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General Dynamics Electric Boat to build first two SSBN nuclear submarines for U.S. Navy


On Nov. 5, the U.S. Department of Defense published the announcement following which General Dynamics Electric Boat Corp., Groton, Connecticut, is awarded a $9,473,511,245 cost-plus-incentive-fee modification to previously awarded contract N00024-17-C-2117. The contract modification exercises an option for construction and test of the lead and second ships of the Columbia class SSBN 826 and SSBN 827, as well as associated design and engineering support.
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An artist rendering of the future U.S. Navy Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines. The 12 submarines of the Columbia-class will replace the Ohio-class submarines which are reaching their maximum extended service life. It is planned that the construction of USS Columbia (SSBN-826) will begin in in fiscal year 2021, with delivery in fiscal year 2028, and being on patrol in 2031 (Picture source: U.S. Navy).


This modification to the integrated product and process development (IPPD) contract supports the fiscal 2021 construction start of the lead ship (SSBN 826) and advance procurement, advance construction, coordinated material buys and full construction of the follow hull (SSBN 827) in fiscal 2024. Work will be performed in Groton, Connecticut (36%); Newport News, Virginia (25%); Quonset Point, Rhode Island (17%); with other efforts performed at various sites throughout the U.S. (each less than 1%) (22%), and is expected to be completed by April 2030. Efforts within the ship include the Common Missile Compartment which is a joint U.S./United Kingdom effort.

Fiscal 2021 National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund (NSBDF) funding in the amount of $545,186,307 (96%); and fiscal 2020 NSBDF funding in the amount of $19,936,251 (4%) will be obligated at the time of award and will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C., is the contracting activity.

The Columbia-class submarine, formerly known as the Ohio Replacement Submarine and SSBN-X Future Follow-on Submarine, is an upcoming class of nuclear submarines designed to replace the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines in the U.S. Navy. The first submarine officially began construction on October 1, 2020 and is scheduled to enter service in 2031.

The Columbia class is being designed to replace the UGM-133 Trident II–armed Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines, whose remaining boats will be decommissioned, one per year, beginning in 2027. The Columbia class will take over the role of submarine presence in the United States’ strategic nuclear force.

Electric Boat is designing the Ohio replacement submarines with help from Newport News Shipbuilding. A total of 12 submarines are planned. Each submarine will have 16 missile tubes, each carrying one Trident II D5LE missile. The submarines will be 560 feet (170.7 m) long and 43 feet (13.1 m) in diameter, as long as the Ohio-class design, and 1 foot (30 cm) larger in diameter.

In studies to determine how many submarines would be needed to support the United States' strategic nuclear force, the U.S. Navy looked at the number of missiles required to be at sea and on station at any given time, the number of missiles each submarine should be armed with and the likelihood that a submarine will remain undiscovered by the enemy and be capable of launching its missiles. Also taken into consideration was how the maintenance schedule of each submarine will affect that boat’s availability to be deployed on mission.[10] Cost-reduction studies explored design and construction possibilities, including adding missile tubes to the design of the Virginia-class attack submarine, building Ohio-class replacement submarines using updated Ohio-class designs, and developing an entirely new Ohio replacement submarine design.

Using the information from these studies, the Navy concluded that a new design would be the least expensive option that could meet all of the technical requirements. For example, both the modified Virginia-class and updated Ohio-class design options would have required an expensive mid-life refueling, whereas each Columbia-class nuclear core will last as long as the submarine is in service.

The design and technology development of the Columbia class is projected to cost $4.2 billion (fiscal 2010 dollars), although technology and components from the Ohio and Virginia classes are to be included where possible, to save money. The cost to build Columbia, the lead boat of the class, will be an estimated $6.2 billion (fiscal 2010 dollars). The Navy has a goal of reducing the average cost of the remaining 11 planned hulls in the class to $4.9 billion each (fiscal 2010 dollars). The total lifecycle cost of the entire class is estimated at $347 billion. The high cost of the submarines is expected to cut deeply into Navy shipbuilding.

In April 2014, the Navy completed a 300-page specification report for the Ohio Replacement Program submarines. There are 159 specifications including weapons systems, escape routes, fluid systems, hatches, doors, sea water systems, and a set length of 171 m (560 ft), partly to allow for sufficient volume inside the pressure hull.

In March 2016, the U.S. Navy announced that General Dynamics Electric Boat was chosen as the prime contractor and lead design yard. Electric Boat will carry out the majority of the work, on all 12 submarines, including final assembly. All 18 Ohio-class submarines were built at Electric Boat as well. Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Newport News Shipbuilding will serve as the main subcontractor, participating in the design and construction and performing 22 to 23 percent of the required work.

In late 2016, some 3,000 employees were involved, in Electric Boat alone, in the detailed design phase of the program, with the procurement of the first submarine scheduled for 2021. Completion of the first submarine is scheduled for 2030, followed by its entry into service in 2031. All 12 submarines are expected to be completed by 2042 and remain in service until 2085.

On 28 July 2016, it was reported that the first submarine of the class will be named Columbia, to commemorate the capital of the United States. The Columbia-class was officially designated on 14 December 2016, by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, and the lead submarine will be USS Columbia (SSBN-826). The Navy wants to procure the first Columbia-class boat in FY2021.

On 28 October 2020, U.S. Navy Secretary Kenneth J. Braithwaite announced that the second submarine would be named USS Wisconsin.