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Electric Boat to conduct Columbia-class submarine noise reduction research

The General Dynamics subsidiary is expected to develop main thrust bearing and vibration reduction systems for the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine program.

By Stephen Carlson
Electric Boat to conduct Columbia-class submarine noise reduction research
The Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Alabama, pictured, is one of several the Columbia-class submarines are expected to replace. U.S. Navy photo

July 17 (UPI) -- General Dynamics subsidiary Electric Boat has received a $7.7 million contract for the development of main thrust bearing and vibration reduction systems for the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine program.

Under the contract, announced Friday by the Department of Defense, Electric Boat will design, manufacture and test protytype systems to mitigate propellor-induced structural vibrations in the vessel's hull and resultant noise.

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The work will be performed in Groton, Conn., and is expected to be completed by June 2021. Navy 2017 shipbuilding and conversion funds of $7.7 million will be obligated upon award.

Vibrations caused by the main shaft driving the propelllors of surface ships and submarines produce low-frequency sound radiation that can be detected by passive sonar. Keeping shipboard mechanical and powerplant noise to a minimum is the most important part of a submarine's ability to evade enemy detection.

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The Columbia-class is expected to replace the current fleet of Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines. It will field 16 Trident II D5 nuclear ballistic missiles along with torpedos for self-defese. Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles, or SLBM, form a key part of the "nuclear triad" of U.S. land-, air-, and sea-based nuclear weapons.

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Ballistic missile submarines are designed for long-endurance nuclear deterrence patrols operating under near-complete silence. They form a diifficult to detect and destroy fail-safe against the possibility of an enemy first strike destroying land- and air-based nuclear delivery systems.

The first of the 12 planned to be built, the Columbia, is expected to be complete by 2031 at a cost of $10.4 billion, counting research and engineering costs. Follow-on vessels are expected to cost over $5 billion each.

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