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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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