Jan 21/11: General Dynamics Electric Boat Corporation in Groton, CT receives a $44.3 million cost-plus-fixed fee contract modification for the Virginia Class Block II fast attack submarine USS Missouri’s [SSN 780] post shakedown availability. PSAs are used to identify and fix remaining issues that are discovered during the ship’s initial “shakedown cruise” with the crew, after all sea trials are done and the ship has been delivered. Work will include long lead time material procurement as well, and will be performed in Groton, CT (99%), and Quonset Point, RI (1%), and is scheduled to be complete by January 2012. The US Navy Supervisor of Shipbuilding Conversion and Repair in Groton, CT manages the contract.
The nuclear-powered Virginia Class fast attack boats were designed in the Clinton era as a less expensive alternative to the SSN-21 SeaWolf Class, which nonetheless incorporated key technology advances Seawolf had pioneered. Cheaper is a relative term, of course, and the cost of each sub has been in the $2.5 billion range. A series of design improvement efforts have aimed to fix that, and Block III submarines will have a new bow design, in addition to an array of other changes. With production from the 2 shipyards just beginning to shift from 1 sub per year to 2 submarines per year, recent news concerning problematic systems on board, and revelations that the Virginia Class’ sound-absorbing external tiles have been de-laminating at sea could hardly have come at a worse time. Even as the Navy must continue to ready and field the boats it has got. See also SSN 779 interactive tour | NextNavy pictures of coating issues.
Latest updates: Improved 5.56mm; New production facility opening.
81mm mortar (click to view larger)
A weapon without ammunition is useless, which is why ammunition is almost always a strategic national capability whose production must remain in-country. On the other hand, government demand has a tendency to swing up and down within narrow limits, and the demands of efficiency usually lead to a single supplier situation – often using equipment that dates back to World War 2. The USA has run into problems because of its reliance on a single small arms ammunition plant, for instance, and has moved to modernize and diversify its base. Its ally Australia is modernizing key ammunition facilities, and trying to modernize its industrial approach as well.
Then there’s Britain, whose long-term defense contracting practices are establishing world-class benchmarks. The UK MoD had been working on an arrangement that secures national supply needs from British sources, and ensures that modernization investments continues to improve industrial efficiency. Hence the new 15-year, GBP 2+ billion “Munitions Acquisition Supply Solution” (MASS) program, inaugurated in August 2008.