Late Turbines Have ‘Major Impact’ on Columbia Sub Delivery Schedule, Says SECNAV

April 10, 2024 6:57 PM - Updated: April 10, 2024 7:35 PM
Artist’s rendering of the Columbia-class SSBN submarine. US Navy Image

This post has been updated with a statement from Northrop Grumman.

Late delivery of steam turbines for the under-construction District of Columbia (SSBN-826) is one of the main obstacles the Navy faces in delivering the nuclear ballistic missile submarine on time, Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro told a House panel on Wednesday.

“One of the most significant challenges that we have with Columbia … is actually the late delivery of the turbine generator to Columbia by subcontractor Northrop Grumman,” Del Toro the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense.
“That has had a major impact on the Columbia.”

The turbines must be installed before the submarine’s pressure hull is sealed and the delay has had a cascaded to the completion of other systems, USNI News understands.

The new turbine design takes the steam generated from the atomic reactors to power the ship-wide electrical grid that makes the submarine quieter than the previous Ohio-class boomers. The turbines are government-furnished equipment and have been subcontracted to Northrop Grumman. USNI News reported on the turbine delay last month.

“Northrop Grumman is fully committed to the Columbia-class program, and is fully supportive of General Dynamics Electric Boat and the U.S. Navy as we work together to deliver this program,” the company said in a statement to USNI News.

The 12-boat, $136 billion class has repeatedly been called the most important Pentagon acquisition program. District of Columbia was to join the service as the first Ohio-class boomer –USS Henry M. Jackson (SSBN-730) is set to decommission in 2027.

In addition to the turbines, sources familiar with the slip in schedule have also pointed to the delay in completing the bow dome of District of Columbia. The dome, the same design as the Ohio-class, is getting cast at forge at HII’s Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia. The HII yard builds the sterns and bows of the Columbia-class submarines in an arrangement with prime contractor General Dynamics Electric Boat.

Del Toro highlighted the ongoing workforce recruiting and retention issues across the shipbuilding industrial base and problems in the supply chain.

“We have a shortage of a blue-collar workforce in this country that is significantly impacting our shipyards, and it’s making it difficult for them to actually be able to recruit. I believe the shipyards need to do more in terms of retaining their own people,” Del Toro told the panel.

In addition to the delays, Del Toro addressed his recent visits to South Korean and Japanese yards with the panel and opportunities for voyage repair for U.S. Navy warships in the Pacific.

“We look forward to working with the Japanese shipbuilders and other shipbuilders around the globe, including the Indians, for example and the South Koreans to take a look at which shipyards where we could actually conduct voyage repairs,” he said.
“This is something that we should explore now, so that when we do if by chance find ourselves in times of conflict, and we have damage to our ships and repairs that have to be conducted underway, that we don’t have the need to bring them back all the way back to the United States.”

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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