In the next decade, the aging nuclear-equipped Ohio-class ballistic missile sub “will reach the end of its operational life,” Will Lennon, Electric Boat vice president, told the Associated Press. As such, the $5 billion investment into fast-tracking the Columbia-class submarine is “extremely important,” Lennon added, in order for all 12 new submarines to be “built and delivered to the Navy on time.”
The new cash injection will go toward completing the designs for the Columbia-class submarines.
But the US Navy knows a few things about promises made by defense contractors: The USS Gerald Ford, the first of the Ford-class supercarriers, was originally slated for delivery in 2015 but was officially commissioned July 22, 2017. The carrier wound up about $6 billion over-budget to boot.
The Navy expects to send its first Columbia-class submarine into the world’s waters in 2028, with construction scheduled to start in 2021.
“Despite all the drama surrounding budgets and debates in Washington, this program is moving forward without any interference or delay,” Connecticut House Democrat Joe Courtney said September 21, adding that the contract represents “another strong indication that both the Navy and Congress are serious about making sure these boats are ready for when the time comes for the replacement of the old class.”
A March 2017 Government Accountability Office study determined at least $100 billion will be needed to complete the entire Columbia-class program.
“Observers are concerned about the impact the Columbia-class program will have on the Navy’s ability to fund procurement of other types of ships at desired rates in the 2020s and early 2030s,” the Congressional Research Service noted in a September 14 research brief.
US President Donald Trump has called for a 350-ship naval fleet but analysts have questioned whether the US maintains enough skilled shipyard workers to make this happen.