Friday, April 16, 2021

Ohio Versus Columbia Cost

Just for fun, let’s do a quick check of the Columbia SSBN program costs and see how they compare to the Ohio class.  The costs should be about the same after adjustment for inflation, right?  The Columbia is just a modern repeat of the Ohio - same function, same basic sub so the costs should be the same.  Well, let’s see …


As a quick review and in order to have a basis for comparison, here’s a brief table of specifications and cost for the Ohio and Columbia classes.






Length, ft



Beam, ft



Displacement, tons submerged



Missile Tubes



Inflation Adjusted Cost

$3.3B a (FY2021)

$9.15B b (FY2021)



a Ohio:  $2B (around 1997) for final sub of class (1) = $3.3B (FY2021)

b $109.8B total class procurement cost for 12 submarines = $9.15B average cost (FY2021) (2)


From this table, a couple things jump out:


Size.  We see that the Columbia is, essentially, a repeat of the Ohio class as regards basic dimensions so the costs ought to be comparable, allowing for inflation.  In fact, we see that the Columbia has 8 fewer missile tubes so the sub should be significantly smaller/shorter since the missile tube section is the largest section of the sub. 


Looking at the cutaway drawing of the Ohio class below, we see that 8 fewer missile tubes (4 on each side, so 4 tubes in the profile drawing) represents around 11 m (33 ft).  From that, one would expect that the new Columbia would be around 33 ft shorter than the Ohio and yet they’re the same size.  Since no new functions have been added that we’re aware of, what’s occupying the 33 ft of ‘empty’ space?


Ohio Class Cutaway Drawing


Similarly, nuclear reactors have gotten steadily smaller.  Here’s the best data I could find:


Ohio - The Ohio class uses 1x S8G pressurized water reactor.  The S8G reactor compartment for the Ohio submarines is 42 feet (13 m) in diameter, 55 feet (17 m) long and weighs 2,750 tons.(3)


Columbia - The Columbia class uses 1x S1B pressurized water reactor of unknown dimensions.  A concept drawing of the Columbia class suggests that the reactor compartment is around 30-35 ft long.  While this agrees with the reasoning that the reactor compartment should be smaller than the Ohio’s, a concept drawing is a highly suspect source of information and the information should be treated accordingly.


So, comparing reactor compartment lengths,






Reactor Compartment Length, ft





Since no new functions have been added that we’re aware of, what’s occupying the 20-25 ft of saved space from the smaller Columbia reactor?


Adding the 33 ft of saved length from the reduced number of missile tubes to the 20-25 ft of saved length from the smaller reactor, we see what should be a reduced overall length of 53-58 ft for the Columbia.  Inexplicably, it seems that the Columbia is actually slighter larger than the Ohio and has a significantly greater displacement!  How can a sub with 8 fewer of the massive missile tubes and a smaller reactor be larger and have a greater displacement?


Specifications.  As we’ve already mentioned, the Columbia has been down-spec’ed compared to the original Ohios:  33% reduction in missile tubes and a smaller reactor.  The missile reduction is puzzling given that the original threat that drove the Ohio design not only hasn’t decreased, it’s increased as China has significantly more military capacity and potential than the Soviet Union did.


Cost.  As we’ve just seen, the Columbia is, essentially a repeat of the Ohio class but with significantly fewer missile tubes and a smaller reactor.  Setting the internal contents aside, the two subs have nearly identical dimensions and one would reasonably expect them to cost the same after adjustment for inflation and yet this is not even remotely the case.  Why?  Why should a down-spec’ed modern Ohio be nearly three times the cost of the original?







Why has the cost nearly tripled for what ought to be a significantly smaller and cheaper submarine?  Well, we have no actual idea so here’s some speculation:


Numbers – The Navy has not only reduced the number of missile tubes per submarine but also the total number of subs with a reduction from 24 Ohios to just 12 Columbias.  It would be reasonable to assume that cutting the total build in half would increase production costs.  Of course, economy of scale is rarely seen in Navy ship programs so this is a highly debatable assumption.  Still, simply spreading a shipyard’s overhead costs over fewer ships is guaranteed to increase purchase costs (see, “Shipbuilding Costs – Impact of Low Volume”).


Berthing – Presumably, the Navy is planning to man the subs with mixed gender crews and the need to duplicate facilities undoubtedly increases costs.  Still, we’re trying to explain a nearly $6B cost increase so there must be more to it than gender related amenities and duplication.  The need to duplicate facilities may, however, explain some of the lost ‘empty’ space that we can’t account for.


Comfort – We’ve seen an across the board increase in creature comforts for crews as the Navy has moved to nearly year long deployments (see, ”Crew Comfort”).  Despite the idiocy of turning WARships into cruise ships, this may account for some of the missing ‘empty’ space and cost. 


Supra-Inflation – We’ve seen cost growth over and above the rate of inflation for almost every Navy shipbuilding program and the magnitude of the increases for some of them, such as the Ford class, have defied belief.  This may be more of that same unexplained supra-inflation.


Bid Inflation – The Navy has clearly demonstrated to industry that the Navy’s construction plans are etched in water and not to be relied on.  In fact, with Navy shipbuilding programs, it is almost a guarantee that the numbers will be cut before the program is over, thus negatively impacting industry profits.  Without a doubt, industry is aware of this and builds in some profit margin cushion to compensate for the expected decrease in numbers.  How the Navy could decrease the SSBN build below 12, which is already reduced from 24, is unknown and yet history suggests that it is a very real possibility.  For those who might think that a leg of the nuclear/strategic triad would be immune to reductions, one has only to consider the example of the Air Force B-2 nuclear/strategic bomber which was planned to build 132 and then was reduced to 21.


Gold Plating – I have zero evidence that the practice of unnecessary over-spec’ing, referred to as ‘gold plating’, is taking place in the Columbia program but, given the Navy’s constant tendency to do this, it would be surprising if this was not taking place to some, likely significant, degree.





We have no concrete conclusion that explains why the Columbia is 53-58 ft longer and nearly $6B more expensive than we can account for – only speculation.   Without a doubt, some or all of our speculation is correct although we cannot quantify the magnitude of any of it and none of it seems sufficient to explain the $6B increase.  Regardless of the actual reasons for the staggering cost increase, the Navy’s continually demonstrated inability to produce reasonably priced new ships is a monumental concern and is inexorably shrinking the fleet to a point of combat-ineffectiveness.  The latest evidence of this is the Navy’s turn to small, weak, unmanned ships to replace Aegis cruisers and Burke destroyers in an effort to keep ship counts up despite the resulting decrease in combat power.  The Navy simply must get control of its shipbuilding programs and learn to produce affordable, combat-effective ships or we will find ourselves without an effective Navy.







(2)Congressional Research Service, “Navy Columbia (SSBN-826) Class Ballistic Missile Submarine Program: Background and Issues for Congress”, May 2020,


(3)Wikipedia, “S8G reactor”,


  1. "Sure, it's weaker than the previous model, but it's also thrice as expensive!"

    Great deal there, Navy.
    Well, at least those have combat value...

  2. Not to be too pedantic here, but the 12 Columbias are replacing 14 Ohio SSGNs. The reactor plants of the Columbias are designed to last the life of the ship, therefore, none will need to be pulled out of service for a mid-life refueling.

    And, due to the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, each Ohio submarine has had four of its missile tubes permanently deactivated, limiting them to carry a maximum of 20 missiles.

    1. You are on a pedantic (and incorrect) roll! The topic is purchase cost. Therefore, the relevant comparison is 12 Columbias versus 24 Ohios because that's how many we built and paid for.

      "none will need to be pulled out of service for a mid-life refueling."

      If/when we discuss operating costs that will be relevant but is not relevant to this discussion.


      Treaties come and go. Again, not relevant.

    2. "If/when we discuss operating costs that will be relevant but is not relevant to this discussion."

      I have to think that a nuclear power plant is one of the largest cost elements that go into the procurement cost of a nuclear submarine. Since, the Columbia power plant is designed to last the life of the boat, it stands to reason that it costs more too. How much, I don't know?

      All things being equal, the Columbia power plant probably has twice (maybe a little more for margin) the amount of nuclear fuel as the Ohio class. And, as such, I would expect it to be somewhat bigger than the what is used on the Ohio class. And, more nuclear fuel generally means more shielding is required which adds to the overall size of the power plant.

    3. "Since, the Columbia power plant is designed to last the life of the boat, it stands to reason that it costs more too."

      No, that does not stand to reason. What's reasonable is that nuclear technology has advanced since the Ohio days and now we can build longer lasting, smaller, reactors for far less money. From the references, the list of 'less' things associated with the new reactor is impressive - less pumps, less valves, less size, less of everything. THAT is why it is reasonable to assume that it costs significantly less.

      "And, as such, I would expect it to be somewhat bigger than the what is used on the Ohio class. "

      Did you read the post, the linked references, and the note the significantly smaller size of the reactor? You're making completely incorrect assumptions that contradict what limited facts we have. I don't know if you're just not reading or if you so desperately want to contradict me that you're making stuff up?

    4. "The Columbia class uses 1x S1B pressurized water reactor of unknown dimensions. A concept drawing of the Columbia class suggests that the reactor compartment is around 30-35 ft long."

      This you?

      Neither of us has any idea of the actual size of the reactor compartment. We do know it carries more fuel, which by itself would add to the cost of the reactor plant. And, while the pumps and plumbing might have gotten smaller, I don't think they've increased the energy density of Uranium just yet.

    5. "We do know it carries more fuel"

      Do we? I assume you have a reference for that rather than just making it up. Please provide your reference since I've not seen that before. It may just be that we've gotten more efficient at using the same or even less fuel. In fact, I've read about re-shaped rods that are far more fuel efficient due to increased surface area since they're shaped like a cross rather than a rod in cross section.

    6. RE: 24 Ohios. ComNavOps, while it doesn't change the overall thrust of your arguments, I believe we actually built 18 Ohio's, not 24. We currently have 14 in service as SSBNs, plus 4 were converted into SSGNs during the decade of the 2000's.

    7. " I believe we actually built 18 Ohio's, not 24"

      My bad. Of course you're right! We planned 24 and built 18. I see too many numbers doing this blog and they tend to run together. The proper comparison is 12 versus 18.

      The 24 planned versus 18 built also illustrates the point about shipbuilding programs almost inevitably being reduced and that industry is certainly accounting for that in their prices and factoring in extra 'profit' to make up for the inevitable reductions.

    8. Reactors don't have a separate "fuel tank". The fuel is part of the main reactor so if the reactor size has decreased, then that takes into account any additional fuel.

  3. I hope the Navy declares something to justify what is easily seen as "dead weight" on the Columbia class. Maybe "As nuclear disarmament treaties prevent us from fitting 24 missiles on board, we might as well use the space for supplies necessary to sustain longer patrols"? "We use the space for an airlock and other equipment to support embarked Navy SEALs"? "We're developing submarine-launched UAVs to provide reconnaissance and targeting in the event enemy antisatellite weapons disable the satellites usually used for those purposes, and intend to install a UAV launch, recovery, and service bay, in the future"?

    Otherwise, why make the Columbia class as big as the Ohio, despite carrying only 2/3 as many missiles? The US Navy shouldn't waste money on the same pointless dick-measuring contests that bankrupted the Soviet Union!

  4. Is START the reason behind the decreased amount of missile tubes on Columbia??

    1. No, cost is although the Navy rationalized it as changing strategic requirements. This is exactly like how we've rationalized the steady decrease in carriers and air wings, even though the threat hasn't changed or how we've rationalized dropping requirements from winning 2 major conflicts to one regional conflict despite the threats not decreasing. It's budget driven and then rationalized.

    2. So we purposely blunted the fangs of our #1 deterrent legs individual platforms.... Thats, well, absurd!!

  5. Your site is useful discussing important naval issues BUT I understand that you really don't want to deal with reality if it conflicts with your views - you're re-playing George C Scott's character from the DR STRANGELOVE film. You might want to reconsider the source(s) that you blatantly call "facts" before you apply them as edits to readers. Just a thought...

    1. If you have some actual data or specific problems you'd like to discuss, I'd welcome that. Simply making a vague statement that you don't like things is not useful and does not further the discussion of the topic. In short, this is an example of the worst kind of comment - one that serves no purpose and has no data or logic behind it. A waste of time and effort. Just a thought ...

  6. I can think of two things to account for the space—the Columbias will use electric drive which should be quieter (and thus offer some strategic/tactical advantage) and there will be some habitability improvements (particularly with mixed-sex crews). Let’s assume that 1) the reduced size of the reactor offsets the electric drive weight and space requirements, and 2) the reduced number of missile tubes offsets the habitability space.

    As far as the reduced number of tubes, why 16? If we are currently treaty compliant with 14x20=280 tubes, would we not be compliant reducing the number to 20 and having 12x20=240 tubes? Or 12x22=264 tubes, or even 12x24=288 tubes could probably be offset somewhere else. I am not intimately familiar with the treaty, but 16 tubes seems too low. If we go with 20 and save roughly 16 feet of length, that should give us space for berthing and habitability improvements.

    Let’s look at cost. Let’s assume the electric drive 1) works (a dangerous assumption with the Navy and new technology), and 2) adds $1B to the cost/boat. There is ample experience out there with electric drives working on ships of other navies, including the French nuclear-electric Rubis class submarines (although I understand that quiet is not one of their strong points) for the Navy to be able to get that right. So be optimistic, although there are indications that this is proving harder than expected and may be driving costs.

    Now let’s assume that swapping 4 missile tubes for habitability also adds $1B to the cost/boat (although there is every reason to expect a decrease rather than an increase, at least if the Navy were not involved). Now we can explain a cost in the $5-5.5B range, which seems like all I can find any reason to justify.

    Now let’s look at the Navy’s 355 ship plan, as priced out by CBO in 2019 (1). They were planning to build:

    - 12 SSBNs for $90B or $7.5B/boat
    - 5 “large payload subs” (SSGNs) for $37B, or $7.4B/boat.
    - 28 Virginia VPMs for $87B, or $3.1B/boat
    - 31 future attack submarines for $181B, or $5.8B/boat

    If whatever has caused the Columbia cost to grow to $9.15B/boat would have a similar impact on the “large payload” SSGN, we are looking at $109.8B for 12 Columbias and $45.2B for 5 SSGNs. Let’s also assume (probably incorrectly) that the costs of the SSNs haven’t grown similarly. The total cost for 77 boats would be $414B.

    Suppose instead we built:

    - 12 updated Ohio SSBNs for $63.6B ($5.3B/boat),
    - 20 updated Ohio SSGNs for $104B ($5.2B/boat,
    - 30 Virginia VPMs for $93B (CBO’s $3.1B/boat), and
    - 30 smaller pure SSNs, something like French Barracudas for $63B ($2.1B/boat).

    France has a contract with Naval Group for 6 Barracudas for US$12.3B (2), or $2.05B/boat, and a much longer production run should offset any USN-induced cost growth, and might be enough to induce Naval Group to partner with a US shipbuilder to open a third SSN yard here.

    So, choices are:

    a) 12 Columbia SSBNs, 5 Columbia-variant SSGNs, 29 Virginia VPMs, and 31 future SSNs, a total of 77 boats for $414B, or
    b) 12 updated Ohio SSBNs, 20 Ohio-variant SSGNs, 30 Virginia VPMs, and 30 Barracudas, a total of 92 boats for $323.6B.

    Since I see the SSGN as our primary conventional strike asset, b) seems the obvious choice.

    Even if we build Columbias, I see no reason why an SSGN needs to be anything more than an updated Ohio, in which case the cost 92 boats would increase to $369.8B. For $24B more we could build 30 AIP SSKs ($800MM/boat) to handle littoral operations and choke point control and free the SSNs up for blue water missions, or a total of 122 boats for $393.8B, saving $20.2B that could go to other needs—ASW, NGFS, MCM, supersonic/hypersonic missiles, to name a few.

    No, ComNavOps, I don’t let costs drive my approach, but there are times when it is stupid to ignore costs.


    1. "habitability also adds $1B to the cost/boat"

      A billion dollars of habitability?????!!!!!!!!!!! Does each bunk come with a personal masseuse and a tennis court? How many Olympic size pools do you estimate
      the sub has? Would you guess the polo grounds would be forward or aft?

    2. I have no idea. I'm trying to be kind. I can't imagine that a bed costs more than a missile, so I think this is pretty much BS. But I'm trying to make a conservative estimate.

    3. There was a bit of sarcasm in my $1 billion for habitability, obviously. I can see adding a fitness center, as our sailors, particularly on an SSBN, have little activity to keep them fit. And I can see separate quarters for males and females, obviously, if we are to have women onboard. But I would suggest putting female berthing on a separate deck, and 16 feet with moving some stuff around should give room to do that plus a fitness enter. I can't see how that costs a dollar more than 4 missile tubes, much less a billion. But I've kind of used $5-5.5B as my working cost estimate for an updated Ohio, and I don't really want to go lower because I think cost estimates need to be believable. Thank you for supplying a baseline of $3.3B, because I had just come up with the $5-5.5B number from my head.

    4. In my opinion:

      Less numbers -> Longer deployments -> Improved berthing needed -> More costs and decreased capabilities -> Less numbers -> Longer deployments -> ...

      I would reduce deployments and increase numbers instead


  7. Since a ballistic missile sub's job is basically to be unseen as a deterrent isn't crew comfort for a longer cruise a good thing?

    It's not pointlessly visiting foreign ports or doing photo ops with other nations ships.

    It's to sit in the middle of an ocean and keep the ability to respond to a nuclear attack unlike land based launchers that potentially could be killed in a pre-emptive strike.

    1. That might be a valid argument if it didn't result in bankrupting the Navy and having to drastically down-spec the sub in order to pay for comforts - assuming that's even part of what happened.

      When submarines start showing up on lists of 5-star resorts, we may have gone too far with the comforts.

    2. "Since a ballistic missile sub's job is basically to be unseen as a deterrent isn't crew comfort for a longer cruise a good thing?"

      If it costs $100M, sure.
      If it's billions, nope.

      Subs aren't comfortable to serve in, by definition, but the Navy isn't in the leisure cruise business (although...) and money is tight.

    3. I was more thinking in terms of using the additional space not the vastly increased cost which more seems to be an excuse by the government, military and ship builders in fleecing the tax payer.

      Are the missile tubes the same size as the Ohio's? or are they larger to give more options? (cheaper conversion to cruise missile and UAV launchers?)

    4. "seems to be an excuse by the government, military and ship builders in fleecing the tax payer."

      It often seems that way, I'll grant you. However, I really don't think that's the case. It's a convenient gripe for people to say but I don't think it's true. All of those people in corporations, govt, and the military are taxpayers themselves, just like you and I. Why would they want to 'fleece' themselves? I really don't believe that groups of those people sit around conspiring to artificially increase costs just to screw themselves and you and I. I think the vast majority of those people are honest and would love to produce better products at cheaper prices. Sure, the corporations are going to do what they can to increase profits - that's the free market at work! - but even that is a small increase measured in a few percentages. We're trying to account for truly massive increases and, unfortunately, nothing I've seen accounts for the increase. Without a line item breakdown of a ship's cost, I can't identify the source(s) of the increase. I just believe that blaming it on some nebulous 'fleecing' is too simplistic. It may make us feel better but it's not correct.

      What do you think?

    5. Even in ww2 however the USN designed significant crew comfort and room into long range subs designed for the Pacific. Spending on comfort is not exactly a new ideal.

    6. "Even in ww2 however the USN designed significant crew comfort"

      Comfort is a relative term. The comforts built into a WWII Gato have almost nothing in common with what the Navy is building into ships today.

  8. I red a complaint online - while defense budget increase year after year (true for past 4), Pentagon procures less and less weapons.

    New weapon prices increase fast.

    Forget not, Pentagon is well connected ATM. More and more people are on the food chain. For instance, as F-35 is boasted to be made in 48 states --- so many well connected in the 48 states enter the food chain, not to mention, many unionized workers in bottom of the food chain.

    It has become a systematic problem and hopeless.

  9. Although you wrote the post specifically about the Columbia, I believe your general idea is actually much broader, about the costs of navy ships generally. Actually, though, I think it's even broader than that. For many decades, large weapons systems in general (not just Navy ships, but also aircraft, many missiles, and even tanks) have been increasing in cost faster than the rate of inflation. This predates the end of the cold war, so it isn't entirely due to incompetence on the part of our current class of admirals.

    For example, consider Augustine's Laws, a set of tongue in cheek aphorisms written by Norman Augustine, who was Under Secretary of the Army in the 1970's and published his laws in 1984. Consider Law number 16, which states that, based on the rate of escalation of costs of military aircraft:

    "In the year 2054, the entire defense budget will purchase just one aircraft. This aircraft will have to be shared by the Air Force and Navy 3-1/2 days each per week except for leap year, when it will be made available to the Marines for the extra day."

    Why does this happen? I'm sure the factors you mention are important, but I can think of a couple others as well.

    (1) Capability. Newer weapons have greater capability than older weapons. For example, I'm quite sure that the inflation adjusted cost of a World War II fighter like the P51, in 1985, would be much less than the cost of an F15 in 1985. Yet I'm pretty sure that no one would be crazy enough to send a P51 into battle against an F15. The question is, how much additional capability should we buy? Because there's also the (crude) rule of thumb, the 80/20 rule, that states that (crudely) the first 20% of the cost buys you 80% of the capability, and additional increments of capability come at rapidly escalating marginal cost. So the key question is how much additional capability will be "enough". This isn't necessarily trivial, since we don't really KNOW (absent an actual battle) how much capability is enough today, since our likely opponents are not transparent about the capabilities of their systems. And since systems like ships last several decades, we have far less certainty about what capability will be needed in the future.

    In the case of the Columbia's specifically, it's certainly true that the new sub is about the same size as the Ohio's. And I'll stipulate that it is probably also similar in other factors like speed and diving depth. But it is intended to be a significant advance in the only capability that really matters for a ballistic missile submarine, namely STEALTH. Cdr Chip has already mentioned that it has electric drive, which is quieter than the mechanical drive used in the Ohio's. It will also have water jet propulsion, like the Virginias, rather than a propeller like most earlier submarines (including the Ohio's). These are two of the major sources of noise in submarines. Is this increase in stealth worth the extra cost? I don't know -- it depends on a number of factors that are mostly classified. But it DOES exist.

    (2) Inflation. When you estimate the "inflation adjusted" cost of an Ohio in 2021, I think you are using the wrong inflation measure. Weapons systems cost seem to inflate at a higher rate than general inflation. Why? I don't know, but I suspect it is at least partially due to the fact that building many of these systems is labor intensive, and labor costs typically increase faster than the general rate of inflation that we use to do "inflation adjustments". And a small difference in assumed inflation rate, when compounded over several decades, makes a really BIG difference in the outcome, since it's an exponential thing. I think this means that we really would NOT be able to build a new Ohio in 2021 for the "inflation adjusted" cost of the last Ohio in the 1990's.

    1. " Is this increase in stealth worth the extra cost?"

      It's going to sound argumentative but please read the following as a discussion and amplification on your comments. You're making an assumption that the electric drive and any other stealth measures cost more. Unless you have actual data - and if you do, please share it! - we don't know that it costs more and, even if it does, we don't know the magnitude of that increase. It might only be a million dollars more whereas we're trying to account for a nearly $6B increase. It seems very hard to believe that an electric drive costs a significant portion of $6B!

      So, your assumption may or may not be correct and, if it is, is likely not significant relative to $6B. Please understand that I'm not arguing with you, just reminding that we're working on assumptions and I'd hate to give the Navy a cost 'pass' based on an assumption that may not apply to any significant extent. I'm also not trying to 'win' anything, just explore the discussion.


      NO!!!! I've used the correct inflation adjustment (the standard govt calculated one. Here's why I believe it's correct:

      1. Almost all of the components that go into a ship are run of the mill in the sense that they are either commercial items or derived entirely from commercial items. For example, pumps, valves, cables, steel, pipes, etc. are subject to just the normal inflation. Some more complex and military specific items like radars or sensors are unique but built from common commercial components like chips, boards, wiring, steel, etc. Again, those components are subject to the same normal inflation. They've just been assembled into radars instead of automobile black boxes.

      2. Labor has actually decreased, if you believe the Navy and shipyards. The man-hours per ship has decreased thanks to robotics, 3D drafting, pre-assembled components, lifts, etc. Regardless, labor is labor. A pipefitter or welder is subject to the same normal inflation as every other skilled trade.

      3. Even the very restricted, very unique items like reactors have gotten smaller, more efficient, and as best I can determine, cheaper.

      I cannot actually name any component on a ship that has justifiably gotten more expensive (more than the rate of inflation) over time. Most items, like electronics, are getting continually cheaper and others should be increasing at the normal rate of inflation. I really think the biggest factors for the greater than inflation rate are, in order:

      1. Numbers, specifically the effect of constant overhead being distributed across fewer and fewer ships.

      2. Over-spec'ing

      3. Program mismanagement (concurrency, oversight failure)

      " I think this means that we really would NOT be able to build a new Ohio in 2021 for the "inflation adjusted" cost of the last Ohio in the 1990's."

      Well, that's the real question. I think we could BUT IT WOULD REQUIRE THE SAME PROGRAMATIC APPROACH AS IN 1990, meaning fixed requirements, no concurrency, no change orders, and the same type of program management we used back then. Am I right? Who knows?

      By the way, overall a very good comment and excellent contribution to the discussion.

    2. " I'm quite sure that the inflation adjusted cost of a World War II fighter like the P51, in 1985, would be much less than the cost of an F15 in 1985."

      Okay, now this is a potentially fascinating, though largely academic, discussion.

      Could we build a P-51 for the same amount (inflation adjusted) today? I would think we could build it for substantially less. Consider … aircraft of that era were built almost entirely by hand. Today, with robotic factory line construction techniques, we ought to be able to build a P-51 for quite a bit less just due to the significant decrease in labor costs, if nothing else.

      The second aspect of your statement involves comparing the cost of a P-51, today, to an F-15. The problem there is that the two are not comparable in capabilities. It's like comparing the first bicycle to an automobile. While they both transport people, the auto has many more functions and features so you wouldn't expect their inflation adjusted costs to be the same.

      Similarly, a P-51 had no radar, sensors, supersonic speed, and so on. If we built an F-15 TO THE SAME CAPABILITES AND SPECS as a P-51, would the cost be the same? Why wouldn't it? That's an absurd proposition, I know, and it's just a mental logic exercise. There would be no value in a F-15 with no radar, only guns, a few hundred mph speed, and so on … but, if there were, why would it cost any more than a P-51?

      So, to sum up, I think the answer to your statement is that we could build an exact P-51 today for far less. What do you think?

    3. I know it's easy to blame the Navy for their mistakes (and rightfully so). But is there still a possibility that the stealth add-ons could be that expensive? Extra quieting padding and procuring commercial equipment to an extreme level of noise reduction? It does increasing sounds like over-speccing at this point but it's almost virtually impossible to assess how the Chinese's ASW efforts are. Are they just trying to be safe?

      The P-51 comparison is interesting. I'm not sure if @Bob make the same mistake I did but the Navy has stated that the Columbia class is a new-built design and not an updated Ohio. So better question would be: could you build a new design to the P-51 standards for much less? While I have no definitive answer, there is some evidence against it.

      The Super Tucano which has similar characteristics to the P-51 is estimated to cost $10 million (absent training and maintenance)in 2016. A P-51(B variant I assume) in WW2 costs around $51,000 (1940) which translates to around $800,000 (2016). However I would suspect the vast majority of the cost is due to the acquisition of the license (it's a Brazilian design) and electronics equipment.

    4. The CPI is a measure of cost growth in common household goods and services (e.g. gas, food, diapers, medical care). It is not a good measure of cost growth in boutique military hardware.

      The cost growth of SUBSAFE nuclear reactors, sensors, weapons, computer systems, and so on, has little in common with cost growth of paper towels or diapers.

      Most defense procurements costs have grown at a higher rate than CPI inflation. Not just here, but in Europe and other first world countries as well.

    5. "The CPI is a measure of cost growth in common household goods and services (e.g. gas, food, diapers, medical care). It is not a good measure of cost growth in boutique military hardware."

      Then I guess it's a good thing I didn't use the CPI. CPI, while a component of the inflation rate, is not the same as inflation. From the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

      "... the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the United States Department of Labor defines the CPI as:

      "a measure of the average change over time in the prices paid by urban consumers for a market basket of consumer goods and services."

      It defines inflation as:

      "the overall general upward price movement of goods and services in an economy."

      Thus, inflation considers all factors, including military price increases, military component price increases, electronics price increases, and everything else. So, the use of the inflation rate is perfectly valid.

    6. "P-51"

      Bear in mind that the P-51 cost was a function of the volume of aircraft produced. A total of more than 15,000 P-51s were built. Talk about economy of scale effect! If we want to consider the cost of a P-51 today or compare it to the cost of a Tucano or any other such thought exercise, we need to be sure to factor in production scale. For example, if we want to consider the cost of producing a P-51 today, we need to do so in a 'buy' of 15,000. THAT will drive costs down! If we want to compare a P-51s inflation adjusted cost to a Tucano, we need to bear in mind that only 100 Tucanos have ever been built so it has no economy of scale effect. What would a Tucano cost if 15,000 were built in just a few years?

    7. "So, to sum up, I think the answer to your statement is that we could build an exact P-51 today for far less. What do you think?"

      I think you have clearly established the we COULD build a P-51 cheaper today.

      WOULD today's Navy or DoD do that? Given the chance, I think they'd find a way not to.

    8. "Inflation rate" is a generic term. There is no one "general" inflation rate. The most commonly quoted inflation rate is based on changes in the CPI, but there are others. If you use an online inflation rate calculator, it most likely uses a CPI-based rate, unless it specifically says otherwise.

      Others include variants of the CPI focused on urban or rural consumers, the GDP deflator, which measures the change across the entire GDP, the Personal Consumer Expenditure (PCE) rate, and so on. These try to capture the changes in prices for different segments of the economy.

      Unfortunately none really capture the growth of military hardware prices, which have vastly different price pressures than consumer goods, or even the GDP as a whole.

      There are far fewer manufacturers of military equipment than consumer goods. Really only a handful. Some have complete or near monopolies on production in their market segments. For many, there is only one customer for their goods, the US Government. Sometimes they can sell to other countries, but only with the approval for the US Government. The need to push the technological envelope to out compete our adversaries drives them towards higher risk and the bleeding edge technology.

      So price pressures are very different from your average consumer goods, which have a global supply chain and lots of competition.

    9. RE: Inflation. I think we need to be a little more humble about our ability to accurately measure "inflation" over long time periods. It's defined as the "overall price level". But I don't believe that the government actually tracks every single product in the economy. And even if they did, they'd also have to make assumptions about how to weight each product to arrive at a single number. There are several different government numbers for inflation that are tracked, typically measuring different "market baskets", which is not just the choice of items in the index but also an assumption about the weight of each item. The CPI is one such index but there are others. In a single year, they are pretty close, but compounded over multiple decades, they differ significantly.

      In addition, very small errors in a single year, when compounded over decades (especially all the decades since World War II) suggest we probably shouldn't have a lot of confidence in what the "inflation adjusted" cost of a P51 would be.

    10. Sorry Anon, I think you posted while I was typing my last post, which seems to have largely duplicated yours, albeit not as well.

    11. RE: Could we build a P51 for less now than the "inflation adjusted" 1940 cost?

      I think the quick answer is "I don't know". First off, I think we actually only have a vague notion of what the "inflation adjusted" cost of a 1940's era aircraft is.

      But even ignoring that, I think the answer depends critically on how many we build (which you also pointed out). It's true that with all our mechanization these days, it OUGHT to be cheaper. But you need to remember that all that machinery costs big bucks. So if we are only going to build a dozen, it probably doesn't make sense to buy all that machinery. While, on the other hand, if we build 15,000, it likely would.

    12. "none really capture the growth of military hardware prices,"

      Yes, they do. See other comments for explanations about the use of common components even in purely military items.

    13. "suggest we probably shouldn't have a lot of confidence in what the "inflation adjusted" cost of a P51 would be."

      Of course not. The point isn't to debate the cost down to the penny. The point is to compare ballparks and draw general conclusions. For example, the post comparison of an inflation adjusted $3.3B Ohio versus a $9.2B Columbia, when both are the same size and perform the same function, suggests that the difference is well beyond simple inflation calculation definitions and that there is something else accounting for the $6B increase. If the difference had been $100M, I wouldn't call it different considering the various inflation methodologies but $6B is far beyond calculation variances. That's what I use inflation adjusted price comparisons for.

    14. "There is no one "general" inflation rate."

      In a very real sense, yes there is. As one tiny example, the price of bread does not exist and get established in a vacuum. The price of bread is established, in part, by wages across America - wages that include those paid to military industry workers whose wages are in turn established by military item pricing. So, yes, the price of bread captures the price of military items.

      ALL consumer goods, be they commodities or specialized military items, are linked and their prices are interrelated. As long as one considers a moderately broad spectrum of items for one's inflation calculation, ALL prices will be captured and factored. Only if one chooses an inflation calculation based on a very narrow set of items does one see divergence from the general rate.

    15. "I think the quick answer is "I don't know"."

      If you truly don't know then it's because you're getting bogged down in trivial details like inflation rate. Ignore the inflation rate and adjusted cost. Consider just the manufacturing process. Today's process is so much more efficient (meaning cheaper) that it's not even a question whether we could build it cheaper. Of course we could. Robotics, CNC (computer machining), CAD, ensure that we could build it much cheaper.

      Even the machinery costs would be nothing on a relative basis when we're talking about producing 15,000 units. Most of the machinery would already exist and just need to be reprogrammed. This is pretty simple stuff - for example, stamping out sheet metal is something we do every day. It would just be a slightly different shape. And so on.

      One of the problems we have as a society is that constantly want to make things more complicated then they are. This is a good example. Instead of recognizing the obvious answer that our manufacturing techniques have gotten better and we can make things cheaper, we want to complicate the answer by delving into how inflation rates are calculated.

    16. One thought here... Although the manufacturing processes, due to CAD/CAM, robotics etc, may be cheaper FOR THE COMPANY, the cost of the modern equipment is often passed to the customer.
      For instance, if the giant crane at Newport News needed replaced, Im pretty sure the Navy would end up paying for it indirectly (secretly??) through added ship costs and charges...

    17. "the cost of the modern equipment is often passed to the customer."

      It's always passed on and always has been. The consumer ultimately pays for everything the manufacturer does, builds, or buys.

      The point, in regards to the P-51 discussion, is that it would be produced in a quantity of 15,000 so that whatever manufacturing costs there are, are spread over 15,000 units which makes the additional cost negligible.

  10. Sorry, a bit rushed this morning, but did anyone cover the fact the pump jet is propelled by an electric motor?

    1. "Sorry, a bit rushed this morning, but did anyone cover the fact the pump jet is propelled by an electric motor?"

      I think that's covered by the "electric drive" part.

      To be a little more complete, the reactor creates steam, which drives a steam turbine, which drives an electric generator, which drives an electric motor, which drives the pump jet.

    2. The reason it's quieter is that the generator/wires/electric motor combination replaces the mechanical gear system needed to "downshift" the rapid rotation of the turbine to the slow rotation of the propeller shaft. With the teeth of the gears in physical contact, there's some noise.

    3. IEP systems are usually more compact than conventional systems. If the Columbia has IEP, then it has even more unexplainable extra space.

    4. "then it has even more unexplainable extra space."

      Women's shoe storage?

    5. Don't forget the spa and the gay disco.

  11. One more thought on the "inflation adjusted" cost of an Ohio class submarine in 2021. In the post you quoted it would be $3.3 billion. However, note that our current SSN, the Virginia class with the Virginia payload module, costs about $3.4 billion (per a 2/23/2021 Congressional Research Service report to Congress). And the Virginia is much smaller than the Ohio. So I suspect that an Ohio built in 2021 would cost far more than $3.3 billion.

    1. " I suspect that an Ohio built in 2021 would cost far more than $3.3 billion."

      Of course it would! That's the whole point of the post. The question is why? We can come up with nothing to explain it and differences in inflation calculations don't explain a $6B difference.

    2. Protected market, all domestic production. Both cause increases beyond the common rate of inflation.

    3. Do you believe that explains $6B?

    4. There is one measure that you haven't taken into account in your cost differential estimate, maybe because it isn't a manufacturing issue (by that I mean making some piece of hardware) : software costs. How many lines of code in an Ohio weapon system (i.e. the submarine, the weapons, the communication systems) ? How many predicted lines of code in a Columbia ? That doesn't even take into account the fact that the Ohio is 1970s technology, and the software was possibly written in Assembler which takes less memory space, doesn't need expensive compilers .... etc. I was told by a flight controls engineer a long time ago that he was p... off by the fact that he had to write everything in ADA and that this was multiplying the size of the on board computer by a factor of 4 at least, and this was 30 years ago.

      Just remember ALIS ... Oh hang on, it's dead !


  12. I wonder about the electric drive. I understand they've had some problems with it, and I wonder how much that is driving the cost.

    I see the attraction of electric drive for noise reduction. Get rid of the reduction gear and you eliminate a lot of noise. The Brits built the Type 23s with hybrid drive to use electric for quieter running for ASW, and then went IEP for the Type 45s, and other countries have also gone hybrid or IEP. The French Rubis class submarines were IEP, so we even have a comparable there.

    So I would like to see it work for the benefits, but I question specifying it for a whole new class without testing it first. My understanding is that the Ohios were extremely quiet with direct drive, and that the Rubis class were actually pretty noisy. And the French have gone back to direct drive for their Barracuda/Suffren class.

    There is one variable that is now missing from the equation--Rickover. The guy could be a jerk--in fact, he sort of prided himself on it--but he ruled the submarine design and acquisition process with an iron fist. Instead of building a whole new class of subs with new technology, he would build a one-off to test the concept, and if it worked then extend it to a class. Suppose we had first built an Ohio SSGN (since the SSBNs were so closely tied to treaty limitations) or even a SSN with electric drive to test the concept before building a whole class?

    Quite frankly, I don't really understand why we needed to do anything other than just update the Ohios and build a bunch more. I'm not quite as opposed to habitability upgrades as is ComNavOps--I can certainly see the need for workout facilities and appreciate that women's quarters should separate from men's--but those shouldn't cost $6 billion, and if we go from 24 missile tubes to 20 that should provide plenty of room for both.

  13. "I'm not quite as opposed to habitability upgrades as is ComNavOps"

    If you're going to make claims in my name, let's be sure to get them right! I'm opposed to excessive comforts on ships because they're death traps (as proven by the Burke collisions) and because they're not necessary IF WE DON'T SEND SHIPS ON YEAR LONG CRUISES - WHICH WE SHOULDN'T BE DOING (missions, not deployments, as I've posted). The exception is the SSBN fleet which does, and should, do deployments. In that case, some REASONABLE degree of comforts is warranted. Even so, an SSBN is still a WARship, not a luxury cruise ship. We're turning ships into 5-star hotels. Whatever degree of comforts we had in the Ohios should be fine for the Columbias. We don't need to continually add more.

    Remember, every comfort is a potential killer when a ship is damaged, for whatever reason. What does every ship do when it is headed for known danger? That's right, it strip's ship in a time honored and proven tradition. They way the Navy sails these days, every ship is in danger at all times! Even pierside, ships are in danger (Bonhomme Richard and others).

    1. At its best, I don't think anyone would ever confuse an SSBN for a luxury cruise ship. They're about as mission-focused as a ship can be, and for good reason.

      I agree with you about year-long deployments. One problem that I think we have today is that we are so laser-focused on the Mideast (to the detriment of our relationships with the rest of the world, IMO), and that is so far and hard to get to, that you need a longer deployment to justify the time and effort to get there. Of course, there is an obvious solution, which is to get out of there and never take on another nation-building project. But that requires a change in thinking at the top of both our defense and our foreign policy establishments.

    2. Actually, I was more making a claim in my name than yours. You have pretty consistently decried habitability as a concern, and I have pretty consistently argued that we need a higher level of habitability to attract and retain the caliber of sailors we need for a high-tech volunteer navy. So I think the statement is an accurate representation of things we have both said many times previously.

      I think habitability can go too far, and if it interferes with readiness, or the cost interferes with the ability to build an adequate number of ships, then it has gone too far. I don't think habitability improvements did in the BHR, I think it was carelessness, and I don't think habitability is the reason that a Ford costs $14B, it is stupidity or a lack of discipline. I think a much bigger reason for both cost escalation and reduced effectiveness is the Navy's seeming passion for going with state of the art, unproved technology.

      As I suggested, why not do like Rickover and build one to test the concept (Nautilus, Albacore, Tullibee which was also turbo-electric, Triton come to mind) and if it works adopt it, if it doesn't then don't.

      Why not build an Ohio SSGN to test the nuclear-electric power plant (and also use data from the French Rubis class, to the extent the French would share), rather than just plunging headlong into a whole new class?

    3. "Why not build an Ohio SSGN to test the nuclear-electric power plant (and also use data from the French Rubis class, to the extent the French would share), rather than just plunging headlong into a whole new class?"

      Well, in fairness to the Navy, we have built a couple of electric drive submarines in the past. Plus there's the French experience. Plus I believe the Zumwalts have electric drive. So it's not completely a shot in the dark, technology wise.

  14. Why doesn't the Navy have some of its Officers that go to Ivy League schools and get MBAs work on how to reduce costs? Or even turn to Silicon Valley or some manufacturing companies to try to crows source the problem. We cannot just keep accepting higher and higher price tags for weapon systems.

    1. "work on how to reduce costs?"

      Because there is zero incentive to reduce costs. Navy leadership gets no reward for saving money. For the Navy, the money is free and there is no downside to spending like drunken sailors (sorry, couldn't resist). You just go to Congress and get more. Unlike industry where your salary and bonuses are tied to fiscal performance, thus creating incentive, the Navy's compensation is independent of any fiscal performance.

      If we tied Admiral's pay to Navy budget cutting, you'd instantly see scores of studies, commissions, and panels looking at cutting costs but that is not the current practice so ...

    2. "For the Navy, the money is free and there is no downside to spending like drunken sailors (sorry, couldn't resist)."

      Having been a drunken sailor a few times in my life, I must protest that insult to drunken sailors.

      But what if we used cost-cutting to enable building more numbers and therefore more capability?

      Carriers: Instead of Fords ($14B), build a mix of Nimitzes ($9B) and Kitty Hawks ($6B), and get twice as many carriers for roughly the same dollars. And as you have pointed out many times, the margin or superiority, if any, for a CVN over a CV is fairly thin.

      Submarines, since that is the topic here: Instead of Columbias and Columbia-based SSGNs, build updated Ohios. The only real capability increase that I see with the Columbias is possible quieter operations with electric drive. But committing to a whole class with that, without first testing it to be sure that it 1) works, and 2) delivers the expected quieter operations, sets us up of another EMALS. Build one updated Ohio, either an SSGN or a SSBN to replace one of the 14, with electric drive, operate it to see how it works, and then decide on go/no-go for the class. ComNavOps, based on your analysis, I would stretch and estimate and updated Ohio with electric drive would cost $5.3B apiece, and giving up 4 missile tubes should create plenty of room for all the habitability improvements you need. Say instead of 12 Columbias at $9.15B ($109.8B) and 5 Columbia-bases SSGNs at $9.05B each ($45.2B), we build 12 updated Ohios at $5.3B ($64B) and 20 Ohio-based SSGNs at $5.2B ($104B), so $168B instead of $155B, and for $13B more you get 15 more of your primary strike platform. Now instead of 28 Virginia VPMs at $3.1B ($87B, per CBO) and 33 Virginia replacements at $5.5B ($181B, per CBO), build 30 VPMs ($93B) and 30 of something smaller and cheaper and focused on ASW like French Barracuda/Suffren at $2.1B ($63B).

      So you have a choice of
      1) 12 Columbias ($110B), 5 SSGNs ($45B), 28 VPMs ($87B), and 33 Virginia replacements ($181B), or 78 subs for $423B
      2) 12 updated Ohios (say $5.3B each, $64B), 20 updated Ohio SSGNs (say $5.2B each, $104B), 30 VPMs ($93B) and 30 Barracudas ($63B), or 92 subs for $324B, saving $99B.

      I have said several times that I would take alternative 2) and would also spend $24B to build 30 AIP SSKs ($800MM each) to take over littoral and choke point duties and free all the SSNs for blue water missions.

      That would still leave $75B to buy more airplanes to fly off those extra carriers (750 at the current $100MM apiece), or to address areas like ASW, MCM, NGFS, and anti-surface missiles/defense where the Navy is currently deficient.

      OK, I acknowledge that my updated Ohio costs are something of a shot in the dark, but with your calculation of $3+B as the baseline and adding something for the electric drive (if proved first) then I think that's in the ballpark.

    3. The Navy does send people to Ivy League schools. Harvard Kennedy school has a fellowship program. ( MIT has a fellowship program in their MBA/Systems Engineer school as well. To be clear, it's not that hard to get into MBA program in high-ranking colleges, the bigger issue is really getting people to apply to them. However, getting a good education doesn't translate to good business decision if you don't have the incentive like CNO said.

  15. You want an anechoic to coating that stays attached? That's easily an extra billion per ship.

    Seriously though, could there be a hint in the extra displacement? Similar dimensions but a 15% increase in displacement?

    Any logical reason to build them to dive deeper? Seems one of those things that may have exponential costs increases.

    1. So take an Ohio and ComNavOps's $3.3B estimate. Add $1B for improved anaechoic tiles and $1B for enough thicker steel to dive deeper. You should save a fair amount by removing 4 missile tubes and there is where you get your improved habitability. If the electric drive is proved to work first, and is worth it, then it may add another $1B and you are at $6.3B. But that's absolutely the top for what an improved Ohio should cost.

    2. "Seriously though, could there be a hint in the extra displacement?"

      As I understand it … no. Submerged displacement is simply equal to the volume of the submerged object, regardless of the weight of that object. So, the increased submerged displacement should be simply the increased volume of the Columbia due to the greater diameter.

  16. It could be worse, the Dreadnought class has only 12 tubes and is expected to cost 31 billion pounds for 4 boats. $10.71 billion per boat at current exchange rates.

  17. From a veteran in high tech manufacturing, worked in both R&D and production.

    A high tech product's costs consist:

    R&D expense amortized
    Raw materials and components procured
    Consumable materials (gases, water, electricity, garments, gloves, ... etc.)
    Sales and management

    We all know that US defense R&D is a mess. Lots of money been spent on personal relations and wasteful thing plus cover their own incompetency. For instance, people on badge are really incompetent thus contract out many works. So you pay incompetent doing negative things, fly around to participating meetings, ...but works done by external sources. Also, people who are incompetent generally having poor organization capacities thus further drag on R&D time. All they need to do is to make excuse to equally incompetent Pentagon staff.

    Labor - you know low productivity of defense union workers who are allowed to make lots of excuses.

    Components - it is "military" and "high tech" thus are expensive. A cheap product can sell at outrageous price. Lots of "use Pentagon as ATM" happening here.

    Sales and management - make Pentagon and politicians got your votes happy with lots of under table things.

    Others - award contracts such as "research" on bogus stuff such how **** would live **** lives in a new submarine.

  18. The CBO has a document titled How CBO Estimates the Cost of New Ships that is worth a read. They use a 4-stage process summarized below:

    1. The CBO "first projects the size of a future ship, using existing ship classes as guides for the size and capabilities of the new ship."

    2. The CBO "then uses historical data from an analogous class of ship (or analogous classes) to calculate the new ship’s cost per thousand tons, multiplying that cost by the size that was determined
    in the first step."

    3. The CBO "adjusts the cost of the ship by factors associated with rate (the production efficiencies that are made possible when several ships of the same type are built simultaneously or in close succession at a given shipyard), learning (the gains in efficiency that accrue over the duration of a ship’s production as shipyard workers gain familiarity with a particular ship model), and acquisition strategy (such as whether ship contracts are granted directly to a company or awarded as the result of a competitive

    4. The CBO then "adjusts the estimated cost of the ship to account for the fact that inflation in the shipbuilding industry has been growing, and is projected to continue growing, faster than inflation in the economy as a whole. The difference between the naval shipbuilding index and the gross domestic product (GDP) price index is added to CBO’s constant-dollar estimates to reflect real (inflation adjusted) growth in costs.

    The document then goes through an example of estimating the cost of building the Virginia class submarines based on the Navy's shipbuilding plan.

    The last step was interesting in that the shipbuilding inflation rate is about 1 to 1.5 points higher than the simple rate of inflation. And, that future ship costs depend on the predicted shipbuilding inflation rate.

    It's an interesting read and it may influence future discussions.

  19. Why don't we reopen the Ohio line to replace the oldest Ohio SSBNs, and as the Columbias come in, convert the Ohios to SSGNs?

    I don't really know what was wrong with the Ohios.

    1. "There was nothing particularly wrong with the Ohios but they are reaching the end of their reactor lives and dive limits so they do need to be replaced whether with identical Ohios or new Columbias.

      That said, I don't know that there's a line to reopen. I've not heard that any of the tooling was preserved, as was done for the F-22. Further, much of the internals would be all new and different compared to the Ohios. New mechanicals, electronics, and so forth have replaced the older, purely mechanical workings so you'd be building a Columbia on the inside, for all practical purposes anyway.

      I'm not saying that the Columbia is a good design because, as pointed out in the post, there are some major mystery/questions about the design. What I'm saying is that an exact duplicate of the Ohio is no longer possible and a modernized version of the Ohio would be, essentially, a Columbia anyway, to a large extent.

  20. From

    "You should build twice as many ships with 64 cells instead of ships with 128 cells, as long as your manpower and O&M budget can take it. Besides reducing missile attrition from ship losses, having more ships means more sensors in more places giving better coverage, more economies of scale, a smoother production pipeline making it easier to keep your shipyards busy, more posts for senior officers, etc.

    "Heavy, high cell count surface combatants only made sense when command facilities, sensors and computers were expensive compared to missiles, so you want to maximize the number of missiles on your expensive cruisers. Those technological and economic conditions are fading. Missiles are growing relatively more expensive while all the electronics grow relatively cheaper. Also, with greater automation, crew costs also are growing relatively cheaper, which also pushes toward a larger number of platforms with lower cell counts."

    The commentator is from Singapore. Do you agree?

    1. What do you think? What are your thoughts on the topic?

      As a general philosophy, I prefer not to comment on someone's writing if they're not available to respond. That creates a potentially unfair situation if I happened to disagree with something they wrote.

    2. The Republic of Korea Navy apparently agrees, as indicates Flight II of the KDX III (Sejong the Great class) had its VLS number reduced from 128 to 88. Myself, I think military services need to find a middle ground between quality and quantity, instead of overemphasizing one at the expense of the other, in procurement- in short, don't be Pierre Sprey (who infamously declared, "Stealth is a scam," despite the technology repeatedly proving itself) or the overeager USAF generals who pushed to replace all its aircraft with stealth aircraft in the 1990s. Too few VLS cells, and a ship will accomplish too little to justify the opportunity costs of constructing and crewing her; too many, and she may end up being kept out of battle, for fear battle damage may force her out of service, like the battleship Tirpitz.


Comments will be moderated for posts older than 7 days in order to reduce spam.