Something to note here is that this submarine is much more expensive than the Ford Aircraft Carrier
So a new single (boomer) submarine is now $2 billion more expensive than an entire new and modern aircraft carrierThe first carrier in the class, the USS Gerald R. Ford, is now a $13.3 billion
Great post but as shown in the table you posted above, dont forget the XLUUV program when having the submarine discussion. It seems that starting from FY26 they would be accelerating their construction to 4 XLUUVs per year. And who knows to how much they can further increase their construction rateMany people point to the surface ships as evidence of problems but I think that the most important number from the above tables is "Attack Submarines".
The shipyards can deliver two Virginias per year and any increase in production rate would require additional funding and investment in production and delivery chains as well as some infrastructure. There were public statements to that effect before the Congress from the representatives of the shipbuilding industry. Obviously those plans are disrupted by any additional funds that will be needed for the Columbias.
If you look at the table the current plan has the number of SSNs stable at 53 average until 2030 and only then the number goes up. but slowly. The plan has 54 SSNs projected for 2030 and 64 in 2040. Only then does it pick up somewhat.
When you subtract from that figure the number of CVNs and ESGs that must be escorted by an SSN because of the value of the ships you get 32 "free" subs in 2030 and 42 in 2040. At the same time those subs will probably have to deal with all enemy SSNs and that includes Russia which has 27 SSNs and SSGNs and 12 SSBNs. This number is not likely to decrease significantly in the future as Russia treats its nuclear force as an undisputed priority. 10 Borei-class, 9 Yasen-class and 4 Khabarovsk-class subs are being built or have been ordered. All these subs will absolutely test American power projection at sea inluding disrupting the operations of the task force groups the moment USN will focus their submarine assets on PLAN. It is true that subs hunting subs is not the go-to solution but it is useful to not rely on surface and aerial ASW since those are too visible and too public and not very useful for putting invisible pressure when it's necessary.
I think you are seriously understimating how fast AI advances and that it is actually accelerating now (and even more in the future). There have already been talks about how AI is now learning to dogfight in the air.XLUUV will not change the equation.
Their autonomy will be always at a disadvantage because no AI installed on a small underwater drone will ever beat a surface system which has access to every computing and information asset by the virtue of being able to communicate in real time while the drone is limited to whatever is in its library because it is isolated in the underwater environment.
Their size limits payload, endurance and flexibility. In low frequency acoustics size of array is everything so at best they will have a small towed array which will make them a mobile ADAR sonobuoy.
Numbers won't matter because China has all the capability to match the production.
What China can't do yet is match the size, technical level and experience of US nuclear submarine fleet. Here we are talking about not just the number and quality of ships, but the number and quality of crews, commanders and institutional knowledge which has been continuously developed since the introduction of USS Nautilus.
XLUUVs are just a desperation tactic much like the rest of the unmanned Wundermarine. Drones can only be supplementary systems. They can't replace a crewed ship - especially underwater - and won't be able to for decades to come because ships are not aircraft or tanks. Ships are entire land units. They do not perform a single role but multiple roles and that complicates things.
In 50 years perhaps. But not yet.