The U.S. Navy is betting the future of its submarine force on a secret and revolutionary nuclear drive system that aspires to be more efficient and quieter than anything under the water today.
The heart of the planned ballistic missile Ohio Replacement (OR) program will be built around a drive that will not need to be refueled for the 50-year life of the boats and cuts out potentially noisy direct mechanical connection to the drive train. In other words, the Navy's next-gen subs could be almost silent, and keep running for a half-century straight.
The Navy's ballistic missile fleet, or boomers, rely on stealth to hide from rival boats, ships and sub-hunting aircraft. The quieter the boat, the harder it is to find. (And these boats are big: the current Ohio boomer is more than a football field and half long displacing 19,000 tons.)