25 January 2023
by Michael Fabey
The US Government Accountability Office said that the Columbia-class lead submarine faces potential construction delays. (US Navy)
There are concerns about lead-ship construction delays of the new Columbia-class strategic ballistic-missile submarines, according to the US Government Accountability Office (GAO).
“After more than a year of full-scale construction on the lead Columbia submarine, the shipbuilders are facing delays because of challenges with design, materials, and quality,” the GAO said in its report, Columbia Class Submarine Program Lacks Essential Schedule Insight amid Continuing Construction Challenges , released 24 January.
“The shipbuilders are working to mitigate delays using additional shipyard resources, such as more staff to complete work more quickly,” the GAO reported.
US Navy officials have maintained, repeatedly, that the Columbia lead submarine would be in operation on time for its first scheduled patrols.
Because of the Columbia-class programme's essential role in strategic deterrence, it has priority status over most national defence-related programmes, including the Virginia-class attack submarine programme, the GAO said.
“The 14 current Ohio-class nuclear-powered submarines are now nearing the end of their service lives, with retirement planned to begin in fiscal year (FY) 2027,” the GAO said. “To prevent a gap in a Department of Defense (DOD) requirement, the lead Columbia-class submarine needs to be ready for its first patrol before October 2030.”
Two US shipbuilders – General Dynamics Electric Boat and HII's Newport News Shipbuilding – design and build nuclear submarines. Electric Boat is the prime contractor for the design and construction of the Columbia class, with Newport News serving as its major subcontractor.
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There are concerns about lead-ship construction delays of the new Columbia-class strategic ballistic...