Electric Boat 97% Done with Columbia Submarine’s Design Arrangements, Ahead of Construction Start Next Year

April 24, 2019 4:52 PM - Updated: May 8, 2019 5:46 PM
Workers stand pose for a photo in the four-tube “quad-pack” built for the U.S. Ohio Replacement-class and U.K. Successor-class. General Dynamics Electric Boat Photo via US Navy

This post has been updated to state that the Columbia program is 97-percent complete with the design arrangements specifically. CEO Phebe Novakovic originally stated that the program was 97-percent complete with detail design; however, the detail design includes more than just the arrangements.

General Dynamics’ Electric Boat shipyard is nearly done with the basic design of the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine, the company CEO said today.

Phebe Novakovic said in the call on first quarter 2019 earnings that Electric Boat is 97-percent complete on the design arrangements and nearly 43-percent complete on construction drawings and design disclosures. The arrangements show the broader layout of the submarine and its sections, whereas the disclosures show more detail about the materials used and how to construct the components.

“We will be at 83-percent complete (in disclosures) at the start of construction, far in excess of historical design completion metrics for any class of warships,” she said.
“We have begun long-lead material construction on Columbia (SSBN-826) and will begin full construction of the first ship late next year.”

With the start of construction drawing nearer, she said the company is continuing a push to invest more in the yard’s infrastructure to support not only more work, but also work on larger modules and larger submarines.

“In response to the significant increase in demand from our Navy customer across all three of our shipyards, we continue to invest in each of our yards, with particular emphasis at Electric Boat to prepare for the higher production associated with Block V of the Virginia program and the new Columbia ballistic-missile submarine,” Novakovic said.
“As you may recall, both Columbia and the Block V represent a significant increase in size and performance, requiring additional manufacturing capacity and different logistics infrastructure to transport the larger modules from Quonset Point to the waterfront at Groton for final assembly and test.”

The Block V Virginia-class attack submarines will have an additional Virginia Payload Module section in the middle to give the subs more missile tubes, and the Columbia-class SSBN will be about two-and-a-half times the size of the Virginia SSN.

To support the larger submarines and the much greater amount of construction that will be happening at the yard at any given time beginning late next year, the company is investing capital expenditure (CapEx) money now. Novakovic said during the call that the company spent $243 million in CapEx in 2018 on its Marine Systems business – which includes Electric Boat; Bath Iron Works, which builds Arleigh Burke-class and Zumwalt-class destroyers; and NASSCO, which builds the Expeditionary Sea Base ships for the Navy.

“For 2019, we again expect the Marine segment to command the largest share of our capital budget, about half of our entire CapEx. Suffice it to say that we are poised to support our Navy customers as they seek to increase the size of their fleet,” she said.

Jason Aiken, the chief financial officer, said during the call that “capital expenditures of $181 million in the quarter were up about 75 percent from (the first quarter of 2018) as we invest in our shipyards to support the significant growth that is on the horizon. We still expect this year to be the peak at approximately 3 percent of revenues and returning to the 2-percent range thereafter.”

Megan Eckstein

Megan Eckstein

Megan Eckstein is the former deputy editor for USNI News.

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