Tender for US submarine tenders—AS(X) program

US Naval News advised that on 2 October, the US Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) released a solicitation (competitive bidding process) for the detailed design and construction of new submarine tenders as part of the AS(X) recapitalisation program.

Aspects of the AS(X) program have been kept secret because these ships play a crucial role in repairing and re-arming nuclear submarines. The contract will include engineering and industrial support, training for the crew, equipment for training, and orders for necessary items for two AS(X) ships.

What is an submarine tender?

Note that a submarine tender is a type of ship that supports submarines while they are deployed. The AS(X)-class ships are being designed to support US submarines like the Virginia-class, Columbia-class, and future submarine classes. They will also be able to assist Los Angeles-class and Ohio-class submarines until those are retired.

According to the announcement, the new AS(X)-class ships will provide support and repairs to deployed submarines while they are anchored or at a pier, during peacetime or wartime. They will also offer support to submarines and ships at homeports and provide emergency repair services for deployed submarines and ships.

Previous AS(X) program work

Progress is being made on the AS(X) program. In April 2022, NAVSEA awarded contracts to L3Harris Technologies, General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (NASSCO), and Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) worth a total of $18 million.

The purpose of these contracts was to gather information including ship specifications, cost estimates, construction timelines, and other program details to guide acquisition. These contracts lasted for nine months but could be extended for another nine months.

Following these contracts, a pre-solicitation announcement was made on March 8, 2023. It stated that NAVSEA would hold a competitive bidding process for the AS(X) program in the fall of 2023.

Need for the AS(X) class ships

The AS(X)-class ships are intended to replace the ageing Emory S. Land–class submarine tenders currently used by the US Navy. These ships have been in service since 1979 and are based at Naval Base Guam and provide services and repairs to nuclear-powered attack submarines stationed there.

The US Navy plans to retire the first ship of the current submarine tenders class in 2029 and the second ship in 2030. This schedule gives a rough idea of the timeline for the AS(X)-class ship production. Delays in the development could have significant consequences for the deployment and availability of submarines in the 7th Fleet.

It is feasible that they may be used by the Australian nuclear submarines when they are deployed.

Madrigal Communications has experience working on defence projects and submarine tenders.