NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — U.S. Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) and Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI02) joined workers and managers of Electric Boat Friday morning at the company’s Quonset Point location to celebrate the awarding of the largest shipbuilding contract in U.S. Navy history to their parent company, General Dynamics, as well as Huntington Ingalls Industries in Virginia.
The contract, worth $22.2 billion, calls for nine new Virginia-class submarines as part of the new Block V generation with an additional option for a 10th vessel to bring the value of the contract up to $24 billion. Construction is set to begin this month and runs through 2029, which will be split between Electric Boat’s Quonset and Groton, Connecticut facilities and Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport News, Virginia.
“The recent announcement of the Block V contract reflects Electric Boat’s ability to design and build ships of unmatched quality, stealth and lethality,” Electric Boat Vice President of Quonset Point operations Sean Davies said. “Over the life of the Virginia program, we have worked with the Navy and our teammate, Newport News Shipbuilding, to achieve efficiencies in design and production while continuing to provide the fleet with the submarines it needs to sustain the nation’s undersea dominance far into the future.”
Davies praised Electric Boat’s work over the course of the Virginia-class submarine program, decreasing the delivery timelines from 88 months to 68 months since Block I while increasing production of submarines to two per year.
The Quonset Point site will see the construction of the new Virginia Payload Module (VPM), a new addition to the Virginia-class for Block V vessels. The VPM, which was designed by Electric Boat, will add four additional large payload tubes in the submarines’ midships, increasing their fixed strike capacities by more than 230 percent, according to Davies, as well as enable increased capacities for special forces as well as additional weapons, sensors and other special payloads.
In addition to the VPMs, Electric Boat is also working on the full production of the Columbia-class submarine program, with those vessels set to replace the Ohio-class submarines built between 1976 and 1997.
The company also plans to make strategic investments in their infrastructure and workforce, which employs 4,000 shipbuilders in the state, double the amount employed at the facility in 2011, and hope to train more young Rhode Islanders for careers in shipbuilding to bring that number up to 5,500 by 2025.
“Through partnerships with Rhode Island leaders at the state and the national level, we have developed programs that have helped bring new skilled ship workers to the company,” Davies said. “These are well-paying manufacturing jobs with great benefits that offer opportunity for both rewarding and long-term careers.”
For the facilities themselves, General Dynamics is investing $700 million at the Quonset Point location to expand the General Dynamics/Electric Boat campus by over 600,000, the construction of which Davies estimates will create an additional 600 jobs while greatly increasing their capacity for shipbuilding.
“The 17,000 men and women of Electric Boat are ready for the work ahead and welcome the opportunity to deliver Block V submarines with an unrelenting focus on safety, quality and affordability,” Davies said. “We are grateful for the continued support of political and educational leaders from across Rhode Island for helping us to continue to deliver on our important mission of designing and building the most capable submarines for the United States Navy.”
Davies praised Reed and Langevin for their leadership on these projects in their respective chambers of Congress before introducing Reed, who he called a “true friend” of the Electric Boat workers.
“I’m here simply to say to the men and women of Electric Boat; thank you,” Reed said. “The reason the United States Navy signed the largest (shipbuilding) contract in their history for Electric Boat and Newport News to build these Block V submarines is because of you.”
Reed praised the workers for their hard work, skill and dedication to what they do, and said he believed their combination of pure skill and patriotism helps deliver high-quality vessels.
“You understand that these ships will be in the hands of young American men and women who are going into harm’s way and I am convinced you put a little bit extra into everything you do because you do not want to let those young men and women down, and I thank you for that,” Reed said.
The senior senator recalled his first introduction to Electric Boat as a newly-elected congressman in 1991 when the Navy was considering ending the Seawolf-class program. Reed said with the workers help, they were able to fight back and continue the program, and that same work ethic and dedication has led to the Virginia-class and Columbia-class submarines being produced at Quonset today.
“The submarine is one of our most effective deterrent platforms in our inventory,” Reed said. “When our adversaries are thinking about possibly doing something, there’s always a thought in the back of my mind: where are the submarines? And guess what? They’re probably closer than you think.”
“This is a huge contribution to our peace and stability in the world,” Reed added. “It’s obviously a great contribution to the economy of Rhode Island. We’re talking about good jobs; not just good jobs, but we’re talking about good careers. You will be building submarines for a long time. All of this together is an opportunity once again to finally say simply thank you very, very much.”
Following Reed, Langevin spoke, praising the value of submarines to the nation.
“Let me just say that we all know that the finest submarines in the world, really the true unsung heroes of the fleet, begin their journey right here in Rhode Island at Electric Boat,” Langevin said. “The world knows it, and they know that not only deter our adversaries, but they also build up our allies and ensure a more prosperous and secure world.”
Langevin also lauded Electric Boat workers’ professionalism, training and commitment to the national defense.
“This has been a great month for Rhode Island and our strong defense industry and the contributions that Rhode Island businesses and workers make to our national security,” Langevin said. “The continued growth of Electric Boat I know will inspire young people, as Senator Reed said, to pursue these high-quality, high-paying jobs boosting our workforce and also keeping Rhode Island families right here in the Ocean State.”
He called ensuring the strength of the Navy as one of his “highest priorities” as a member of the House Armed Services Committee and that this country has the world’s finest military both because of the men and women in uniform who put themselves in harm’s way as well as the men and women like those at Electric Boat who go to work everyday to build the equipment, vehicles and weaponry for them.
“Let’s get these boats built, and I look forward to many keel layings and christenings and commissionings in the years to come because of your work,” Langevin said.
After the speeches, Reed, Langevin and Davies cut a celebratory cake and walked around to speak to and take pictures with the workers in attendance.
Work on the Virginia-class submarines at Quonset is set to begin in a few weeks.