General Dynamics Electric Boat (GDEB) will procure critical components and long lead material for the construction of two future Virginia-class attack submarines, SSNs 814 and 815.
Under an undefinitised contract worth $216.5m, the US Department of Defense has tasked GDEB to source materials needed for the construction of the two boats, which the US Navy aims to complete in 2034.
GDEB is the prime contractor and lead design yard for the Virginia–class and constructs the ships in a teaming arrangement with HII’s Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia.
“This contract will enable Electric Boat to begin the acquisition of critical material and components for submarines that require substantial lead time to manufacture and deliver,” said Kevin Graney, president of GDEB. “Advanced procurement is essential to achieve the high-rate production the Navy requires of the submarine industrial base. A consistent demand signal is necessary for our suppliers to invest in and grow their operations.”
Despite efforts to build and maintain submarines – an industry known to fall behind the required level of capability needed to support the US Navy – industry players are calling for more to be done.
All too aware of the overwhelming schedule risks of submarine construction, the timeline for this contract indicates the Navy’s aim to get ahead of the curve. The service is trying to secure the required materials and components with FY2023 Shipbuilding and Conversion (Navy) funds for two boats to be constructed 11 years from now.
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Virginia schedule delivery
The US Navy received its 22nd Virginia-class boat and the fourth SSN of ten Block IV Virginia submarines, the USS Hyman G. Rickover (SSN 795), on 11 October. Simultaneously, the Navy’s FY2024 budget looks to secure funds for the 39th and 40th Virginia-class boats.
The Navy has been expanding its Virginia-class fleet since FY1998 and as time passes, capabilities are becoming ever more sophisticated. FY2024 accounts for a new configuration to the SSNs it will fund: a capability for conducting seabed warfare missions.
To account for the delays in maintenance and idleness, the Navy’s time frames are gaping further into the future, which leads Graney to contend that advanced procurement is necessary to achieve high-rate production.
However, Bartlett Maritime – a corporation that helps the US Navy to overcome its submarine capability and capacity shortfall – argues that industry must look to strengthen its facilities to overcome the spectre of maintenance: “The solution lies in fixing the fundamental underlying maintenance capacity and capability problem and to dramatically accelerate our submarine overhauls.”