Development of the New Attack Submarine (NSSN) is moving rapidly, promising to provide the U.S. Navy with a highly versatile undersea craft. The submarine community and Congress remain divided, however, on the ultimate size and shape of the NSSN program.
During the Cold War, U.S. Navy attack submarines were designed to counter the massive Soviet undersea fleet, primarily in a deep-ocean environment. Initiated in 1988-1990, the NSSN design was begun primarily as an antisubmarine warfare (ASW) platform, in response to the increasing costs of the Seawolf (SSN-21) and questions about that submarine’s missions. The NSSN was not originally intended, as some now contend, as a specialized submarine for littoral operations.1