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US Navy begins construction of Columbia Class ballistic missile submarines

The US Navy has awarded a US$9.5 billion contract to General Dynamics Electric Boat (GDEB) to construct and test the lead and second ships of the Columbia Class ballistic missile submarines, SSBN 826 and SSBN 827.

The US Navy has awarded a US$9.5 billion contract to General Dynamics Electric Boat (GDEB) to construct and test the lead and second ships of the Columbia Class ballistic missile submarines, SSBN 826 and SSBN 827.

This award covers the full construction scope for the first-of-class, SSBN 826, Columbia, for SSBN 827, Wisconsin, the modification covers advance procurement, advance construction, and associated engineering efforts, with full construction beginning in Fiscal Year 2024 upon Congressional authorisation and appropriation. 

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GDEB will perform about 78 per cent of the construction of the Columbia Class and recently shifted the program to full-scale construction at the company's manufacturing complex in Quonset Point, Rhode Island. Construction of four of the six ‘supermodules' will take place at Electric Boat's Quonset Point facility. 

This incremental funding provided by this award is required for the first two ships will fund construction start, as well as provides industrial base stability, production efficiencies, and cost savings when compared with individual procurements. 

The supermodules will then be transported by barge to the company's final test and assembly yard in Groton, Connecticut, where the components will be assembled into a complete submarine in a 200,000 square-foot facility now under construction specifically for the Columbia Class.

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The Columbia Class SSBN represents a significant investment in maintaining America's at-sea and broader strategic deterrent forces into the future.

James Geurts, assistant secretary of the Navy for research development and acquisition, said, "I applaud the efforts of the Navy and industry team who worked aggressively on this contract. Columbia is the Navy’s number one acquisition priority program - awarding this contract on time is vital to keeping the program on track."

Kevin Graney, president of GDEB, added, "Electric Boat has been making preparations for construction of the Columbia class for nearly a decade, including advancing the design of this critical Navy asset, hiring and training thousands of skilled tradespeople, modernizing our facilities and helping to bolster the supply base." 

The 12-ship Columbia Class, which will replace the existing Ohio Class nuclear ballistic submarine force, is scheduled for its first patrol in FY2030.

"We are grateful for the unwavering support of the Navy and Congress in securing funding to avoid disruption of this critical program," Graney added. 

The Columbia Class will be constructed with a life-of-ship reactor resulting in a shorter mid-life maintenance period. As a result, strategic nuclear deterrence requirements can be met with a smaller overall force structure of 12 Columbia Class submarines, compared with 14 Ohio Class submarines, saving over $40 billion in acquisition and operational costs.

Advanced construction began in 2017 at the company's facility in Quonset Point, Rhode Island. Final assembly and test of the Columbia Class will take place starting in 2024 at Electric Boat's shipyard in Groton.

General Dynamics is investing $1.8 billion in capital expenditures to construct and expand its facilities to support the construction of the Columbia Class, the world's most advanced strategic missile submarine. The company's three primary locations are in Groton and New London, Connecticut; and Quonset Point. Its current workforce is more than 16,000 employees.

The US Navy's ballistic missile submarines (SSBN), often referred to as 'boomers', serve as an undetectable launch platform for submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs). They are designed specifically for stealth and the precise delivery of nuclear warheads.

SSBNs are specifically designed for extended deterrent patrols – to decrease the amount of time required for replenishment and maintenance, Ohio Class submarines have three large-diameter logistics hatches that allow sailors to rapidly transfer supply pallets, equipment replacement modules and machinery components, thereby increasing their operational availability.

At 560 feet long with a displacement of over 21,000 tonnes, the submarines of the Columbia Class will be the largest ever built by the US, and will have a life-of-ship fuel core that will power the submarine for its entire service life, eliminating the need for a mid-service refueling.

Electric Boat will deliver the lead ship to the Navy in 2027.

General Dynamics is a global aerospace and defence company that offers a broad portfolio of products and services in business aviation; combat vehicles, weapons systems and munitions; IT services; C4ISR solutions; and shipbuilding and ship repair. General Dynamics employs more than 100,000 people worldwide and generated $39.4 billion in revenue in 2019.

US Navy begins construction of Columbia Class ballistic missile submarines
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