GD Electric Boat Tightening Oversight on Vendor That Botched Columbia Missile Tubes

General Dynamics [GD] Electric Boat brought the hammer down on the supplier that botched a weld job this year on 12 missile tubes intended for the Columbia-class submarine, the president of the submarine prime said here Wednesday.

However, the extent of the consequences for vendor BWX Technologies [BWXT] — and any effect on the boat’s delivery schedule — was unclear.

“I think we well understand the causes of the relevant defects and we’ve developed with the suppliers protocols that prepare them as necessary and minimize the potential impact to schedule as a result,” Jeffrey Geiger, president of General Dynamics Electric Boat, said at the Naval Submarine League’s 2018 annual symposium and industry update in Arlington, Va.

BWXT self-reported bad welding on 12 Common Missile Compartment tube assemblies to both GD and the Navy some time in the quarter ended June 30, company president Rex Geveden disclosed in a conference call with investors this summer. BWXT delivered seven balky tubes to GD before it caught the mistake.

At the Naval Submarine League show, Geiger said BWXT’s slip-up prompted GD to change “inspections and quality control practices at the supplier, and also [change] ... the kind of things we [GD] review and the way we are represented in the facilities at our suppliers ... to prevent future occurrences.”

In an opening keynote to the symposium, Adm. James Caldwell, head of the joint Navy-Department of Energy nuclear reactors program, insisted the Navy and its industry partners would still start construction on the first Columbia-class boat in 2021, with an eye toward first patrol in 2031.

BWXT Nuclear Operations built the 12 troubled tubes under a Block II Common Missile Compartment tube assembly subcontract awarded by GD in April 2017, and worth a little more than $75 million. BWXT is under contract for 26 tubes. The company expected to finish building the tubes in 2021, according to a press release announcing the Block II subcontract award.

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