NSPC Makes Historic First Casting for U.S. Navy Columbia-Class Submarine

The Naval Foundry and Propeller Center (NFPC) in Philadelphia, a detachment of Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY), made the first casting for a U.S. Navy Columbia-Class nuclear ballistic missile submarine (SSBN), Aug. 26.

James F. Geurts, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition, along with senior Navy leaders and congressional members, visited NFPC to see the historic event.

“This casting represents one of the largest in American history weighing over 200,000 pounds,” said Geurts. “Awesome sight to see.”

Geurts, joined by a congressional delegation including Rep. Joe Courtney of Connecticut, Rep. Rob Wittman of Virginia, and Rep. Donald Norcross of New Jersey were briefed on the manufacturing capabilities provided by NFPC, a Department of Defense manufacturing facility that specializes in advanced engineering, castings, and precision machining that supports the mission of the U.S. Navy.

The work done at the foundry supports the Columbia Class submarine program. Columbia-class submarines will replace the aging Ohio Class submarines and ensure sustainment of the most survivable leg of America’s nuclear triad. The Columbia program remains the CNO’s top acquisition priority.

According to Geurts, the work being done at NFPC speaks to the key role that the Navy’s civilian workforce has in delivering capacity to meet national security commitments. “Great to see the combined team keeping Columbia progressing, and on schedule,” said Geurts. “By being able to do the casting ahead of construction start, it gives us a positive margin towards the schedule we need for Columbia.”

U.S. Navy Columbia-class SSBN

Columbia-class submarine, formerly known as the Ohio Replacement Submarine and SSBN-X Future Follow-on Submarine, is a future U.S. Navy nuclear submarine class designed to replace the Trident missile-armed Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines.

General Dynamics Electric Boat (GDEB) is designing the Ohio replacement submarines with assistance from Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS). The Navy plans to construct a total of 12 Columbia-class submarines.

Columbia-class SSBN Rendering
Rendering of Columbia-class nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN).

The submarines will be 560 feet (170.7 m) long and 43 feet (13.1 m) in diameter. That is the same length as the Ohio-class submarine design, and one foot larger in diameter. Each submarine will have 16 missile tubes and each tube will be capable of carrying one Trident II D5LE submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM). Ohio-class subs had 24 missile launch tubes.

The vessel has X-shaped stern control surfaces (hydroplanes), sail-mounted dive planes and integrated electric propulsion. The vessel’s nuclear fuel core is sufficient to power the ship for its entire expected service life, unlike the Ohio-class submarines, which require a mid-life nuclear refueling. The boats may also be equipped with a Submarine Warfare Federated Tactical System (SWFTS), a cluster of systems that integrate sonar, optical imaging, weapons control etc.

The Columbia class was officially designated on December 14, 2016, by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, and the lead boat will be USS Columbia (SSBN-826).

The lead boat, Columbia is scheduled to begin construction in Fiscal Year 2021 with the first delivery to the Navy in 2028. The submarine will enter service in 2031 (some 50 years after its immediate predecessor, the Ohio class, entered service). The submarine class will serve through 2085.

In May 2019, HII hosted a ceremonial first-cut-of-steel event at its NNS division to mark the start of advance construction for the future USS Columbia (SSBN-826).

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