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Replacement of Ohio-class ballistic submarines to be named 'Columbia'

A planned class of ballistic missile submarines, to be designed and delivered by Electric Boat, will be named "Columbia" after the District of Columbia, a Navy official confirmed Friday.

Submarines in the class — of which the first will be named the "USS Columbia" — will replace the 14 Ohio-class "boomers," which hold much of the country's nuclear arsenal.

When the Columbia-class submarines enter service, they will make up 70 percent of the nation's nuclear triad.

The majority of construction will begin in 2021, The Day reported in March, shortly after Electric Boat was selected as the prime contractor for what was then called the Ohio-class replacement program.

EB's shipbuilding partner, Newport News, will conduct some work as a subcontractor and will deliver more Virginia-class submarines when the Columbia-class work comes online at Electric Boat.

The Columbia class will require about two-and-a-half times the amount of work that goes into producing the Virgina-class subs, and the total cost of the 12-submarine program is estimated to be $95 billion.

Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, heralded the decision as a milestone for the work that has gone on in Groton since 2008, noting Columbia is a "venerable name" that "every American can feel a connection to."

He said Electric Boat had incorporated lessons learned from development of the Virgina-class submarines in preparing for the Columbia project.

The company recently has created 3-dimensional prototypes of control systems for the Columbia-class submarines in preparation for the design development phase.

"We're really on the cusp of production in the next year or two," Courtney said.

He also praised EB's efforts to make the submarines affordable, noting that the estimated distributed cost per submarine had fallen from $7 billion to around $5 billion, and planned improvements in the subs' reactors, which now are expected to last the boats' entire service life.

It will be a "historic moment in naval shipbuilding" when the contract is underway, Courtney said.

A spokesperson for Electric Boat declined to comment.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus informed Congress of his intent to name the class "Columbia" this week, though he has yet to make an official announcement.

Future Navy secretaries will name boats in the class as they are developed.

n.lynch@theday.com

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