May 21 (UPI) -- General Dynamics Electric Boat has been awarded a $497 million contract modification to support future ballistic missile submarines and the nuclear shipbuilding enterprise.
The contract, announced Monday by the Department of Defense, covers expansion of the submarine industrial base to support development and construction of the Columbia-class fleet of ballistic missile submarines, which will replace the Ohio-class ballistic missile subs.
Development and expansion of the industrial base is also expected to support the nuclear shipbuilding enterprise of future Virginia-class fast attack subs and Ford-class aircraft carriers.
The contract is part of the integrated enterprise plan and multi-program material procurement and production backup units, with the goal to support vendor stability and gain economic efficiencies.
"The nuclear shipbuilding industrial base is ramping up production capability to support the increased demand associated with the Navy's force structure assessment," the Pentagon said. "Improved capacity at the sub-tier vendors reduces risk to the Columbia, Virginia and Ford class programs."
Eighty-percent of the work will be performed at the company's shipyard in Groton, Conn., with 10 percent each in Quonset Point, R.I., and Newport News, Va. It is expected to be completed by December 2031. Work will be conducted at additional locations, but they were not announced because the Pentagon said they are "competition-sensitive."
The contract modification was authorized as part of the fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act and was appropriated by Congress in the 2019 Department of Defense Appropriations Act. While the contract will be incrementally funded, the Pentagon has obligated $177 million from fiscal 2019 National Sea-Based Deterrence Funds at the time of award, none of which will expire at the end of the year.
General Dynamics' Electric Boat said the shipyard is 97 percent done with basic design and 43 percent complete on construction drawings and design disclosures of the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine, CEO Phebe Novakovic said last month during a conference call on the company's first quarter earnings.
"We will be at 83-percent complete [in disclosures] at the start of construction, far in excess of historical design completion metrics for any class of warships," she said. "We have begun long-lead material construction on Columbia and will begin full construction of the first ship late next year."
The company has been expanding its production capability as the Navy increases demand in an effort to grow the size of its fleet.
"In response to the significant increase in demand from our Navy customer across all three of our shipyards, we continue to invest in each of our yards, with particular emphasis at Electric Boat to prepare for the higher production associated with Block V of the Virginia program and the new Columbia ballistic-missile submarine," Novakovic said.
She said the company has also invested in its other associated yards, which include Bath Iron Works, which builds the Arleigh Burke-class and Zumwalt-class destroyers, and NASSCO, which builds Expeditionary Sea Base ships, in addition to the Electric Boat yards.
The Block V Virginia-class attack submarines will have an additional Virginia Payload Module section in the middle to give the subs more missile tubes. The Columbia class will be about 2 1/2 times the size of the Virginia class.
The Ohio class of nuclear-powered submarines is the current sole class of ballistic missile submarines currently in service with the Navy. The ballistic missile submarines, often referred to as "boomers," and which represent the sea-based corner of the country's nuclear triad, currently include 14 Ohio-class vessels, according to the Navy.