Barges play key role in Virginia submarine program

Virginia-class submarine modulesSEPTEMBER 20, 2012 — Barges are playing a key role in increasing the efficiency of a major shipbuilding program.

On September 19, Huntington Ingalls Industries' (NYSE:HII) Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS) division shipped two Virginia-class submarine modules to program partner General Dynamics Electric Boat — a first for the program and part of the plan to increase shipment capacity in support of the U.S. Navy's two-submarines-per-year build rate.

The module that comprises the torpedo room for North Dakota (SSN 784) was loaded onto the sea shuttle barge which is used for the two-plus-day voyage to Electric Boat's main shipyard in Groton, Conn. Right behind it was the module containing the auxiliary machine room (AMR) for John Warner (SSN 785), which is headed to Electric Boat's fabrication plant in Quonset Point, R.I.

The AMR, which departed on a commercial barge, comprises machinery such as a back-up diesel generator, pumps, motors and other electrical equipment.

This use of the commercial barge also represented the first time two major modules were being moved simultaneously between Virginia and southern New England.

"These shipments represent the 99th and 100th barge shipments between Electric Boat and Newport News Shipbuilding," said Jim Hughes, NNS' vice president, Submarines and Fleet Support. "It's satisfying to see these units being exchanged at such a remarkable pace, and we look forward to turning the final products over to the U.S. Navy."

In addition to these 100 shipments, General Dynamics Electric Boat has made about 900 shipments between its Groton and Quonset Point facilities using its sea shuttle barge, said Kurt A. Hesch, Electric Boat's vice president for the Virginia submarine program.

"Barge shipments help make modular construction possible," Mr. Hesch said. "Without this heavy lift capability, shipments would have to be much smaller, much more assembly would have to be done at the delivery yard, and there would be a corresponding loss of efficiency."

HII is teamed with Electric Boat, a business unit of General Dynamics (NYSE:GD), to build Virginia-class submarines. Using millions of parts from more than 4,000 suppliers in 50 states and the District of Columbia, the submarines incorporate dozens of new technologies and innovations and are the first major combatants designed with the post-Cold War security environment in mind.

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