UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


Electric Boat

Electric Boat, a subsidiary of General Dynamics, designs and builds nuclear submarines for the US Navy. Contracts include the design of the New Attack Submarine (NSSN), and for construction of the last two Seawolf class attack submarines. Electric Boat entered into a Team Agreement with Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company, providing that Electric Boat will be the prime contractor on construction contracts for the NSSN. In addition, Electric Boat performs a broad range of engineering work including advanced research and technology development, systems and component design evaluation, prototype development and logistics support to the operating fleet. Electric Boat also serves as ship integrator for certain components and subassemblies of the submarines, such as electronic equipment.

It takes about five years to build a submarine. Submarines are constructed in modules which are built at Newport News, VA, Quonset Point, RI and Groton, CT. Instead of the traditional sliding down the ways, due to their size modern submarines are launched by moving to it to a dry-dock which is then flooded down and the ship becomes waterborne.

Electric Boat's Groton location occupies 118 acres along the Thames River and supports engineering and design work as well as new construction and maintenance activities. New construction work occurs within the Land Level Ship Construction Facility built in the 1970s to support the TRIDENT ballistic-missile submarine program. This facility receives hull sections and modules from Quonset Point and Huntington Ingalls-Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia, assembles them into completed submarines, and then positions the ships for float-off (launching) using electric/hydraulic transfer cars and a pontoon in a graving dock. Two additional dry docks as well as various piers and shops also support maintenance and repair activities for active submarines, primarily those assigned to the Naval Submarine Base, New London.

For the first time in a decade, in June 2013 Electric Boat was simultaneously working on two submarines in its main building shed. The first module for the future USS Illinois, the 13th member of the Virginia class, arrived by barge from EB's Quonset Point facility. It was placed next to the North Dakota, the 11th of the class. Two submarines had not been side by side in Building 260 since 2003, when EB was building the USS Jimmy Carter and the USS Virginia, the first of the class. This was the first step to ramping up in Groton to two boats a year. The Illinois was launched 08 August 2015, and christened 10 October 2015. The Navy accepted delivery of Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Illinois (SSN 786), the 13th submarine of the Virginia class 27 August 2016, early to its contract delivery date.

In principle, Electric Boat is theoretically facilitized to build as many as five submarines each year, though it has never done so, and doing so would at least require reactivating the older inclined-way assembly building. In 1981, when the attack submarine Corpus Christi slipped into the Thames River, two of the giant Tridents and three other attack submarines remained in the cavernous shed. On 08 December 1979 during the launch of the Phoenix (SSN-702), Ohio (SSBN-726) was in the water, the Michigan (SSBN-727) was on her starboard side out of the water, and the Florida (SSN-728) was partially visible (starboard/aft) in the large assembly building. The Boston (SSN-703) was barely visible just inside the open bay doors in the small assembly building closest to the starboard side of the Florida (SSBN-728) and the Phoenix was being launched. City of Corpus Christi (SSN-705) was barely visible behind the closed bay doors to the port of the Phoenix.

In the 1970s, Electric Boat typically built about three Los Angeles class attack submarines each year. The original northern construction facility, which is no longer active, had two inclined building ways, each of which accomodated two boats. In 1994, First lady Hillary Clinton christened Columbia (SSN-771), Electric Boat's 33rd and final Los Angeles-class submarine. Columbia was also the last U.S. submarine to be launched in the traditional sliding fashion. Built to the immediate south, the Land-Level Submarine Construction Facility (LLSCF) has an annual production capacity of 3 nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs), according to the Congressional Research Service. Additional submarines could possibly be built in EB's older inclined building ways, if they were reactivated and refurbished.

Construction of EB's $150 million Land Level Submarine Construction Facility began in Groton in 1975. The land-level submarine construction facility in Groton became fully operational in 1977. The company's 10-acre, $150-million Land Level Submarine Construction Facility was built especially to construct the much larger Trident missile-firing subs, which were built at a rate of about one per year. The facility was first used on 18 November 1978 to launch the 360-foot, 6,900-ton Jacksonville, a Los Angeles class boat.

The Land Level Facility consists of: (1) Building 260 — the vast enclosed construction area consisting of four bays — (486 feet long x 260 feet wide x 137 feet high); (2) the North Pier (653 feet long x 170 feet wide), the South Pier (598 feet long x 99 feet wide), and the 37 million gallon graving dock (617 feet long x 96.5 feet wide); (3) a series of eight cranes — a 300-ton portal crane, two 280-ton bridge cranes, four 25-ton bridge cranes, and a 100-ton hammerhead crane. The two 280-ton bridge cranes have the capacity to "fly" a 300-ton cylinder with a diameter of 50 feet over another cylinder of the same dimension. When a jam occurs, this "flying" capability bypass the problem area.

The launch began when a team of carpenters, riggers and electricians moved the sub 75 feet sideways onto the massive 100-foot by 500-foot launch pontoon. The new launching operation involves superflooding the dock above the river level to float the pontoon clear of its supports and pumping the graving dock out to lower the pontoon to the bottom. Then the dock and the pontoon are flooded simultaneously. The pontoon remains on the bottom of the dock and the ship floats free. The pontoon measures 500 feet in length, 100 feet in width (nearly twice the size of a football field) and about 20 feet in depth. This represents the largest “ship” ever constructed between New York City and the Great Lakes.

The new graving dock, built by Morrison-Knudsen Company, Inc. of Boise, Idaho, is 583 feet long and 102 feet wide. In addition to the new dock a special-purpose structure was built for submarine fabrication and erection. Various sections of submarines are constructed in this enclosed manufacturing area and then moved on transfer or rail cars from the covered assembly area to the open platform adjacent to the graving dock. There, they are joined to complete the hull of the submarine, which will then be placed on the pontoon or floating drydock.

The pontoon platform is supported on concrete reinforced columns inside the graving dock and level with the land-level fabrication area. The pontoon is buoyant and watertight. Once the submarine is in position on the pontoon, the dock is flooded and the pontoon launcher, with the submarine in position, is floated free and moved off the columns. Next the water is pumped from the graving dock and the pontoon goes down with the water level until it is resting on the floor of the dock.

The pontoon valves are then opened enabling it to flood and remain on the bottom of the dock. When the dock is flooded the submarine floats free. When the dock is completely filled, the caisson gate is opened and the ship moved to an adjacent pier for final fitting out and testing. In principle, this is a usual syncrolift, the same solution is used at the shipyards in Cherbourg and Barrow-in-Furness, which also build submarines, and Astilleros Canarias is known from civilian shipyards with the same technical equipment.

Shipyard Electric Boat, a division of General Dynamics, is one of two shipyards (along with Newport News, of course) that are involved in the construction of Virginia-class submarines. More precisely, the boats are the product of the cooperation of these two shipyards. The central part of the hull and the engine compartment and the control compartment there are manufactured by Electric Boat. Everything else, i.e. bow and stern parts, launchers, dwelling compartment, cabin, mechanical compartment are manufactured by Newport News. Each shipyard produces the final assembly, fine-tuning and delivery of the boat to the customer. Thus, even-numbered boats (starting with the Virginia SSN-774) leave Electric Boat stocks, and odd ones (starting with the SSN-775 Texas) from Newport News. Nuclear reactors for their boats, each company produces itself. Unlike Newport News, where modules are manufactured through the wall from the final assembly site, Electric Boat modules are manufactured at a separate site in Quonset Point (Rhode Island).

GDEB, HII-NNS, and the unique submarine industrial base can, with adequate lead time, sustain a two per year VIRGINA Class Submarines VCS (with VIRGINIA Payload Module (VPM)) pace during the COLUMBIA Class construction period. Both shipyards have developed a Facilities Master Plan (FMP), a Resource Master Plan (RMP) and an Enterprise Material Procurement Plan designed to be flexible and scalable to support increased demand in the Navy 30-Year Shipbuilding Plan. Producing seven additional VCS during the FY 2017-2030 timeframe will be a challenge to the submarine industrial base that can be solved only if the shipyards are given sufficient time to adjust facility plans, develop their work forces, and expand the vendor base.

However, sustaining a two per year VCS cadence through the COLUMBIA years (for a total of three submarines in many years) will require additional resources beyond those scheduled in the current FMPs, as existing facility footprint used for VCS would no longer be able to be repµrposed and consumed by COLUMBIA. GDEB's Quonset Point facility would need to accelerate and increase its module construction and outfitting facilities, GDEB's Groton facilities would require approximately an additional 275,000 Sq. Ft. of building space in two facilities, and HII-NNS would require procurement of an additional automated fixture as well as approximately 495,000 Sq. Ft. of associated building and assembly space. Completion dates for various facilities improvements range from 2020 - 2025 to support two VCS per year, plus one COLUMBIA.

On May 20, 2019 General Dynamics Electric Boat (GDEB), Groton, Connecticut, was awarded a $497,012,105 cost-plus-fixed-fee modification to previously-awarded contract (N00024-17-C-2117) for a submarine industrial base development and expansion in support of Columbia-class fleet ballistic missile submarines, as well as the nuclear shipbuilding enterprise (Virginia class and Ford class), as part of the integrated enterprise plan and multi-program material procurement and production backup units.

This submarine industrial base development and expansion effort utilizes the enhanced acquisition authorities contained in 10 U.S. Code §2218a, National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund, to improve sub-tier vendor stability and gain economic efficiencies based on production economies for major components. The nuclear shipbuilding industrial base is ramping up production capability to support the increased demand associated with the Navy’s force structure assessment. Improved capacity at the sub-tier vendors reduces risk to the Columbia, Virginia, and Ford class programs. This modification supports GDEB’s execution of funding authorized in fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and appropriated by the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2019.

This contract will be incrementally funded, with $177,155,000 obligated at time of award. In addition to the locations listed above, performance of work is anticipated at additional locations; however, this information is competition-sensitive and is therefore not disclosed. Work will be performed in Groton, Connecticut (80 percent); Quonset Point, Rhode Island (10 percent); and Newport News, Virginia (10 percent), and is expected to be completed by December 2031. This work is furtherance of the fiscal 2019 NDAA (Public Law 115-232) and the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2019 (Public Law 115-245), which authorized and appropriated additional funds for submarine industrial base development and expansion to ensure second- and third-tier contractors are able to meet increased production requirements. Fiscal 2019 National Sea-Based Deterrence Funds in the amount of $177,155,000 will be obligated at the time of award and will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, District of Columbia, is the contracting activity.

Electric Boat Groton Electric Boat Groton

Electric Boat Groton Electric Boat Groton Electric Boat Groton Electric Boat Groton

At the height of the Cold War Electric Boat had as many as 25,000 workers building as many as 15 nuclear-powered submarines at a time. Currently about 7,500 workers are employed at Electric Boat, where there are more engineers and designers than laborers.

John Phillip Holland was an Irish schoolteacher who dreamed of perfecting the submarine boat. Backed by various financial sources (e.g., Irish Fenian Brotherhood, U.S. government-sponsored contests, Holland Torpedo Boat Company), he made five unsuccessful attempts between 1876 and 1896. Despite these setbacks, he victoriously launched the Holland VI on May 17, 1897. This 54-foot submersible vessel was powered on the surface by a 50-horsepower engine and by electric batteries when submerged. A major advancement in submarine design, the Holland VI featured dual propulsion systems, a fixed longitudinal center of gravity, separate main and auxiliary ballast systems, a hydrodynamically advanced shape, a modern weapons system, and the ability to recharge its battery and compressed air reservoirs without returning to port. However, an examination by the Navy Board of Inspection and Survey revealed that the vessel was sluggish and difficult to control.

Isaac Rice was a lawyer and a financier who also had a dream. By 1898, he had secured a virtual monopoly in the storage-battery business and began acquiring companies that used them. After touring the Holland VI, Rice agreed to finance the necessary modifications. In 1899, he consolidated several of his holdings, including those in the Holland Torpedo Boat Company, and set up the Electric Boat Company. The following year, the world's first practical submarine was commissioned into the Navy as the U.S.S. Holland (SS-1). Today, Electric Boat Corporation operates as part of General Dynamics, and has sister subsidiaries that build surface combatants and auxiliary ships. The company also works on the design of next-generation aircraft carriers and amphibious ships, and continues to make advancements in submarines at its Groton, Connecticut and Quonset Point, Rhode Island facilities.

The Electric Boat Corporation, Quonset Point Facility is in North Kingstown, Rhode Island. In the early 1970s, Electric Boat was considering a major expansion of its capabilities and facilities to accommodate the simultaneous construction of the Los Angeles-class and Trident submarines. Coincidentally, the State of Rhode Island was seeking tenants for its recently closed Quonset Point Naval Air Station. Ten days after Electric Boat Corporation, Quonset Point's official November 23, 1973 opening, eight trainees and a handful of managers worked as jacks-of-all-trades to bring the production facility into operation. This 169-acre facility rapidly grew to 5,700 employees, underwent massive downsizing in the early 1990s, and is currently rebuilding at 1,500. Located on the Narragansett Bay, Electric Boat Corporation, Quonset Point has ready-access to water, air, rail, and interstate highway systems.

The basic construction of Electric Boat submarines takes place at Electric Boat Corporation, Quonset Point. The facility's unique fabrication capabilities can produce submarine hull cylinders up to 42 feet in diameter, using a fraction of the personnel once required to form a traditional hull. Major submarine components are manufactured using digitally-controlled machines for cutting, machining, and bending. This precision process is driven by the digital design data transmitted via computer from the Groton facility. The completed submarine hull cylinders are outfitted with tanks, propulsion and auxiliary machinery, cruise missile and torpedo tubes, piping, wiring, and lighting ' then barged to Connecticut (Electric Boat) or Virginia (Newport News Shipbuilding) for completion. Among the best practices documented were Electric Boat Corporation, Quonset Point's employee assistance program; process improvement program; safety quality action team and safety action reviews; cost of quality program; off-hull outfitting; automated frame and cylinder system; and barging from Quonset Point to Groton.

For a century, Electric Boat had been in the forefront of submarine technological development and innovation. Noteworthy accomplishments include the U.S.S. Cuttlefish (SS-171), the first welded submarine; the U.S.S. Nautilus (SSN-571), the first nuclear powered submarine; and the U.S.S. George Washington (SSBN-598), the first fleet ballistic missile submarine.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 27-05-2019 18:58:42 ZULU