Shipbuilders involved in the recent Columbia milestone are pictured in the Joint Manufacturing and Assembly Facility.

Columbia Bow Assembly Begins

Published May 11, 2021

Shipbuilders recently completed a major construction milestone for Columbia-class submarine production in Newport News Shipbuilding’s Joint Manufacturing and Assembly Facility (JMAF).

An overhead, 104-ton crane lifted and lowered the first Columbia (SSBN 826) bow plate into a specially-designed segment assembly machine (SAM). The bow plate weighs about 12 tons. The bow plate assemblies are the heaviest plates installed into the SAMs.

“My job was to communicate with the crane operator when the plates were lifted,” said Peatrov Goston (X11), a foreman. “I work with an amazing team. We are the best at what we do.”

As each of the six bow plate assemblies are loaded, they are tack welded into place to create the first bow cylinder of the Columbia pressure hull. Once completed, the overhead crane will load the remaining plates, which make up the final two cylinders, into the fixture. Shipbuilders will then begin welding using an advanced welding trolley system.

“The SAM fixtures require high quality parts to be most effective,” said Adam Read (K07), Columbia program manager. “This required the JMAF team to rethink upstream manufacturing, compared to our legacy bow and stern construction processes. These fixtures are a game changer. They have the ability to turn a historical 40-day operation to load and fit all of the bow plates into seven days.”

NNS is participating in the design and construction of Columbia-class submarines, which will replace the current fleet of aging Ohio-class nuclear ballistic missile submarines.