Navy Awards $1.2B Repair Contract for Attack Sub USS Boise More Than 7 Years Late

February 23, 2024 5:23 PM
An undated photo of USS Boise (SSN-764). US Navy Photo

The Navy awarded a contract to start repair work on a nuclear attack submarine that returned from its last deployment nine years ago, according to a Friday Pentagon contract announcement.

HII’s Newport News Shipbuilding won the $1.17 billion contract modification to start the long-overdue overhaul of Los Angeles-class attack boat USS Boise (SSN-764) at the company’s Virginia yard on the James River.

“This contract modification includes options which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of this contract modification to $1,238,312,189,” reads the announcement.
“Work will be performed in Newport News, Virginia, and is expected to be completed by September 2029.”

The yard previously won a contract to gauge the scope of work needed for the overhaul.

“The contract covers work that will include maintenance and restoration of the ship’s hull structure, tanks, propulsion systems, electric plant, auxiliary systems, armament and furnishings, as well as numerous ship alterations,” HII said in a statement to USNI News.

Boise has been the poster child for the Navy’s submarine maintenance backlog in its own public shipyards. The boat was initially set to enter dry dock for the overhaul in Fiscal Year 2016, but there was no room at Norfolk Naval Shipyard.

Attack boats are the lowest maintenance priority in the four public yards after nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines and aircraft carriers. If those repairs run long, the attack subs are bumped from the schedule. Bosie was moored at Naval Station Norfolk and eventually lost its dive certification in 2017.

The Navy instead looked to private new construction yards to chew down the backlog by having those yards take on the repair work the public yards couldn’t get to. The submarine moved to a dry dock at Newport News in May 2020 as part of a contract to determine the scope of work needed to repair the submarine.

While shifting to private yard maintenance relieved some pressure on the workload, repairs at those yards have taken longer than expected and are expensive.

HII delivered its first repaired boat, USS Helena (SSN-725), in January of 2022. The second boat, USS Columbus (SSN-762), is set to complete its maintenance period in 2025.

Overall the submarine force is trying to improve the maintenance backlog, made acute by the improved Los Angeles-class boats (688i) that entered the fleet at a rate of three to four per year in the late 1980s and 1990s starting with USS San Juan (SSN-751).

In November, Rear Adm. Jonathan Rucker the program executive officer for attack submarines said the Navy is reducing the days of maintenance delays for attack boats, but has more work to do.

“Since 2019, for attack submarines, we’ve decreased the days of maintenance delays by over 30 percent. Not where we need to be yet, but we’re headed in the right direction,” he said at the time.In November of 2022, Rucker said the service averaged 1,500 to 1,600 days of maintenance delays in Fiscal Year 2019, but cut that down to 1,100 days in FY 2022.

Naval analyst Bryan Clark told USNI News on Friday that the story of Boise is “tragic.”

“It’s tragic that you have one of the newest 688s that has been out of action for almost a decade because of a lack of industrial capacity,” he said.
“This is all on the Navy. This wasn’t something that private industry does … 688is were all coming in for their last major overall. It wasn’t sneaking up on the Navy. They knew it was coming.”

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone

Sam LaGrone is the editor of USNI News. He has covered legislation, acquisition and operations for the Sea Services since 2009 and spent time underway with the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and the Canadian Navy.
Follow @samlagrone

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