The Navy has named General Dynamics [GD] Electric Boat the prime contractor for the Ohio replacement submarine, while Huntington Ingalls Industries [HII] Newport News Shipbuilding will take a secondary role in designing and constructing the new boomers, according to a new strategy released this week.

Design and construction work will be split 80-20 between Electric Boat and Newport News, and the former company will assemble and deliver the Ohio replacements, Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) told Defense Daily. Courtney represents Groton, Conn., the headquarters of Electric Boat.

The SSBN(X) will replace Ohio-class ballistic subs. Photo: U.S. Navy
The SSBN(X) will replace Ohio-class ballistic subs.
Photo: U.S. Navy

The Navy devised the Submarine Unified Build Strategy so that it could best manage the concurrent production of the Ohio replacement ballistic missile submarine and Virginia-class attack sub without schedule delays or cost overruns, according to Navy spokeswoman Capt. Thurraya Kent. The strategy—which both companies have agreed to—took into account the shipbuilders’ construction capacities, supplier capacity, required schedule, potential funding mechanisms, various contracting approaches and other factors.

Electric Boat will have the primary responsibility for designing and delivering the 12 Ohio replacement submarines, which will supersede the 14 Ohio-class boomers currently in the Navy’s fleet. Electric Boat built all 18 Ohios in the Navy fleet, including four reconfigured to guided missile submarines (SSGN) used for special operations missions. Newport News in Virginia will participate in the design and construction of major Ohio replacement assemblies and module, she said.

Both companies are the only domestic shipbuilders capable of manufacturing a submarine.

Electric Boat also will continue as the prime contractor for the Virginia-class attack submarines, but Newport News could take on additional work for that program, Kent said. Under the current construct, both companies build sections of the subs and then alternate assembly and final delivery. Newport News may take on more deliveries as the Ohio replacement program ramps up.

In a March 28 news release, Courtney, the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee seapower and projection forces subcommittee, applauded the selection of Electric Boat as the prime contractor for the Ohio replacement program. He also praised proposed Navy action that would keep the companies building two Virginia-class submarines a year in 2021, after Ohio replacement construction starts.

“I am particularly pleased that the plan also reflects the increasingly urgent testimony that I have heard from our senior Navy leaders about the pressing need to also sustain the two-a-year build rate for new attack submarines,” he said. “Over the last two months, experts and major combatant commanders have made it clear that our current fleet is strained beyond its ability to meet the demand for undersea capabilities – and that we need to do all we can to mitigate the looming shortfall in the decade ahead.”

Courtney and HASC Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) on Tuesday visited Electric Boat’s Groton facility, where the pair were briefed on potential cost saving efficiencies, Courtney said.

Electric Boat will have to hire thousands of workers to step up production of the Ohio replacement. Company officials told lawmakers in February they planned to expand its workforce in Groton and Quonset Point, R.I., from 14,000 to 18,000 employees by 2020, Courtney said.

“That should pretty much be able to accommodate the added work but there is some still unanswered questions about precisely how the Virginia production is going to be handled between New England and Virginia,” he said. “That still has potential for changing.”

Newport News in a statement said it was pleased with its role in the Ohio replacement program and to take on added responsibilities for Virginia-class deliveries.

“With this commitment from the Navy, we are making significant investment in our facilities and our workforce to support construction of both the Virginia-class and Ohio Replacement programs,” spokeswoman Christine Miller said in an email. “This investment, coupled with leveraging lessons learned from the successful VCS (Virginia-class submarine) program and our engagement with the submarine industrial base, prepares us to build both submarine classes in the most efficient and affordable manner to provide the best value to the Navy and to America. The specifics of our increased VCS role are still being worked out.”

General Dynamics also looks forward to working with the Navy and Newport news on the next generation of ballistic missile submarines, spokesman Timothy Boulay said in a statement.