The Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine program (SSBN-826) is coming down in cost and staying on schedule despite an early challenge, program officials said last week.
After moving into engineering and manufacturing development (EMD) at the beginning of 2017 and beginning early construction prototyping activities, the SSBN program is proving it can leverage all the tools at its disposal to take cost and schedule out of the Navy’s top acquisition priority.
The program was giving a $8-billion affordability cap, and when the Milestone B decision was made in January to move into EMD, the program was sitting at about $7.3 billion for the average procurement unit cost (APUC) across all 12 planned submarines, Program Executive Officer for Submarines Rear Adm. Michael Jabaley said at the Naval Submarine League’s annual conference.
“Through innovative legislative authority and contracting techniques, we’ve already reduced cost by $80 million per hull, to bring APUC down to $7.21 (billion),” Jabaley said.
“So that was a combination of missile tube continuous production … and advance construction, which is pulling key construction activities to the left. Really the focus of that was to reduce the risk of not delivering on time, but it had an added benefit of savings as well.”
Congress gave the program several new authorities to help with the Columbia class. Lawmakers allowed for continuous production of the missile tubes – a shared venture with the British Navy – so that manufacturing rates can stay level rather than the ups and downs that would come along with buying them in ship sets based on U.S. and U.K. sub acquisition timelines. Lawmakers also created a National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund and created opportunities for the Navy to save on common components shared between the Columbia program, the Virginia-class attack submarine and the Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carrier.
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