U.S. Navy Ordered Two Columbia-class nuclear Submarine

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The US Navy has awarded General Dynamics Electric Boat a USD9.5 billion contract modification option for construction and testing of the first two Columbia class nuclear-powered submarines, as well as associated design and engineering support.

Electric Boat – a wholly owned subsidiary of aerospace and defence firm General Dynamics – is the prime contractor on the Columbia programme, which will replace the aging Ohio class of ballistic missile submarines.

A rendering of a Columbia Class submarine (Image: General Dynamics Electric Boat)

The US Department of Defense said the modification to the integrated product and process development 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 is expected to be completed by April 2030.

Electric Boat will perform about 78% of the construction of the Columbia class and recently shifted the programme 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.

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The supermodules will then be transported by barge to the company’s Final Test and Assembly facility in Groton, Connecticut, where the components will be assembled into a complete submarine in a facility now under construction specifically for the Columbia class.

At 170 metres long, with a displacement of nearly 21,000 tonnes, the submarines of the Columbia class will be the largest ever built by the USA. It 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 twelve Columbia class submarines, compared to fourteen Ohio class submarines, saving over USD40 billion in acquisition and operational costs, the US Navy said.

General Dynamics recently reported that the design maturity for Columbia was almost 90% complete, nearly twice the level of design completion of the lead Virginia class submarine when it started construction.

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