WASHINGTON – A Huntington Ingalls Industries shipyard has delivered the Virginia-class attack submarine Delaware to the U.S. Navy, almost nine months later than projected just last year.
The Delaware, which was originally to be delivered in February, according to the U.S. Navy’s fiscal 2019 budget documents, had its delivery pushed to June in the FY20 budget submission, meaning the Newport News, Virginia, yard missed the revised target by nearly five months.
Builders General Dynamics Electric Boat and HII’s Newport News have experienced increasing delays in their production schedules, partly due to the lingering effects of increasing production from one submarine per year to two earlier in the decade as well as delays resulting from a green labor force learning on the job.
The delays, however, have not impacted the quality of the finished product, according to Newport News.
“Like the last two submarines we delivered to the Navy, Delaware has received some of the highest quality scores since the Virginia-class program began,” Dave Bolcar, Newport News’ vice president of submarine construction, said in a statement. “Our team of shipbuilders continues to perform at a high level, and nothing makes us prouder than delivering one of the most mission-ready submarines to the fleet.”
The Navy is concerned that delays in the Virginia-class program — which are being exacerbated by an increasingly stressed industrial base of suppliers straining to meet demand for as many as three submarine orders per year — might spill over into the Columbia-class program. The Columbia, which the Navy says must remain on its current schedule in order to maintain the nation’s nuclear deterrent strategy, needs to go through its sea trials by 2031.
The Navy is expected to order the first lead boat of the Columbia class in next year’s budget.
David B. Larter was the naval warfare reporter for Defense News.