HII cuts steel for first Columbia-class submarine

Columbia-classFirst cut of steel For the Columbia-class program. Photo: Matt Hildreth/HII

Advance construction of the first in a new generation of US Navy ballistic missile submarines kicked off with a steel-cutting ceremony at Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Newport News Shipbuilding division.

With the press of a button, a plasma-burning machine cut the first steel plate that will be used to build Columbia (SSBN 826), the lead ballistic missile submarine.

Worth noting is that the US Navy’s Ohio-class replacement boomers will be the first class of submarines that will be built using fully digital blueprints.

“Today is a historic day,” said Jason Ward, Newport News’ vice president for Columbia-class construction. “It has been a half century since Newport News Shipbuilding has constructed a ballistic submarine. Today, we celebrate the decade-plus effort spent working with Electric Boat on the design of this new class of submarine as we formally transition from design to material procurement and now to construction execution.”

Newport News is performing advance construction activities under a contract the shipyard received from the main contractor on the program, General Dynamics Electric Boat. The Columbia-class boats will replace the fleet of Ohio-class nuclear ballistic submarines. Newport News is starting its work three weeks ahead of schedule to support its advance construction efforts.

“The first cut of steel is a major construction milestone that signifies our shipyard and submarine industrial base are ready to move forward with production,” Ward said. “We have worked to engage the submarine industrial base and leveraged lessons learned from the successful Virginia-class program to building the Columbia-class submarines in the most efficient and affordable manner to provide the best value to the Navy.”

Construction of the 12-boat Columbia class will take place in Virginia, Rhode Island and Connecticut, with Electric Boat assembling and delivering all of the submarines. The lead boat is scheduled to be delivered to the Navy in 2027.

According to the navy, the first patrol of the lead ship, SSBN 826, is scheduled for fiscal year 2031 as the Ohio-class boats begin retiring in 2027.

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