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Navy awards $10 billion contract for next-generation Columbia-class submarine made by Electric Boat

A groundbreaking was held for General Dynamics Electric Boat’s south yard assembly building Friday morning. The building will be used to manufacture the next generation of Columbia class submarines. (Brad Horrigan / Hartford Courant/TNS)

The U.S. Navy on Monday announced a $10.3 billion contract that includes funding plans for the next-generation ballistic submarine Columbia designed and built by General Dynamics Electric Boat.

The award is tied to a contract for production of the first two Columbia-class submarines set to begin next year and 2024.

It includes $9.5 billion for a contract option for the two Columbia-class submarines that’s contingent on congressional approval in the complicated procedures required to approve annual budgets, said Rep. Joe Courtney, the Connecticut Democrat whose district includes Electric Boat’s Groton shipyard.

“I think the prognosis is excellent,” he said of the prospects for congressional approval.

The contract also includes $869 million awarded immediately to complete submarine design work, engineering and industrial expansion, said Courtney, chairman of the House Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee.

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“Today’s announcement means ‘Game on’ for this exciting and transformational project that will shape our region’s economy for the next two decades,” he said.

The replacement of the Navy’s sea-based strategic deterrent comes “only once every other generation, and this work is already fueling unprecedented growth in the workforce in Groton and transformation of the shipyard,” he said.

Kevin Graney, president of Electric Boat, said Columbia’s design is “more advanced than that of any previous submarine program.”

Electric Boat is the prime contractor on the design and construction of the 12-ship Columbia class. Advanced construction began in 2017 at the Electric Boat shipyard in Quonset Point, R.I. Final assembly and test of the Columbia class are scheduled to begin in 2024 at Electric Boat’s shipyard in Groton.

Electric Boat broke ground last September for an $850 million shipyard expansion project to prepare for the construction of the Columbia\u2010class nuclear\u2010powered ballistic missile submarines to replace the Ohio\u2010class submarines. The Columbia class submarines will be assembled in the Groton shipyard.

The Navy, which has identified the Columbia as a top priority program, wants to take the first Columbia-class boat in 2021.

The Columbia class submarine, which is designed with a 42 year service life, is 2-1/2 times the size of Virginia-class submarines being built at the Groton shipyard and the largest submarine ever built by the U.S.

President Donald Trump has proposed cutting one Virginia-class submarine from production. Courtney said the House is restoring funding and the Senate version partially restores money for the sub. Workers at Electric Boat are building 58 Virginia class submarines through 2034.

As the plans for Columbia developed, the engineering workforce at Electric Boat has grown, filling what previously was a Pfizer Inc. building with thousands of employees designing the Columbia.

The increased pace of submarine construction, and the retirements of baby boomers, will require Electric Boat to fill thousands of jobs. As many as 18,000 employees will be hired in the next 10 years and the number is expected to peak at 20,000 by 2030.

More than 16,000 work at EB now.

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© 2020 The Hartford Courant