New Manufacturing Facility To Support Ohio-Class Replacement Program In Quonset Point
The Day
By Julia Bergman
November 20, 2015
Editor's note: This version corrects the cost of the building, which is $47 million.
A new 184,000-square-foot "one of a kind" facility at Electric Boat's Quonset Point site will turn out the missile section and hull cylinders that will be part of the next generation of ballistic missile submarines. 
A brief dedication ceremony Friday marked completion of the first phase of the new open-bay building, which will be built in two phases at the submarine builder's Rhode Island shipyard.
The first phase encompasses 123,000 square feet of the total 184,000-square-foot facility.
"This is the first building that will represent the growth that we will have to support the Ohio-class replacement program," Will Lennon, vice president for engineering and design at EB, said in an interview this week.
Under the Ohio replacement program, or ORP, as it's commonly referred to, the Navy's current, aging force of 14 ballistic missile submarines will be replaced by 12 new nuclear missile submarines.
The new boats will be designed to stay in service for 42 years without ever needing to be refueled, and will feature an electrically powered propulsion system enabling them to be stealthier.
Estimates for the program have ranged around $100 billion, with each boat estimated to cost between $6 billion and $7 billion, although the Department of Defense established a target of $4.9 billion.
The lead boat will cost more, as is usually the case, at $12 billion, according to current estimates.
While some see the program "as far off into the future," U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, said by phone this week, "It's not."
Friday's event, Courtney said, "demonstrates it's now." He called the event a "huge milestone for the region."
About 2,800 people are currently engaged in the design phase of ORP, according to EB. That number is not expected to increase much more.
"The overall design of the ship is still progressing," Lennon said, adding that there's "still quite a bit of work left to do."
EB is also anticipating updates to its facilities in Groton to be able to support the production of ORP submarines and Virginia-class attack submarines simultaneously.
The new building at Quonset, officially called the "Ohio Replacement Program Automated Frame and Cylinder Facility," will feature six large indoor fixtures, four of which will be used to make the hull and two to form the missile section.
Of the two fixtures that pertain to the missile section, one will be for welding the tops of four missile tubes together to make what is called a quad pack.
The other will hold the pack when it is welded into the interior of a 43-foot-diameter hull cylinder.
The facility will feature a "relatively low" number of people working there, Lennon said, because of the large degree of automation.
North Stonington-based A/Z Corp., which is the general contractor for a $120 million hotel at Mohegan Sun, is the general contractor for the new facility.
Lennon said the cost of the building adds up to $47 million.
Construction on the building is complete and work to erect the fixtures will continue for the next several months.
The fixture installation is expected to be complete in 2016, Lennon said, when work will start on fabricating the first hull cylinder.
The missile compartment is being done first, Lennon said, because EB is also designing the compartment for the United Kingdom's successor program, which will replace its Vanguard-class of ballistic missile submarines.
The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment just released a report that outlined decisions faced by the Navy and the Marine Corps over maintaining presence overseas or restoring readiness through maintenance and time at home, among others.
Courtney said the report reinforced the case for a National Sea Based Deterrence Fund to pay for ORP, of which he is a proponent.
The fund would pay for the program outside the Navy's regular shipbuilding budget.
To solve the problem outlined in the report, Courtney said, "We've got to come up with a financing mechanism that doesn't choke the rest of the fleet."