The U.S. Navy, Electric Boat, Lawmakers and Workers Celebrate the Beginning of Construction of the Columbia-Class Submarine, a ‘Critical Part of America’s Nuclear Deterrent’

Members of Congress, US Navy brass and submarine manufacturing workers celebrated the start of construction of the US Navy’s next-generation Columbia-class ballistic nuclear submarine on Saturday.

General Dynamics Electric Boat, the Connecticut and Rhode Island-based builder, held a symbolic keel-laying ceremony, reminiscent of the early days of shipbuilding when the center timber, the backbone of a vessel, was put in place, marking the start of construction. The future USS District of Columbia was the focus of the meeting at Electric Boat’s Quonset Point, RI shipyard.

The Columbia is a top Navy priority and represents a “critical component of the United States’ nuclear deterrence and national security strategy,” said Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2, and chairman of a subcommittee House Armed Services. It will replace 14 Ohio-class submarines that are expected to begin retiring from service in 2027 after more than 40 years of operation.

The District of Columbia is the first ship in the new class of ballistic missile submarines built for the United States Navy by Electric Boat.

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, Representative for Washington, D.C. in the United States House of Representatives, reminded the public that Washington, D.C. has no electoral representation in the House and no senators represent the more than 700,000 residents of the district.

She said she was told by the Navy in 2016 that Columbia would recognize the residents of the District of Columbia “with this great honor and especially our service members and veterans who have fought in every American war since the founding of our nation, all without electoral representation in Congress.”

“He should recognize the jurisdiction that will become the 51st state of the United States of America,” Norton said to applause.

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She then signed her initials which were soldered onto a ceremonial plaque.

U.S. Senator Jack Reed, DR.I., and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the Quonset Point and Groton shipyards have evolved over the past 30 years into “massive complexes.” A 200,000 square foot assembly building is being built at the Groton Naval Shipyard as part of an $850 million expansion to accommodate a significant increase in construction related to the Columbia and Virginia class submarines .

The electric boat cannot rent fast enough. He said in January he plans to hire more than 3,000 workers this year, a 20% increase from 2021, as US military strategy faces growing North Atlantic threats from Russia. and in the South Pacific from China.

At 560 feet and displacing 20,810 tons, the District of Columbia will be the largest submarine ever built by the United States, Electric Boat said. Its reactor will not require refueling for its intended service life, maximizing its deployment time. In addition to the missiles the District of Columbia will carry, it will be armed with Mk 48 torpedoes and feature superior acoustic performance and state-of-the-art sensors to make it the most capable and quietest submarine ever built, according to Electric Boat.

The Navy’s fiscal year 2023 budget estimates the total cost of a class of 12 Columbia ships at $112.7 billion, according to an April report from the Congressional Research Service.

The research agency identified several risks, including a delay in the design and construction of the Columbia-class boat that could compromise the Navy’s ability to prepare it for its scheduled first patrol in 2031, cost increases that could impact funding for other Navy programs and potential vendor challenges associated with building Columbia-class and Virginia-class submarines concurrently.

Stephen Singer can be reached at [email protected]

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