General Dynamics Electric Boat (GDEB) has started construction of the US Navy’s first Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine (SSBN), USS District of Columbia (SSBN 826).

The beginning of construction was marked by a keel laying ceremony held at Quonset Point, Rhode Island, US on 4 June.

During the keel-laying event, initials of the submarine’s sponsor were welded onto a plate attached to the vessel.

SSBN 826 is co-sponsored by the District of Columbia Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser.

The vessel’s steel cutting event was held at Huntington Ingalls Industries’ (HII) Newport News Shipbuilding division in May 2019.

US Fleet Forces Command commander admiral Daryl Caudle said: “Laying the keel of the future USS District of Columbia truly is a historic occasion – not only for the countless designers, welders, metal workers, electricians, and master craftsmen whose unmatched expertise, ingenuity, hard work, and dedication will bring this modern marvel to life, but for the future sailors who will prowl the deep inside her hull, protecting our nation, deterring strategic attacks, and ensuring our freedom and way of life for decades to come.

On 3 June, US Navy Secretary (SECNAV) Carlos Del Toro revealed that the lead Columbia-class SSBN will be officially named as the future USS District of Columbia.

The addition of ‘District of’ is to remove any name conflicts with the existing Los Angeles-class submarine USS Columbia (SSN-771).

The 560ft-long Columbia-class submarines will replace the US Navy’s existing 14 Ohio-class nuclear-ballistic submarine fleet, which are expected to start retiring in 2027.

Delivery of the first Columbia-class is anticipated in 2027.

The replacement of Ohio-class ensures sea-based strategic deterrence into the 2080s.

Each Columbia-class submarine will carry 16 missiles, representing around 70% of the US nuclear triad.

The next submarine in the class SSBN 827 was named as Wisconsin in 2020.