U.S. defense contractor General Dynamics Electric Boat has been awarded a $5.1 billion contract to undertake detailed design work for the U.S. Navy’s new Columbia-class of ballistic missile submarines, the Department of Defense (DoD) announced on September 21.
According to the DoD, Electric Boat, the primary builder of submarines for the U.S. Navy, “is being awarded a $5,071,534,074 cost-plus-incentive-fee with special incentives contract for the Integrated Product and Process Development design completion for the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs).”
Furthermore, “the contract also includes component and technology development, missile tube module and reactor compartment bulkhead prototyping and manufacturing efforts, and United Kingdom Strategic Weapon Support System kit manufacturing for the Columbia class ballistic missile submarines.” (The British Royal Navy’s future Dreadnought-class of SSBNs will share a common missile compartment with the Columbia-class.)
The September 21 announcement follows approval of detailed design and engineering work after the program successfully passed a so-called Milestone B review in January of this year. “The Milestone B review was originally scheduled for August 2016, but had to be pushed back due to price, design, and production readiness concerns by the Pentagon,” I explained earlier.
With the lead boat of the class expected to cost $14.5 billion, including $5.7 billion in detailed design and nonrecurring engineering costs and $8.8 billion in construction costs—the Columbia-class will be the U.S. Navy’s most expensive ballistic submarine every built. The remaining 11 SSBNs of the class are estimated to cost around $8 billion in 2017 dollars.) In 2016, I elaborated on the Columbia-class’ technical specifications:
According to the United States Naval Institute, the new sub will displace 20,810 tons when submerged — the largest submarine the U.S. Navy has ever constructed — measure 561 feet (171 meters) in lengths, and have a beam of 43 feet (13 meters). This will make the new class only marginally larger than the Ohio-class with 18,750 tons submerged, 560 feet (170 meters) in lengths, and a beam of 42 feet (13 meters). With a complement of 155, the crew size will also be roughly the same on both ships.
The U.S. Navy is currently operating 14 Ohio-class SSBNs, capable of carrying up to 24 Trident II D-5 submarine-launched ballistic missiles fitted with multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles. General Dynamics Electric Boat built Ohio-class boats from the late 1970s to the 1990s with the first and SSBN of the class commissioned in 1981 and 1997 respectively. The Ohio-class remains the sea leg of the United States nuclear triad.
The new Columbia-class will begin replacing the Ohio-class in 2031. The new SSBNs will be designed for a 42-year service life all the way through 2085.