Britain’s Sheffield Forgemasters International Ltd. has a new $30-million award from the U.S. Dept. of Defense to supply steel castings as part of the Columbia-class submarine program. The Columbia-class will be a series of nuclear-powered vessels in line to replace the current Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine, which are a critical element of the U.S. nuclear missile defense strategy.
Details of the contract are few. It’s speculated that the castings will form part of the subs’ nuclear-missile launch system.
Sheffield Forgemasters is a steel foundry and forging operation, well known for its ability to produce very large structural components for oil-and-gas rigs and pipelines, machinery (mill stands, mill rolls) and other engineered parts. It’s certified to produce a variety of parts for nuclear power plants. The group also is a longtime supplier of components for Royal Navy vessels.
However, the decline in demand from the energy sector has cut Sheffield Forgemasters’ revenues in the past year, giving particular importance to the new U.S. Navy contract.
Graham Honeyman, Sheffield Forgemasters CEO, said the new order would “provide a boost for our operations as we work towards our business turnaround plan.
“Work has already started on these orders and the first parts will complete this year with another tranche of components anticipated to follow in 2017,” he said. “These are complex components and require detailed modeling and manufacturing to highly specific tolerances.”
General Dynamics’ Electric Boat subsidiary is the prime contractor for the Columbia-class program, and Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Newport News Shipbuilding also will build some of the vessels. Numerous other contractors are involved designing and supplying various main components and systems.
The submarines will be 560 feet long and 43 feet in diameter — the same length and roughly the same diameter as the Ohio-class subs. Each submarine will have 16 missile tubes and each tube will be capable of carrying a Trident II D5LE missile.
Currently, the construction program calls for 12 submarines to be built, starting in 2021, with the first submarines to enter service in 2031. The Columbia-class program is projected to have a service life of 50 years or more.