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Navy's new sub program at risk of delays

By: Tony Peck
February 5, 2018 Updated: February 5, 2018 at 10:06 am
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The Ohio-class guided-missile submarine USS Michigan arrives in Busan, South Korea, for a scheduled port visit while conducting routine patrols throughout the western Pacific. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jermaine Ralliford/U.S. Navy via AP)

Possible delays in critical technologies could postpone the roll-out of the Navy’s new Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine.

The Navy’s newest subs are designed to replace the aging Ohio-class fleet, with construction scheduled to begin on the first of 12 subs in 2021.

In a new report from the Government Accountability Office, concern was raised that key systems are at risk, to include the integrated Power System, nuclear reactor, common missile compartment, and propulsor.

“It is unknown at this point whether they will work as expected, be delayed, or cost more than planned. Any unexpected delays could postpone the deployment of the lead submarine past the 2031 deadline,” said the report.

The $267 billion program is a top priority by the Defense Department. By its completion the vessels will carry up to 70 percent of the nation’s strategic nuclear capability. That capability is a crucial tool for the Defense Department.

“The first Columbia must begin patrols in 2031 to prevent a gap in deterrent capabilities,” said the GAO report.

Last year a Russian news agency reported that the Russian military is developing its own next-generation nuclear submarine, known as Project Husky, with construction on the first sub reported to start as early as 2020.

While ballistic capable subs may see a delay, the Navy’s production of next generation fast attack submarines is fully underway. The Virginia-class has been steadily replacing the old Las Angles-class boats since 2003.

The USS Colorado is the 15th Virginia-class sub to be commissioned, with the ceremony being held this Saint Patrick’s Day, March 17.  

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