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US Navy Columbia-class programme lead ship faces construction delays, GAO says

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).

โ€œAfter 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,โ€ the GAO said in its report, Columbia Class Submarine Program Lacks Essential Schedule Insight amid Continuing Construction Challenges , released 24 January.

โ€œThe shipbuilders are working to mitigate delays using additional shipyard resources, such as more staff to complete work more quickly,โ€ 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.

โ€œThe 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,โ€ the GAO said. โ€œTo 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.โ€

Two US shipbuilders โ€“ General Dynamics Electric Boat and HII's Newport News Shipbuilding โ€“ 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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