The first of a new block of U.S. nuclear Virginia-class (SSN-774) attack submarines commissioned on Saturday, after a five-month delay amidst an investigation into suspected material deficiencies in third party components on the boat.
The $2.6 billion USS North Dakota (SSN-784) entered the U.S. fleet in a ceremony at Naval Submarine Base New London, Conn. after the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) look 58 third party components in mostly in the bow and stern of the submarine.
The Navy cleared the ship for additional sea trials and commissioning following the investigation, NAVSEA told USNI News in mid-August. NAVSEA never identified the vendor.
The ship was originally scheduled to commission in May.
North Dakota is the first Block III Virginia and includes improvements to the Block I and Block II boats designed to lower the cost of production of the submarines.
The bow of the Block IIIs was redesigned to accommodate a new water-backed Large Aperture Bow (LAB) sonar array and the addition of two Multiple All Up Round Canisters that can each hold six Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAM).
The redesign was done by General Dynamic Electric Boat in Groton, Conn. and built at the Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) Newport News shipyard in Virginia.
The delay in the commissioning was a small slip in the service’s historically best run and best preforming shipbuilding program.
Even with the delay, North Dakota delivered ahead of its 66-month construction schedule. The last Block II boat, USS Minnesota (SSN-783), delivered to the service almost a year early.
The Navy plans to build eight Block III boats before transitioning to the Block IV with the planned Vermont (SSN-792).