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Electric Boat secures $9.47 billion Navy contract to build Columbia submarines

An artist rendering of the future Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines.

U.S. NAVY ILLUSTRATION

By KIMBERLY DRELICH | The Day | Published: November 7, 2020

GROTON, Conn. (Tribune News Service) — General Dynamics Electric Boat has secured a $9.47 billion U.S. Navy contract for two Columbia-class submarines, part of a program that Electric Boat President Kevin Graney called the Navy's "top strategic priority."

The funding will support the "construction and test of the lead and second ships of the Columbia class, as well as associated design and engineering support," the company said in a news release.

Electric Boat officials, union representatives and lawmakers gathered Friday afternoon at a news conference at the south yard assembly building construction site to highlight the funding. The 200,000-square-foot-facility will be completed around the end of 2023 and will be used for the assembly and testing of the submarines.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said the day "begins a new era in submarine building for the United States."

"It marks a major milestone in a key part of our undersea warfare and our nuclear deterrence," he said.

The 560-foot-long Columbia-class submarines are slated to be the largest constructed in the United States and will replace the older Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines, EB said in a news release.

The first Columbia-class submarine is slated to be delivered to the Navy in 2027, and the second one in 2029, Graney said.

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said the USS Columbia and USS Wisconsin to follow "will arguably be the two most technologically complex machines that have ever been built in this country and to think that they are being built here in Connecticut by Connecticut workers just makes us all so proud."

U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, who helped obtain $8 million in funding more than a decade ago for the initial groundwork on the program to replace the Ohio-class submarines, said in a statement that the "announcement makes the hard work, planning and advocacy for this generational program real."

"This isn't just a milestone for the shipbuilders at EB — the Columbia-class program will also be a major opportunity for industry partners up and down the supply chain for years to come, and a foundational piece for our region's economic future," he added. "Generations of shipbuilders and manufacturers will get their start working on this multi-decade program, and it's an exciting time to get more people into the pipeline for the jobs and opportunities that will come with the start of this effort."

Courtney, Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, also noted in the statement that the funding faced a recent obstacle. He said he helped work with other legislators in Connecticut and Rhode Island to ensure that the continuing resolution, which helped avoid a shutdown of the federal government, included language to allow the Columbia-class funding to continue to move forward.

Graney said EB has been preparing since it was named the prime contractor of the 12-sub Columbia-class program in 2016, and the company said in the release that the design phase is nearly 90% complete.

Advanced construction began around 2017 at EB's Quonset Point, R.I., facility, The Day reported. The first module is slated to be delivered to Groton from Quonset Point around the 2023 timeframe, he said.

"We're hiring and training and we're going to continue to hire and train thousands of skilled shipyard workers who will be constructing new ships for the Navy for generations to come," Graney said. "We're also making significant investments to expand and upgrade our facilities and we are working diligently with our supply base to help bolster their performance."

He anticipates Electric Boat's workforce will grow from 17,000 workers today to 20,000 around 2030.

Blumenthal said EB has a great apprenticeship and training program but called for additional investments in training for submarine building and he is advocating allocating more money for training in the National Defense Authorization Act. He also called for continued bipartisan support of the submarine program.

Gov. Ned Lamont also lauded the news in a statement: "We have always been proud to be the home of Electric Boat, maker of the best submarines in the world, and this announcement cements their future in our great state."

k.drelich@theday.com

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