The Navy on Friday awarded HII’s Newport News Shipbuilding a $1.2 billion deal to begin a maintenance overhaul on attack submarine Boise, which hasn’t operated at sea since 2015.

Newport News Shipbuilding told Defense News the work can now begin “immediately.” The contract announcement notes the work is expected to be completed by September 2029.

This comes after almost a decade of fits and starts to the overhaul work that have sent the submarine back and forth between Newport News and nearby Naval Station Norfolk and Norfolk Naval Shipyard over the years. There’s never been both space for the submarine to undergo repairs and money to fund it at the same time, making the Boise the poster child for the submarine community’s readiness woes in the past decade.

The 31-year-old Los Angeles-class submarine completed its last patrol in 2015 and was supposed to come to the Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Virginia for an extended engineering overhaul.

But the largest of the four public shipyards faced a significant backlog, working on ballistic missile submarine midlife refuelings, aircraft carrier repairs and even the transformation of a couple submarines into training ships. The attack submarines fell to the bottom of the priority list; some availabilities faced long delays, while others, like Boise, didn’t even begin.

In July 2018, Boise moved to private shipyard Newport News Shipbuilding to begin an overhaul that would have lasted until 2021, Defense News previously reported. But the work didn’t start then.

In September 2020, the Navy paid Newport News $351.8 million to cover initial planning work. In April 2021, then-Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday told lawmakers the availability would begin soon, when the yard had space for Boise’s work to begin in earnest. The work didn’t start then, either.

Fiscal 2024 budget documents referred to inducting Boise into its maintenance period this fiscal year, but the Friday contract announcement will allow the work to begin.

“The NNS team looks forward to leveraging our experience in nuclear-powered submarine maintenance to begin this important engineering overhaul (EOH) of USS Boise (SSN 764). The contract covers work that will include maintenance and restoration of the ship’s hull structure, tanks, propulsion systems, electric plant, auxiliary systems, armament and furnishings, as well as numerous ship alterations,” shipyard spokesman Todd Corillo told Defense News.

Navy leaders have previously expressed concern about Newport News’ ability to conduct submarine overhauls, when the yard’s infrastructure and workforce is designed to do new construction, not repair work.

Then-Naval Sea Systems Command commander Vice Adm. Tom Moore told USNI News in 2020 it couldn’t start work on Boise yet because Newport News was struggling to repair fellow attack subs Helena and Columbus. The ship construction yard hadn’t conducted a submarine overhaul in more than a decade, he said, and the skills associated with that work had atrophied. As a result, both Helena and Columbus continued to see delays.

Helena left Newport News in January 2022, and Columbus is expected to undock this year, ahead of a 2025 redelivery to the fleet.

Corillo told Defense News the yard has learned from its work on the first two submarine overhaul periods.

“Over the past seven years, NNS has reconstituted our submarine repair business following a 10-year hiatus. In this time, we have built a proficient workforce, matured the supply chain, developed process improvements and made smart investments in required facilities,” he said. “Although we experienced challenges with our transition back into this complex business, we are now keeping pace with current submarine repair needs and also forecasting future workflow to drive predictable capacity and performance.”

He added that the yard has already done early production work to “de-risk” the Boise overhaul since the submarine arrived at the yard in 2020.

Megan Eckstein is the naval warfare reporter at Defense News. She has covered military news since 2009, with a focus on U.S. Navy and Marine Corps operations, acquisition programs and budgets. She has reported from four geographic fleets and is happiest when she’s filing stories from a ship. Megan is a University of Maryland alumna.

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