HONOLULU — The U.S. Navy is planning the first new submarine repair facility at the Pearl Harbor shipyard in Hawaii since World War II.
In addition to what would be Pearl Harbor’s first covered dry dock, the project is expected to provide the shipyard with a massive waterfront production facility.
A surge in demand for attack submarines and the lengthening of Virginia-class submarines to carry more missiles prompted the new construction planning.
Enclosing the dry dock could be to keep sub work secret from satellites, said Carl Schuster, a former director of operations at U.S. Pacific Command’s Joint Intelligence Center and an adjunct professor at Hawaii Pacific University.
A notice that the Navy issued to contractors in May estimated construction costs at between $2 billion and $4 billion.
The need to maintain attack submarines in the Pacific Ocean to counter China’s military capabilities requires four dry docks in Hawaii to repair the craft, the Navy said, and drove the improvements at the shipyard.
Pearl Harbor has four dry docks, but one of them is used for work on surface ships and another can’t accommodate new, larger submarines, officials said.
The latter dry dock is relatively shallow and can only accommodate older submarines with the use of “buoyancy assist modules,” shipyard spokeswoman Kate Necaise said.
This week's Government Accountability Office report is the latest showcase of the Navy's struggles to get vessels out of the shipyards on time.
The lift modules don’t have the capacity or straps suitable for bigger submarines, so a deeper dry dock is being pursued, Necaise said.
“With preliminary alternatives and options still being analyzed, a completion date cannot be projected at this time,” she said.
The modernization effort falls under the Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Program, a $21 billion effort over 20 years to improve outdated infrastructure at four Navy shipyards.