This video shows you that America’s New Nuclear Missile Submarines Might Have A Problem.
The Government Accountability Office is raising concerns about the technological maturity of the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine.
The new boomer, which must become operational by 2031, will feature a host of new technologies that are supposed to increase the vessels’ survivability into the foreseeable future. However, as the GAO notes, many of those features are unproven and no prototypes have been built or tested.
“Additional development and testing are required to demonstrate the maturity of several Columbia class submarine technologies that are critical to performance, including the Integrated Power System, nuclear reactor, common missile compartment, and propulsor and related coordinated stern technologies,” the GAO report reads.
“As a result, it is unknown at this point whether they will work as expected, be delayed, or cost more than planned. Any unexpected delays could postpone the deployment of the lead submarine past the 2031 deadline.”
The GAO also accuses the Navy of misrepresenting the risks and the level of technological maturity of key components of the new submarine. Many of the boat’s systems such as the integrated power system—which uses a permanent magnet motor rather than gears to turn the drive shaft—have not been prototyped or tested under operationally representative conditions.
“The Navy underrepresented the program’s technology risks in its 2015 Technology Readiness Assessment (TRA) when it did not identify these technologies as critical,” the report reads.
“Development of these technologies is key to meeting cost, schedule, and performance requirements…. Not identifying these technologies as critical means Congress may not have had the full picture of the technology risks and their potential effect on cost, schedule, and performance goals as increasing financial commitments were made.”
The GAO report notes that the Navy is not required to provide the Congress with progress reports on Columbia’s development until 2020, but added reporting would help staffers get a better grip on the technological risks of this vital program.
“The Navy is not required to provide Congress with an update on the program’s progress, including its technology development efforts, until fiscal year 2020—when $8.7 billion for lead ship construction will have already been authorized,” the report reads.
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By: Dave Majumdar
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