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US Navy targets Ohio-class submarines for possible life extensions

The US Navy is considering whether to further extend the life of the strategic submarine USS Alaska . (US Navy)

The US Navy (USN) is planning to target five Ohio-class strategic submarines (SSBNs) for possible life extensions to help ease the transition to Columbia-class vessels, Rear Admiral Scott Pappano, USN executive officer of Strategic Submarines, said.

“We'll need two or three, [and] plan to go up to five [Ohio-class submarines for possible life extensions],” Rear Adm Pappano said on 1 November during a media briefing at the Naval Submarine League 2022 Annual Symposium.

The submarines could undergo about 18 months of necessary work in the depot, which would extend their lives by about three years. “As the world changes, as construction performance changes, we can evaluate that,” he said.

The first submarine to undergo the extension work could be USS Alaska (SSBN-732), he said.

“We would target those [submarines for the work], and plan those up front and get material [for the work] up front,” he said.

By trying to extend the lives of the decades-old Ohios, they would be entering “uncharted territory for submarines”, he added.

To help prepare the USN for the work needed to stretch out the Ohios, the service will be analysing data associated with the USN's fleet of guided-missile submarines (SSGNs), which had been converted from Ohio SSBNs.

Rear Adm Pappano referred to SSGNs as the “canaries in coal mine now”, adding, “We need Columbia [deliveries] to be heel to toe with Ohio [decommissionings]. We have to keep those ships [Ohios] going.”

He has “confidence” the navy would be able to “get Ohio class out to service life to support through the [20]30s as we bring SSGNs and SSBNs offline”, he said.

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