NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — Newport News Shipbuilding this week shipped large sections of two Virginia-class attack submarines to a New England shipyard – part of a Navy plan to ramp up production.
On Wednesday workers loaded a barge owned by General Dynamics Electric Boat with the torpedo room of the Virginia-class sub North Dakota. The section is headed to Electric Boat's main shipyard in Groton, Conn.
Newport News workers loaded a second commercial barge with the auxiliary machine room for the John Warner. That shipment will go to Electric Boat's fabrication plant in Quonset Point, R.I.
The joint shipments are part of an effort to meet the Navy's production goal of two submarines a year, according to a joint release from Newport News Shipbuilding's parent company, Huntington Ingalls Industries, and Electric Boat.
Over the course of the two shipyards' partnership, an unusual arrangement for naval shipbuilding that began in 1997, the yards have sent 100 sub parts by barge, according to Jim Hughes, Newport News Shipbuilding's vice president for submarines and fleet support.
"It's satisfying to see these units being exchanged at such a remarkable pace, and we look forward to turning the final products over to the U.S. Navy," Hughes said in a news release.
Kurt A. Hesch, Electric Boat's vice president for the Virginia-class program, said the shipments allow the two yards to construct subs in large modules, improving efficiency.
As part of meeting the stepped-up schedule, Newport News Shipbuilding last month finished work on a supplemental submarine construction building, a $100 million investment.
The Supplemental Modular Outfitting Facility is designed for construction of front bows of the Virginia-class subs, the largest and most complex part of the boats' hulls.
The two yards have a target date of 2016 to start delivering two subs a year. To handle the ramp up and the Navy's current rate of production for aircraft carriers, Newport News Shipbuilding plans to hire 5,000 to 6,000 people over the next three and a half years.
The shipyard now employs more than 21,000 people.
Newport News Shipbuilding has used Electric Boat's specialized barge to move modules up to New England in the past, and the company had to hire a commercial barge to handle shipping two simultaneously.
Huntington Ingalls spokeswoman Christie Miller said the Rhode Island shipment was handled by Lockwood Marine, a business unit of Hampton-based Lockwood Brothers, which specializes in the transport of industrial equipment.
A Lockwood executive said the company does not have permission to discuss the project.