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Navy Awards $9.5 Billion to Electric Boat for Construction and Testing of First Columbia-Class Submarines

  • Electric Boat set to begin construction and testing of the first two boats of the Columbia class of ballistic submarines
  • Company plans to oversee 78 percent of the manufacturing process for the submarines, and is building a facility in Groton specifically for the assembly work
  • Columbia-class could result in doubling of Electric Boat workforce in southeastern Connecticut in near future

The U.S. Navy is awarding $9.5 billion to General Dynamics Electric Boat for the construction and testing of the first two Columbia-class ballistic submarines. The award allows the project to continue on time following concerns that government budget delays could postpone its timetable.

The contract covers the full scope of construction for the Columbia, the lead boat in the Columbia class, as well as engineering efforts, advance procurement, and advance construction for the second boat, the Wisconsin. Full construction of the Wisconsin will begin in the 2024 fiscal year, pending congressional authorization and appropriation. The Columbia is set to be delivered in 2027.

Measuring 560 feet long with a 21,000-ton displacement, the Columbia-class boats are the largest submarines built for the Navy. Electric Boat plans to perform about 78 percent of construction for the class, building four of the six subs’ “supermodules” at its Quonset Point facility in Rhode Island. These components will then be taken by barge to Electric Boat’s shipyard in Groton, where a 200,000-square-foot facility is currently under construction for the express purpose of supporting the Columbia program.

Twelve Columbia-class submarines are scheduled to be ready for patrol in fiscal year 2030, replacing an aging fleet of 14 Ohio-class ballistic submarines. The Navy says a life-of-ship nuclear reactor on the submarines allows for shorter mid-life maintenance requirements, resulting in a savings of $40 billion and allowing a smaller fleet to maintain nuclear deterrence objectives.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper recently called for a 500-ship Navy by 2045 to maintain naval superiority over China, with submarines playing a crucial role in meeting this goal. The Columbia program is likely to be a major economic driver for southeastern Connecticut, with General Dynamics CEO Phebe Novakovic estimating that the Electric Boat workforce could double in the next five to six years.

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