Force Structure:

Options for Enhancing the Navy's Attack Submarine Force

GAO-02-97: Published: Nov 14, 2001. Publicly Released: Nov 14, 2001.

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Carol R. Schuster
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Maintaining a capable, appropriately sized submarine force is an integral part of the United States' military strategy. Since the end of the Cold War, significant changes in the strategic environment have led the Department of Defense (DOD) to reduce the size of its submarine force. DOD developed the following four options to a carry out the reduction: (1) refueling four SSN-688 attack submarines; (2) refueling four SSN-688 attack submarines and, upon reaching the end of their operational life after 10-12 years, replacing them with four new Virginia-class attack submarines; (3) refueling and converting four Trident SSBNs to SSGNs; and (4) refueling four SSN-688 attack submarines and converting two Trident SSBNs to SSGNs. All four options seek to reverse a projected decline in attack submarine force levels below the minimum requirement of 55, but they vary considerably in terms of the number of years they allow DOD to meet this goal. Both the refueled SSN-688s and SSGNs would be capable of various peacetime and wartime missions, but they differ in the extent to which they can perform them. Converting four Trident ballistic missile submarines to SSGNs is more cost-effective than the other options.

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