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After a delay of several months because of component and design issues, the attack submarine North Dakota is now in the hands of the Navy.
On Friday, Electric Boat, which led the redesign of the submarine, delivered the Virginia-class North Dakota (SSN 784) to the Navy early and under budget by more than $30 million. The submarine received the highest-quality score to date, as measured by the Navy Board of Inspection and Survey, according to Kurt Hesch, vice president and Virginia program manager.
The submarine's commissioning, initially set for the end of May, is now scheduled for Oct. 25 at the Naval Submarine Base in Groton. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert will serve as the keynote speaker. Once commissioned, the North Dakota will be the 11th member of the Virginia class of attack submarines.
The Navy postponed the commissioning due to issues related to vendor components and additional design and certification work required on the submarine's redesigned bow. As a result, the North Dakota was drydocked on April 21 to allow EB to inspect parts with suspected deficiencies, including stern planes and rudder rams; retractable bow plane cylinders; hydraulic accumulators; high pressure air charging manifolds; torpedo tube interlocks and shaft/link assemblies; weapons shipping and handling mechanisms; and other parts.
The name of the vendor is being withheld due to the ongoing investigation.
Naval Sea Systems Command and EB conducted an investigation of the submarine and concluded that it "was satisfactory for at-sea operations," according to a statement from Navy Capt. Darlene Grasdock, supervisor of shipbuilding in Groton.
The North Dakota was certified for sea trials on July 25.
"All inboard and outboard components whose failure might cause major mission impact, major injury, loss of ship or loss of life were inspected and all required repairs were completed," reads the statement from Grasdock.
"I can tell you we did the right thing," which was to make sure the North Dakota was prepared to go to sea, said Grasdock in a phone interview Tuesday.
This class of submarines "provides the Navy with the capabilities required to retain undersea dominance well into the 21st century," according to a news release from EB about the delivery of the North Dakota.
The North Dakota is the first submarine to have a redesigned bow with a new sonar array and two larger payload tubes instead of 12 individual, vertical-launch missile tubes.
The submarine will be able to launch Tomahawk cruise missiles, deliver Special Forces and provide surveillance of land and sea.
The Navy buys submarines in "blocks," and North Dakota is the first of the eight-ship group of Virginia-class submarines called Block III. Twenty percent of Block III submarines' design was changed from Block II submarines' design in order to save about $100 million per submarine.
"These ships embody a Navy and industry commitment to reduce costs without decreasing capabilities through an initiative comprising a multi-year procurement strategy, improvements in construction practices and the Design For Affordability (DFA) program," the EB release says.