General Dynamics Electric Boat (GDEB) has been awarded a $9.474 billion contract modification by the U.S. Navy for the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) program.
This modification option is for the construction and test of the lead and second ships of the Columbia class, USS Columbia (SSBN-826) and USS Wisconsin (SSBN-827), as well as associated design and engineering support. Efforts within the ship include the Common Missile Compartment (CMC) which is a joint U.S./United Kingdom effort.
“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”, said a Pentagon statement announcing the contract modification with Navy’s Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) as the contracting activity.
GDEB is the prime contractor on the Columbia program, which will replace the U.S. Navy’s aging Ohio-class of SSBNs. Huntington Ingalls Industries’ (HII) Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS) is assisting GDEB for the program.
Electric Boat will perform about 78% 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. 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.
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.
“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. As a result, Columbia’s design is more advanced than that of any previous submarine program,” said Kevin Graney, president of General Dynamics Electric Boat. “We are grateful for the unwavering support of the Navy and Congress in securing funding to avoid disruption of this critical program.”
The Columbia class submarines will be 560 feet (170.7 m) long and 43 feet (13.1 m) in diameter with a displacement of nearly 21,000 tons which makes them the largest ever built by the United States. This is the same length as the Ohio-class submarine design, and one foot larger in diameter.
The Columbia-class boats will have 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.
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 has 24 missile launch tubes.
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). Electric Boat will deliver the lead ship to the Navy in 2027.