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US Navy starts Portsmouth Naval Shipyard modernisation

The US Navy is modernising Portsmouth Naval Shipyard as part of its overall effort to upgrade its shipyards. (US Navy)

The US Navy (USN) broke ground on 8 September to start a multimission dry dock project and modernisation effort at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine.

Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command (NAVFAC) awarded a USD1.7 billion construction project contract for the modernisation work on 13 August to expand and reconfigure the dry dock complex to increase the shipyard's capacity to maintain, modernise, and repair the navy's attack submarines and return them to the fleet on time.

The seven-year project, part of the USN's comprehensive Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Program (SIOP), is slated to construct an addition to Dry Dock 1 within the existing flood basin area, as well as new concrete floors, walls, pump systems, caissons, and other mechanical and electrical utilities, enhancing the 221-year-old shipyard's ability to handle multiple Los Angeles-class and Virginia-class attack submarines (SSNs).

Recent government reports have highlighted issues with the ageing US public shipyards and their inability to complete submarine work on time.

Dry Dock 1 was originally built during the Second World War to supplement submarine production. The multimission dry dock provides increased capacity for accommodating three Los Angeles- or Virginia-class attack submarines at once for repair, maintenance, and modernisation, USN officials said in statement.

Captain Daniel Ettlich, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard's commander, noted the contract was the “largest and most complex project ever” awarded by NAVFAC.

SIOP is a joint effort between Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), NAVFAC, and Navy Installations Command (CNIC) to recapitalise and modernise the infrastructure at the navy's four public shipyards.

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