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Pentagon budget 2025: USN prioritises undersea programmes, but cuts Virginia-class submarine

Despite struggling to deliver enough Virginia-class submarines to meet naval commitments, the navy is cutting a previously proposed submarine in its FY 2025 budget. (Michael Fabey)

Submarine acquisition programmes included in the proposed US Navy (USN) fiscal year (FY) 2025 budget underscore the importance of subsea operations for the service, with the USN proposing to spend about USD16.9 billion for combined Virginia-class attack submarine (SSN) and Columbia-class strategic submarine (SSBN) work, according to budget documents released 11 March.

“Undersea capabilities are a major focus for this budget,” Erik Raven, the navy's undersecretary and chief operating officer (COO), said during an embargoed 8 March briefing ahead of the budget release.

However, that combined submarine budget request is only USD800 million more than the combined request for the two programmes in FY 2024, according to budget documents.

Moreover, while the FY 2024 request funded the acquisition of one Columbia-class submarine and two Virginias, the FY 2025 covers the cost of only one Virginia and no Columbia boats.

The FY 2025 request provides for the second of two years of incremental funding for the second Columbia-class submarine. Also, the advance procurement budget request will fund advanced construction and procurement of major hull components and propulsion systems for future Columbias, according to budget documents.

USN officials maintain Columbia remains the service's acquisition priority as the submarines must be ready for strategic patrols to replace the legacy Ohio-class SSBNs.

However, Virginia-class acquisitions have become a major concern, as the navy and submarine builders have struggled to meet capacity throughputs needed to maintain the USN's own requirements as well as those anticipated to meet future requirements under the AUKUS pact uniting the US, the UK, and Australia.

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