The backbone of the Navy’s next nuclear ballistic missile submarine is starting to take shape in a series of understated white buildings on the edge of Narragansett Bay.
Building-sized sections of the future USS Columbia (SSBN-826) have been under construction at the General Dynamics Electric Boat facility at Quonset Point, under cover from the Rhode Island winter and largely unseen due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
EB’s sub construction yard – split between its more than 100-year-old yard in Groton, Conn., and the newer facilities on the site of an old U.S. Navy air station that’s turned into an industrial park – is finalizing an almost $2 billion expansion of its yards to build the dozen boat Columbia-class to replace the aging class of Ohio SSBNs, as well as building the larger Virginia Payload Modules for the Block V Virginia-class attack submarines.
Last week, USNI News toured the Quonset Point facility and EB’s yard in Groton, where the first pieces of Columbia have been under construction since 2020.
While carrying eight fewer nuclear missiles than its predecessor, Columbia will be longer, heavier and feature a complex electric drive propulsion system and associated technology to keep the class relevant for the 50-year lifespan of the boomer.
“Columbia is a 20,000-ton submarine. It’s the largest, most complex submarine that’s ever been built,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday told USNI News in an interview en route to the construction facility.