What is the state of the Navy’s program to develop a follow-on to the current Trident strategic missile submarines—the SSBN(X)? There appears to be two answers: “very good” and “very bad.”1 The Navy is planning to build 12 SSBN(X) submarines to replace the 14 strategic missile submarines of the Ohio class that are scheduled to be retired at the rate of one per year between Fiscal Years 2027 and 2040. The planned follow-on SSBN(X) submarines would become operational at the same rate beginning about 2029. Thus, from about 2029 to 2041 the projected SSBN force would drop below the goal of 12 submarines.
Twelve new missile submarines are planned because the SSBN(X) design calls for a nuclear-fuel core that would last the service life of the submarine, i.e., some 50 years. Thus, unlike the Ohio-class SSBNs, which are planned for a 40-year service life, the new missile submarines would not have to be taken off-line for two years for refueling.