent initial trials. Perry also said Portsmouth Naval Shipyard had been selected as the best yard to do that work.
Navy assessing LA sub fleet for possible life extensions – Breaking Defense Breaking Defense is written by Justin Katz for breakingdefense.com