Friday, February 11, 2011

Navy to spend money on ballistic-missile submarines to accommodate women

The Navy says it's about to start spending money to design women's accommodations for Virginia-class and future ballistic-missile submarines.
The Navy officially lifted the ban on women serving aboard submarines in the spring. Twenty-four women have already begun training to serve as early as the end of this year as officers on ballistic-missile and guided-missile submarines.
The Navy's initial plans did not include enlisted women, or the smaller fast-attack submarines because of the perceived lack of privacy.
Now the Defense Department has notified Congress that the Navy will design the next generation of ballistic-missile submarines with the flexibility to accommodate female crew members. Beginning this fiscal year, the Navy will also study how to reconfigure Virginia-class submarines to bring women on board.
The Navy plans to buy 12 ballistic-missile submarines to replace the 14 current Ohio-class, or Trident, boats that are nearing the end of their service lives. The lead ship in this new class will not be purchased until 2019.
"Design of the Ohio replacement is the next anticipated expenditure of funds in the Navy's approach to assign women within the Submarine Force," the Defense Department stated in its letter to Congress.
The design change is needed should the Navy allow enlisted women to serve on submarines. Female officers can serve on the current ballistic-missile submarines without any modifications to the subs.
"There will be flexibility if our policy changes," Lt. Cmdr. Mark C. Jones, spokesman for the commander of the Submarine Force, said Thursday, adding that "women officers are going to lead the way for the study of the integration of enlisted females."
Electric Boat in Groton, the prime contractor for the Virginia-class program, has been working on the design of the ballistic-missile submarine. A spokesman referred all questions to the Navy.
EB has not yet been asked to make any changes to the Virginia-class design, Jones said. "We're just going to evaluate the possibility," he said. "As we bring women into the Submarine Force, we're looking at different accommodations on different platforms."
Jones could not give a timeline or say how much money would be spent on the endeavors. The letter to Congress stated that the desired flexibility would be "achieved in a fiscally responsible manner."
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