This Old Class Of U.S. Navy Submarines Ever Might Not Be Able To Retire

( The Ohio-Class Submarines were created in the 1970s, making them quite a bit older. Why would the Navy keep them around any longer with new submarines coming?

At an Electric Boat plant in Quonset Point, Rhode Island, on June 4, the US Navy lay the keel for the USS District of Columbia, the first of its new Columbia-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines.

Adm. Daryl Caudle, head of the US Fleet Forces Command, and Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro, attended the high-profile ceremony. Adm. Caudle declared that the Columbia class “will be the cornerstone of our strategic deterrent” and “the ultimate guarantor of our national security.”

However, Columbia’s long-standing issues, including unforeseen delays and technological challenges that can restrict the Navy’s capacity to launch nuclear and conventional missiles, continue to hang over this significant milestone.

A recent assessment from the Government Accountability Office, which not only listed Columbia program issues but also indicated that the program’s total cost has climbed by another $3.4 billion to a projected $112 billion, has added to these issues.

Seventy percent of America’s deployed nuclear arsenal is carried by nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (referred to as SSBNs), so the possibility of delays has prompted the Navy to think about extending the life of some of its older SSBNs, even though some are nearing the end of their own service lives.

The Columbia class will be the biggest submarine the US has ever built, measuring 560 feet long, 43 feet broad, and weighing 20,810 tons.

The submarines will also be equipped with 16 Trident II D5 submarine-launched ballistic missiles, each of which has a range of more than 7,500 miles and can carry up to eight independently targetable reentry vehicles in addition to Mk 48 Advanced Capability torpedoes.

Compared to their Ohio-class predecessors, the new boats will have a 42-year service life and a variety of modifications and enhancements, including “better acoustic performance and state-of-the-art sensors to make it the most capable and silent submarine ever built,” according to the Navy.

Columbia-class nuclear submarines will replace the Ohio-class SSBNs decommissioned in 2002 and replaced with Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles. The USS District of Columbia is currently being built, while work on the USS Wisconsin will begin in March 2024.

Common Missile Compartment, a component of the submarines created by Electric Boat and BAE Systems, will be present in both classes and will store the SLBMs. The delivery of the USS District of Columbia is scheduled for 2027, with its first operational capability anticipated for June 2030.

The Virginia-class Block V nuclear-powered attack submarines will replace the four Ohio-class SSGNs, the youngest of which is 38. The Navy is considering extending the lifespan of up to five Ohio SSBNs if its new submarines experience problems.