A port bow view of the nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine USS OHIO (SSBN-726) secured in the water during its commissioning. The partially-constructed nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine GEORGIA (SSBN-729) displays a “Good Luck Ohio” banner nearby. Both ships are products of General Dynamics Corp.

According to several U.S. sources familiar with the matter at hand, the United States has begun the production of a new nuclear arsenal – a Columbia-class submarine for which nearly $10 billion has been allocated.

The development assumes significance since the this is the first time that Washington is building a submarine based exclusively on digital blueprints. A transfer to the fleet is scheduled for 2027.

According to sources, the submarine will be 171m long with 13 meters wide and will feature 16 launchers. The design of the submarine will allow it to go on patrol at least 124 times during its entire service life – 42 years.

Unlike its peers, the design of the Columbia-class submarine will allow it to operate without needing it to return and reload fuel. This will be for its entire service life. So the the United States has sunk in $9.47 billion and plans on building 12 of them, with the first to be completed in 2030. The remaining 11 will be completed by 2042.

The timing of the construction of the Columbia class submarine is crucial since it comes at a time when its Ohio class submarines, the country’s only nuclear powered submarines, will begin decommissioning in 2030. Unless construction of the Columbia class nuclear powered submarines begin now, the United States will be left without nuclear submarines.

“Ohio” class submarines  have been operational since 1981. While they are by far the most advanced submarines in the world and carry up to 24 launchers, as against 16 carried by Columbia-class submarines, they are being gradually decommissioned.

The Columbia-class submarines are also significantly more quiet than their Ohio-class peers.  

While it is understandable that there will be very little details on the technical aspects of the Columbia-class submarine, it would be safe to assume that it will provide the U.S. Navy some great advantages over adversaries.

No wonder, Michèle Flournoy, who was the Deputy Secretary of Defense for Political Affairs in the Obama Administration, said the US Navy has the capability to destroy the entire available Chinese fleet within 72 hours in the South China Sea.

“China will have to think three times before trying to face the US Navy in the South China Sea <… > in the South China Sea, the US Navy has the ability to sink the Chinese fleet for 72 o’clock”, said Flournoy.