Columbia-Class: The US Navy’s Most Advanced and Stealthiest Submarine Yet

The 18 Ohio-class submarines will be replaced by the much more capable Columbia-class, set to enter service in 2030.
Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine

No submarine has ever had the capability to potentially wipe out human life like a ballistic missile submarine equipped with nuclear warheads..

They are designed as the ultimate stealth weapon since they use the ocean’s depths to hide. Now the US has just embarked on developing what will become the most lethal and powerful nuclear submarine in the world, the Columbia-class submarine.

The new Columbia-class submarines

The powerful submarine USS Columbia will be the future pride of the U.S. Navy, and General Dynamics Electric Boat was appointed as the principal contractor.

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Ohio Replacement Submarine cutaway 2014 Sea Air and Space Symposium
Columbia-class cross-section by NAVSEA. Public Domain.

It is the first of a newly developed class of U.S. Navy nuclear-powered submarines that will substitute the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines currently in service.

Its construction began in 2020, and it is expected to be in service in 2031. The program envisions the construction of twelve units, which the Navy has announced is a top priority.

These submarines will be connected to the Boeing E-6 Mercury to complete the TACAMO (Take Charge And Move Out) mission in case retaliation for a nuclear attack is ordered.

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Columbia-class is projected to be the most lethal submarines the US Navy has ever built. Their goal is to make sure that even if the US were hit with a surprise nuclear attack, it would still be capable of responding with a brutal retaliatory strike against its aggressor, destroying dozens of cities and inflicting millions of casualties with its Trident II intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM).

The reasoning behind such a powerful weapon is that no country would dare to launch a nuclear attack, knowing that the US has nuclear submarines worldwide ready to retaliate in the worst-case scenario. Making it one of the best nuclear deterrent the US has.

Columbia-class submarines specs

Columbia-class
Columbia-class Concept NAVSEA by NAVSEA. Public Domain.

  • Expected service life: 42 years 
  • Program cost: US$109.8 billion for 12 submarines
  • Unit cost: $9.15 billion 
  • Displacement: 20,8 tons
  • Length: 560 feet (171 meters)
  • Beam: 43 feet (13 meters)
  • Installed power: Nuclear reactor
  • Range: Unlimited

The aging Ohio-class

1024px USS Ohio SSGN 726
USS Ohio by US Navy. Public Domain.

The concern is that the existing Ohio-class will begin approaching the end of their service life in 2027. Between 2032 and 2040, the Navy will only have the minimal submarine force size necessary to meet strategic deterrence requirements.

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Consequently, it is needed to get a quick replacement, and the incoming Columbia-class submarines will take that role.

However, the Columbia-class will feature several enhancements over the Ohio-class to remain competitive as other nations have similar submarines: Russia, France, the UK, China, and India.

Trident II D5 ICBM

USS Nebraska Successfully Tests Trident II D5 Missile
USS Nebraska Successfully Tests Trident II D5 Missile by Ronald Gutridge. Public Domain.

The most remarkable thing about the Columbia-class submarines is that they are equipped with the Trident II as their primary weapon.

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A powerful intercontinental ballistic missile with a price tag of 30.9 million that carries at least four warheads for over 7,500 miles (12,000 kilometers) at Mach 24, a speed that would be impossible for any current defensive system to stop.

This makes the Columbia-class a highly lethal weapon with unmatched damage potential.

But … Columbia-Class submarines are costly

Maintaining tight control over this project will be critical to guarantee its success and quick deployment because Columbia-class project costs are incredibly high.

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Some calculations estimate the program will be the most expensive project ever undertaken by the U.S. Navy. In fact, $109.8 billion is a huge amount of money, and big projects like this tend to surpass the initial estimate.

Making a comparative analysis with other military programs, the cost of an F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is $100 million, and the cost of this submarine project would equip the US Air Force with 1,000 such fighters.

Columbia-Class will be a guarantee of peace with its great deterrent power

These submarines are the culmination of decades of development and the experiences of thousands of experts who collaborated in designing this submarine with the cutting-edge technologies available today.

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This submarine is expected to last until the end of the 21st century. Its unmatched firepower and Trident II missiles make it a powerful deterrent against potential attacks from Russia, China, and potentially North Korea.


Feature image credit: Artist rendering of a Columbia-class by US Navy. Public Domain.