Assault boat christened New Jersey as substructure continues pandemic recovery
NEWPORT NEWS, Virginia – The New Jersey (SSN-796) nuclear attack boat was christened Saturday as shipbuilder Newport News continues to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on submarine construction.
The naming ceremony for New Jersey – Block IV Virginia’s fifth nuclear attack craft – takes place as the two shipyards responsible for building U.S. nuclear submarines continue to recover from Pandemic delays and focus on the Submarine prepare to build Columbia-class nuclear ballistic missile (SSBN-826).
“During COVID last year, we had to make some prioritization decisions here due to a significant reduction in our workforce, and by working with the Navy, we really did prioritize the ships that were closest to delivery,” said Jason Ward, Huntington Ingalls Industries’ vice president of the Virginia-class submarine construction, USNI News told the shipyard on Friday.
Construction companies Newport News and General Dynamics Electric Boat each build components of the Virginia-class submarines and bring the sections to each other’s shipyard for final assembly.
According to a June report by the Government Accountability Office, eight of Virginia’s ten Block IV were delayed by an average of about four months, putting subsequent Block Vs. at risk.
The shipyards reported that the overall increase in submarine workloads and the resulting increase in inexperienced hires in both sub-contractors and shipbuilders, as well as long-term staffing challenges, are driving these unfavorable cost trends for both units, “the GAO said Report.
Both shipyards are balancing the boats under construction with the requirements of Columbia-class submarine production.
“The important part of the Virginia program really revolves around cadence,” said Ward. “Two [boats] per year is really what a six month build cadence enables that supports efficiency and learning curve [and] Cost advantages [for] stable production. “
To that end, EB, HII and the Navy are taking an integrated approach to building the Navy’s nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers, Ward said.
“Coupled with this strategic initiative is the support of Congress with supplier development funds to invest in industrial capacity and capacity to meet the increased demand for these weapon systems,” said Ward.
The two shipyards studied the capital investment required to manufacture three Virginia-class submarines per year. Ward said the shipyard’s expansion would take four to five years to achieve this goal.
For the short term, Newport News is building 200-foot extensions to its bays to accommodate the proposed 84-foot extension to the Virginia Block V payload module.
Attack submarines are a key advantage of the US over its geopolitical strategic rivals China and Russia.
“New Jersey and its sister ships will meet the ever-increasing need to address Russia in the Atlantic and China’s growing threats to access to the Western Pacific,” said Vice Admiral Johnny Wolfe, the Navy’s chief strategic systems officer, in a speech during the ceremony.
“Why is every submarine we build more powerful than the previous one? The answer is because our opponents work tirelessly to do the same, ”he added.