The US Navy is one step closer to securing the first of six Columbia Class ballistic missile submarines.
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General Dynamics Electric Boat has laid the keel for the future USS District of Columbia (SSBN 826) during a ceremony in Quonset Point, Rhode Island.
The lead ship, recently named in honour of the US capital, is scheduled to enter service with the US Navy in 2027.
The ceremony for the future USS District of Columbia comes just weeks after General Dynamics secured a modification to a previously awarded Columbia Integrated Product and Process contract from the Naval Sea Systems Command.
The contract modification, valued at approximately US$314 million (AU$446 million), is expected to support the development and expansion of a submarine industrial base and the subsequent production of Columbia Class ballistic missile submarines.
The deal is also tipped to provide additional support for the manufacturing, procurement and delivery efforts for United Kingdom Strategic Weapon Support System kits.
This builds on the US$9.5 billion contract to construct and test the lead and second ships of the Columbia Class ballistic missile submarines SSBN 826 and SSBN 827.
Full construction of the SSBN 827, the future USS Wisconsin, is scheduled to commence in fiscal year 2024 upon Congressional authorisation and appropriation.
The company has been tasked with performing about 78 per cent of the construction of the Columbia Class.
The Columbia Class submarine is billed as a 560-feet (170 metres) long vessel with a load capacity of nearly 21,000 tonnes – the largest ever built by the United States.
The submarine is expected to have a life-of the-ship fuel core, capable of powering the submarine for its entire service life.
[Related: US Navy commissions new LCS]