By Jon Harper
The Navy’s program to build a new ballistic missile submarine that would remain on patrol until the 2080s faces a number of hurdles, raising concerns among service officials and analysts that the first boat might not be ready on time.
The Columbia-class is the Navy’s No. 1 acquisition priority as it seeks to replace aging Ohio-class platforms, which are slated to begin reaching the end of their service lives in the early 2030s.
The Navy plans to procure the first of 12 boats in fiscal year 2021, and have the lead ship on patrol by 2031. General Dynamics Electric Boat is the prime contractor for the initiative.
The effort is currently on track, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said at a conference in September. But he has concerns.
“I said on track and that’s true, but it is [just] right on track … and so we need to find some margin in that program, some margin in schedule in particular,” he said.
“In a program of this complexity it’s just a fact of life that there are going to be things that will surprise us going forward, and so we need to … build in enough margin to accommodate those surprises,” he added.
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