Today some 50 percent of the U.S. strategic nuclear warheads are in the Navy’s 14 nuclear-propelled submarines of the Ohio class. In the near future that number could increase to some 70 percent under the New START arms agreements, according to Rear Admiral Joseph E. Tofalo, Director, Undersea Warfare (OP-97) in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.1
But, as Shakespeare wrote, “there’s the rub.” The 14 Ohio-class boats are wearing out and must be replaced in the next two decades. The Navy has developed an Ohio replacement program to construct 12 new SSBNs. The reduction in numbers is possible because the follow-on SSBNs will have 42-year reactor cores, alleviating the need to take submarines out of service for a midlife, multiyear refueling.