The US Navy's fleet of heavily-armed SSGN subs will run through their nuclear fuel supplies by 2026. At that point, they must be replaced at a cost of $8 billion apiece. Problem is, $8 billion is roughly half of the Navy's annual ship production budget. So what's the Navy to do?
It plans to stretch—literally—its Virginia-class attack submarines by an extra 94 feet to store 26 extra missiles (for a total of 40) and outfit them with an advanced sensory suite—at a quarter the cost of a new SSGN, just $2 billion apiece. Sure the SSGN carries 154 Tomahawks apiece, but there are only four SSGN's in the US fleet—compared to the 10 Virginia-class available. This modification will help spread the fleet's firepower out more evenly.
Once the Virginia-class subs reenter service, they'll be accompanied by torpedo-shaped "large-diameter Unmanned Underwater Vehicles" packed with long-range sensory equipment to act as a remote and highly-maneuverable extra set of eyes and ears. They'll also carry a UAV that can be launched from the expanded Tomahawk tubes. [Wired - art courtesy of AP Images]
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