GAO: Navy Columbia-Class Submarine Tech Requires Additional Development & Tests

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The Government Accountability Office has said the U.S. Navy needs to perform additional development and test activities to validate the maturity of multiple technologies on the future Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines.

Components that require further development and tests include the integrated power system, nuclear reactor, common missile compartment, propulsor and related coordinated stern systems, GAO said in a report issued Thursday.

According to the report, it is unclear whether the technologies will operate as intended, face delays or necessitate more costs than planned.

GAO added that unexpected delays could push the deployment of the first Columbia-class submarine past the 2031 target date.

The Navy plans to build 12 Columbia-class submarines to replace 14 Ohio-class vessels, which currently serve as the sea-based leg of the U.S. nuclear triad and will retire starting 2027.

The report revealed that the Navy did not classify the underdeveloped technologies as critical in the service branch’s 2015 Technology Readiness Assessment.

GAO noted that the failure to identify the technologies as critical may limit Congress’ view into the program’s technology risks and their potential impact on cost, schedule and performance goals.

Congress does not require the Navy to deliver progress reports on the program until fiscal year 2020, when lawmakers are scheduled to authorize $8.7 billion for the lead submarine construction.

GAO said regular reports on technology development activities could inform decision makers on remaining technical risks as the Navy requests for increased funding levels.

The government watchdog initially recommended additional reports on the Columbia-class program, but removed the suggestion because of a new law that implements the requirement.

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