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BMD Watch: Trident Subs Will Fight Terror

By Martin Sieff, UPI Senior News Analyst
Washington (UPI) Jan 25, 2006
The U.S. Navy is converting some of its prized nuclear strategic submarines to launch precision, conventional munitions strikes against terrorist bases and similar targets.

Four ultra-stealth Ohio-class SSBNs are having their 24 Trident II D-5 nuclear ballistic missiles removed and replaced with up to 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles, Defense Industry Daily reported Jan. 18.

The program is assured of bipartisan support with Democratic Sens. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut and Clarence Pell of Rhode Island all supporting it, DID said.

The Ohios are being converted into so-called "Tactical Tridents," designated SSGNs, with accommodation for 66-102 special forces troops, special attachments for new Advanced SEAL Delivery Systems (ASDS) or the older Seal Delivery Vehicle (SDV) "mini-subs," and a mission control center. In future, the SSGNs may also carry UUV underwater robotic vehicles and even UAVs for aerial operations, the report said.

"These modifications provide the (United States) with an impressive and impressively flexible set of conventional firepower, in a survivable and virtually undetectable platform that can remain on station for very long periods," DID said. The conversion program will cost $1.4 billion, it said.

The program will allow the Navy to avoid having to decommission the four Trident subs, the USS Ohio (SSBN 726), USS Michigan (SSBN 727), USS Florida (SSBN 728) and USS Georgia (SSBN 729).

Funding for the conversion was originally approved in the Fiscal Year 2002 military appropriations bill and it proved popular in Congress. The Senate approved funding four all four nuclear subs, where President George W. Bush had only asked to convert two of them.

To create a Tactical Trident submarine, two of the Ohio Class SSBNs' 24 large vertical missile launch tubes are converted to lockout chambers to enable exit from the hull underwater, the report said. However the ASDS program is suffering from serious development problems. Until those are sorted out, existing Seal Delivery Vehicles (SDVs) will have to be used instead, DID said.

The conversion costs for the four Ohios is far less than the $1.7 billion cost for each of the new nuclear-powered Virginia class (SSN-744).

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BMD will cost $247 billion by 2024: CBO

The annual cost of the Bush administration's missile defense plans could more than double to $19 billion by 2013, and total $247 billion from 2006 through fiscal 2024, according to a recent report.

The report, "The Long-Term Implications of Current Defense Plans and Alternatives: Detailed Update for Fiscal Year 2006," was produced by the Congressional Budget Office and released this month as an update to a September 2004 report, the Global Security Newswire reported Tuesday. The study projected an average $13 billion per year cost for missile defense through 2024, it said.

The Bush administration requested about $8.5 billion for the program last year for the current fiscal 2006, according to the report. The annual cost should climb rapidly to $19 billion by 2013, due to major equipment purchases, before dropping significantly to about $8 billion annually by 2024, it says. All figures are in 2006 dollars.

Administration officials have said they are pursuing a "layered" approach to missile defense, which involves developing multiple technological approaches to striking various ballistic missiles from land, sea, air and possibly space.

The report's projections also incorporate an assumption for the unexpected cost growth of the systems under development, based on historic cost-growth rates for major weapons systems since the Vietnam War. GSN said.

The report incorporates potential costs for the following major systems: Ground-based Midcourse Defense system interceptors and radars; nine low-orbit, infrared Space Tracking and Surveillance System satellites; a boost-phase kinetic energy interceptor system; seven Airborne Laser 747 aircraft; additional Patriot Advanced Capability 3 (PAC-3) short-range missile defense systems; and Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense System (THAAD) components.

The report also includes costs for the sea-based Aegis missile defense system under development, and space-based and mobile ground-based interceptor systems that are under early consideration. But it does not factor in the U.S. Air Force's troubled SBIRS-High early warning satellite program. They are intended for non-missile defense uses as well. Nor does the report specify how many ground-based, space-based, or sea-based systems it assumes will be purchased.

Victoria Samson, a Center for Defense Information missile defense analyst who released an analysis of the report last week, told GSN she believed the report, if anything, underestimated the probable cost of the administration's plans. "If they did everything they wanted to, reports have estimated it could run over a trillion dollars," she said, citing a 2003 report by prominent economists that drew such a conclusion.

The projected growth for missile defense costs corresponds with substantial overall Defense Department cost increases, according to the CBO report. Military funding reached $509 billion in fiscal 2005, including $74 billion in supplemental funding, it says.

The CBO report says the annual total could average about $522 billion a year through 2011 and $563 billion per year from 2012 through 2024, if historical cost growth and military expenditures to fight terrorists abroad are factored. That estimate, though, appears to assume that supplemental appropriations for U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq will end in Fiscal Year 2006.

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General Dynamics wins $56 million Trident contract

General Dynamics has won a $56 million contract modification to provide operational support and engineering services for the Trident submarine-launched ballistic missile system. The contract may be worth $147 million if all options are exercised, the company said Monday.

General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems will be responsible for fire-control production, operational support and field engineering services for the Trident II Fire Control system. The unit also will handle repairs and returns, training, and system development. Advanced Information Systems will perform the work in Pittsfield, Mass, Washington Technology reported.

The contract also covers lifecycle cost control and technology refresh for the SSGN Attack Weapons Control Systems.

Source: United Press International

Related Links

General Dynamics Awarded Contract For TRIDENT Ballistic Missile System
Arlington VA (SPX) Jan 19, 2006
The U.S. Navy has awarded General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems a $56 million contract modification to provide Fire Control production, operational support, field engineering services, repair and return effort, training, and development for the TRIDENT II Fire Control system. It also includes SSGN Attack Weapons Control Systems Life Cycle Cost Control and Technology Refresh work.







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