Minus its vertical rudder, the attack submarine Montpelier steams off the Florida coast Oct. 14 after colliding with the cruiser San Jacinto. The cost to repair the sub may reach $48 million. (MC2 Mike DiMestico/Navy)
WASHINGTON — The submarine Montpelier, damaged last October in a collision with the cruiser San Jacinto, is taking longer to repair and will cost more than earlier estimates, the US Navy said Wednesday.
“The final cost for the Montpelier contract is under negotiation, but it is expected to be approximately 50 percent more than the initial estimate of $32 million,” Chris Johnson, a spokesman for the Naval Sea Systems Command, said Aug. 14 in a statement. “The projected cost increase is due to finding more damage than originally expected, including the removal and replacement of a sizable portion of the boat's pressure hull.”
The Norfolk-based Montpelier is at the Huntington Ingalls Newport News shipyard in Newport News, Va., where repairs have been underway since early spring. Once engineers got a closer look at the damage, sources said, the repair estimates began to change.
One of the more serious repairs is the need to replace an approximately 11-foot by 18-foot section of the after pressure hull.
In February, the Navy issued Newport News a $32 million repair contract, which called for the work to be completed in July. That deadline now has passed, and a new delivery date will likely be issued once negotiations for certain sections of the work order are concluded. One source thought the repairs should be completed late this year or early in 2014.
The Montpelier was operating submerged off the northeast Florida coast on Oct. 13, 2012, when the ship rose to periscope depth – directly in the path of the cruiser San Jacinto. Diving, the submarine’s stern rose to strike the bow dome of the cruiser.
No one was injured in the incident, but the cruiser suffered damage to her sonar dome and underwater area, while the vertical upper rudder of the Montpelier broke off and the after hull struck the cruiser.
Navy officials stressed repeatedly no damage was incurred to the submarine’s nuclear reactor.
Following an investigation, Cmdr. Thomas Winter was relieved of command of the submarine on Jan. 4.
“The investigation revealed that the principal cause of the collision was human error, poor teamwork by the Montpelier watch team, and the commanding officer's failure to follow established procedures for submarines operating at periscope depth,” the Navy said in a statement Jan. 4.
“Additionally, the investigation revealed contributing factors threaded among the various command and control headquarters that provide training and operational oversight within Fleet Forces Command.”
The San Jacinto had been scheduled to deploy with the Harry S. Truman carrier strike group, but the damage from the collision caused her to be replaced by sister ship Gettysburg. Repairs costing about $10 million were completed in the early spring and — the Truman deployment having been delayed by sequestration funding issues — the San Jacinto joined the carrier and the Gettysburg when they deployed on July 22.
The Montpelier has been in service since March 1993. The Los Angeles-class submarine is about 360 feet long, with a crew of about 143 sailors.