Welding problem found on missile tubes intended for new submarines

GROTON — The U.S. Navy has awarded a $22.2 billion contract for the construction of nine additional Virginia-class submarines.

The office of U.S. Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island announced the contract Monday for General Dynamics’ Electric Boat in Connecticut and Rhode Island and Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc. in Virginia, the two companies that have been building the attack submarines in partnership.

The submarines included in the latest contract are to be delivered to the Navy between 2025 and 2029.

They also will be slightly larger and have additional capabilities compared with earlier Virginia-class submarines. The newer subs will weigh about 10,200 tons and have a length of 460 feet.

Reed’s office says the contract includes an option for a 10th submarine that could raise the contract value above $24 billion.

“This contract is a major win for Rhode Island that will bring a host of economic benefits to the state. It means submarine production at Quonset stays on course and continues full speed ahead for the next decade and will lead to further jobs and investment in the state,” Reed said. “These next-generation submarines provide our forces with a distinct national security advantage. They are an unmatched tool for deterrence.

“The awarding of this contract is a testament to the skill and dedication of the men and women at Electric Boat who do an outstanding job of building these submarines.”

Last year, Electric Boat broke ground on a 1.3-million-square-foot, $800 million multi-year expansion of its manufacturing facilities at Quonset. Reed said he has worked for years to help fund improvements in and around the Quonset Business Park to help attract and retain business in the area.

Rhode Island Rep. Jim Langevin said the new submarines are vital to national security and he’s proud his home state will have a hand in their construction.

“The new Virginia Payload Module represents a leap forward in capability for our submariners,” Langevin said. “The next-generation of submarines will enable new missions by our special operations forces and support additional sensors and payloads to maintain our tactical edge. I am incredibly proud that the VPMs will be built by Rhode Islanders.”

Connecticut Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, chairs the House Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee and has worked tirelessly over the past decade to secure contracts for EB’s facilities in Groton and Quonset Point. He said the firm’s work force is up to the challenge of constructing the high-tech new boats.

“The long-awaited contract awarded today — the largest ever awarded by the Navy — provides stability and certainty to our submarine shipbuilders, greater deterrent capability to our combatant commanders, and increased workload for the industrial base,” Courtney said. “The submarines that will be built under this contract are not your normal Virginia class — each new Block V VPM submarine is 90 feet longer with a payload module that carries an additional price tag of $500 million. As a result, each of the advanced submarines requires more construction work than the previously-built versions.

“That’s good news that continues to support historic surge in workload and workforce at the Groton shipyard and throughout the Connecticut and national supply chain that supports it.”

The shipyards are taking on the work from the new contract even as they are benefiting from a surge of contracts won in recent years. Courtney, though, expressed confidence in EB’s workers.

“This announcement comes at an exciting time for our region as we prepare to support not just the submarines in this contract, but the Columbia class due to start construction next year,” he said. “I know that our hard-working shipbuilders, our partners working to prepare the workforce, and our region is up to the task.”

Electric Boat currently employs about 4,000 workers in Rhode Island and more than 10,000 in Groton and New London.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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