This story was reprinted in today’s issue of Undersea Warfare News.
No Impact on Delivery Schedule
Lee Hudson, Inside Defense, Sep 15
Navy Must Inspect Components on Six Virginia-Class Block III Submarines
The Navy must inspect six Virginia-class submarines for questionable third-party vendor components that were discovered on the first two Block III subs, but the service does not anticipate the inspections will impact ship delivery schedules.
The service investigated 58 components aboard the North Dakota (SSN-784), which is the first Block III submarine delivered. The components included stern planes, rudder rams, retractable bow plane cylinders and numerous other miscellaneous parts, Naval Sea Systems Command spokeswoman Colleen O’Rourke wrote in a Sept. 8 email to Inside the Navy.
“To date, all necessary inboard and outboard components have been inspected and all required repairs have been completed,” she wrote.
Inspections have been completed on the North Dakota and John Warner (SSN-785), she added.
The Navy accepted delivery of the North Dakota on Aug. 29 in Groton, CT, two days before its contract delivery date. North Dakota is the first of eight Virginia-class Block III ships. About 20 percent of the sub was redesigned as part of the Virginia-class cost reduction work done to lower acquisition cost and increase operational flexibility, a Navy statement reads.
“The changes include a ship’s bow redesign, replacing 12 individual launch tubes with two large-diameter Virginia Payload Tubes, each capable of launching six Tomahawk Cruise Missiles,” the Aug. 29 statement continues.
Reducing acquisition costs for Block III Virginia-class subs is an initiative known as “2 for 4 in ’12,” aimed to reduce the cost of a single Virginia-class sub to around $2 billion in fiscal year 2005 dollars, so that the Navy could afford to buy two of them per year no later than 2012.
Virginia-class submarines each have a 33-year service life with a 72-month operating cycle, which allows each sub to be available for 14 deployments. The reduction in total ownership cost study for the Block III subs allows for a 96-month operating cycle and 15 deployments over a ship’s 33-year service life.
The Navy postponed North Dakota’s original May commissioning date because of quality issues with vendor-assembled and delivered components that required an unplanned dry-docking to correct. Additional design certification work was also required on the submarine’s redesigned bow.
“Now that certifications are complete, and we’re armed with lessons learned,” Capt. David Goggins, Virginia-class submarine program manager said in an Aug. 29 statement, “we can move forward knowing that we are providing our fleet with the most capable, and battle-ready submarine possible.