The littoral combat ships. The F-22 Raptor. The F-35 Lightning II. Each of these government production contracts has garnered plenty of headline space for cost overruns and delays. The F-35 alone has gobbled up $400 billion during its development and service life so far and, for a time, the F-22 had a nasty reputation of asphyxiating pilots. Considering this, it's refreshing to hear of a big-name government contract going right.
But the US Navy's Virginia-class attack submarines have developed just such a reputation, according to Defense News. During the first two "blocks" (military parlance to distinguish between slightly different versions of vehicles, kind of like how automakers put their cars through facelifts), the Virginia-class program was honored three different times for its ability to reduce costs and deliver units on time.
Things are not as rosy on the first Block III boat, the USS North Dakota (shown above, in dry dock, a few months before its 2013 commissioning). Unlike the Block II boats, the changes for the Block III are more involved, which along with a component issue, has led to a two-month delay, Capt. Dave Goggins, the program manager for the Virginia-class told Defense News.
"We needed to do additional design work on the submarine's bow," Capt. Goggins told DN, citing parts issues from an unnamed vendor. The issues, Goggins said, related to "stern planes, rudder rams, retractable bow plane cylinders, hydraulic components, high-pressure manifolds," all of which are crucial items in a sub.
Despite the delay, Goggins claims the North Dakota should be delivered a mere 66 months after the start of construction, which handily undercuts the 74-month average for the Block II boats. The new sub should even arrive "within budget," Goggins said.
Now, if only we could get the same kind of performance from the LCS and F-35 projects.