U.S. Appears To Lack Capability To Repair Its Nuclear Submarine Fleet

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U.S. Appears To Lack Capability To Repair Its Nuclear Submarine Fleet

USS Boise. Click to see full-size image

The USS Boise Los Angeles-class nuclear submarine is being moved to from Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia, to Huntington Ingalls Industries’ (HII) Newport News Shipbuilding division in order to undergo an engineered overhaul (EOH).

An EOH is a major multi-year overhaul near the mid-point of a submarine’s service life to perform necessary repairs, maintenance and modernization, to certify the submarine for unrestricted operations and to ensure the submarine is operating at full technical capacity and mission capability.

The USS Boise nuclear submarine returned from its last deployment at the beginning of 2015, and after that there were plans for it to undergo medium repairs.

In February 2017, a ban on diving was introduced for the boat and after that it simply remained in Norfolk.

In 2017, the U.S. Navy concluded a contract with Newport News Shipbuilding in the amount of $385.7 million for repairs of the USS Boise nuclear submarine.

On June 18th, 2018, the USS Boise arrived for repair at Newport News, but the shipyard was not able to start repairing it due to delaying the repair of other boats of the same type (the USS Helena and USS Columbus), and as a result, the USS Boise was forced to return to Norfolk in March 2019.

Now, one year and two months later, a renewed attempt will be made to repair the nuclear submarine.

U.S. Appears To Lack Capability To Repair Its Nuclear Submarine Fleet

Click to see full-size image

Newport News systematically breaks the deadlines for repairs of all three of the above-mentioned nuclear submarines, which causes numerous complaints from the US Navy.

The reason is, in particular, the lack of experience in such repairs and the lack of qualified personnel at the shipyard, despite the fact that more than 1,200 people were involved in the repair of the USS Helena and USS Columbus nuclear submarines in 2019.

Four state shipyards that repair nuclear submarines of the US Navy are also facing similar problems.

According to the report of the US Government Accountability Office (GAO), released in 2018, since 2008, repairs of almost all US Navy nuclear submarines have been carried out either with a delay in the start of the planned dates for their implementation, or with delaying in the completion dates.

In an attempt to solve this problem, the U.S. Navy resorted to setting up boats for repair at private shipyards, including Newport News Shipbuilding.

However, at those establishments, the repair problems were also reproduced on a similar scale.

Newport News, which received contracts for the repair of three Los Angeles-class nuclear submarines, has delayed the delivery of USS Helena (despite it simply carrying out routine repairs and USS Columbus, and it is incapable of beginning the USS Boise’s repair for three years.

The USS Helena nuclear submarine arrived at Newport News in October 2017 and was due to be commissioned in 2018, but only left the shipyard in the spring of 2020, allowed for USS Boise to enter.

Repair of the USS Montpelier nuclear submarine (also Los Angeles-class) at the General Dynamics Electric Boats shipyard in Groton is being delayed in a similar way.

In total, from 1976 to 1996, the United States Navy commissioned 62 Los Angeles-type multipurpose submarines, of which 30 are now in the fleet. The repair time for such a nuclear submarine should be approximately 25 months, and clearly, three years is a bit longer.

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