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Highlights

In recent years, the Navy has used nuclear propulsion systems for its submarines and most aircraft carriers and conventional propulsion systems that rely on fossil fuel for its surface combatants and amphibious warfare ships. As the Navy looks to design an affordable force that is capable of meeting future security challenges, some of the assumptions and factors that have guided past Navy decisions on propulsion systems may require reassessment. For example, technological advances have enabled greater efficiency in both nuclear and conventional propulsion systems. Moreover, the cost of fossil fuel has risen sharply in recent years. Congress requested that we review the Navy's assessment of alternative propulsion methods for submarines and surface combatants. Our objectives were to determine (1) the status and scope of key Navy studies on alternative propulsion methods, (2) the major improvements to existing propulsion systems, (3) near-term and future ships' propulsion systems, and (4) the various ship propulsion related technologies the Navy is pursuing. In March 2006, we provided you with a briefing of our findings regarding propulsion systems for Navy ships and submarines. This report summarizes the results of that briefing as well as additional work we performed since that time.

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