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Submarine design effort gets $2B boost

Dec. 22, 2012 - 09:28AM   |   Last Updated: Dec. 22, 2012 - 09:28AM  |  
A U.S. Navy concept for the Ohio-Replacement Program submarine.
A U.S. Navy concept for the Ohio-Replacement Program submarine. (Naval Sea Systems Command)
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The effort to design and develop the U.S. Navy's next ballistic missile submarine got a major boost Friday with the announcement of a nearly $2 billion contract award to General Dynamics.

The contract was awarded by the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) to GD's Electric Boat division in Groton, Conn., the only shipbuilder deemed capable of designing the Ohio-Class Replacement Program (ORP) submarine.

NAVSEA, in a statement accompanying the contract announcement noted that "special incentives" are included in the cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to compensate for the lack of competition.

"The Navy established a structured series of incentives to motivate General Dynamics Electric Boat and the government to further innovation to lower non-recurring engineering costs, construction costs, and operation and support costs," Capt. William Brougham, NAVSEA's Ohio Replacement program manager, said in the statement. "This contract employs financial incentives designed to align the government's requirement for cost savings with our industrial partners' innovation and ability to earn profit."

Bob Hamilton, a spokesman for Electric Boat, acknowledged that cost-control is a top priority for the ORP program.

"The Navy has made clear that development of the next-generation strategic deterrent is its highest priority, and that affordability is key," Hamilton said Dec. 21 in an e-mail to Defense News. "The Navy has stated that it expects this contract will provide it with the best quality product at the lowest cost, and we agree.

"EB has developed a Design for Affordability (DFA) program that we successfully used on the Virginia [SSN 774 attack submarine] program to redesign the bow while reducing the cost $40 million per ship, as well as reducing life-cycle costs. EB, along with our subcontractors and vendors, will continue to utilize the DFA program, and working with the Navy, we expect to meet the cost reduction targets in the contract," Hamilton wrote.

"This contract will provide stability to our engineering and design workforce as well as the supplier base, as well assure that the schedule for the nation's strategic deterrent submarine is maintained."

The ORP is expected to produce 12 new submarines to replace 14 existing Ohio-class submarines.

The latest contract, according to NAVSEA, also covers work on a Common Missile Compartment with Britain's Royal Navy, which is developing a new ballistic submarine to replace its Vanguard-class submarines. Both new designs will use the same Trident D5 missiles now in service.

In addition to ORP design work and continuing design and development of the missile compartment, the new contract award will, according to NAVSEA, provide for "shipbuilder and vendor component and technology development, engineering integration, concept design studies, cost reduction initiatives using a design for affordability process, and full scale prototype manufacturing and assembly."

Rear Adm. Dave Johnson, NAVSEA's program executive officer for submarines, noted that the Navy's approach covers the life of the program and its ships.

"This contract moves the Ohio Replacement forward in setting the program's technical foundation ship specifications, system descriptions, and design products," Johnson said in NAVSEA's statement.

"We are setting the tone for the whole program. By emphasizing cost control across the platform through its entire life, we will ensure that every dollar is spent wisely while designing a submarine class that will be in service through 2083."

Detail design work on the new submarine is expected to begin in fiscal 2017, with construction set to start in 2012.

After a seven-year construction period, the first ship is expected to makes its first deterrent patrol in 2031.

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