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Will the Navy Build Virginia-Class Submarines in Block VI?

The U.S. Navy wants a Block VI Virginia-Class Submarine. Labour shortages may prevent that.

According to a watchdog organisation, the U.S. Navy’s Virginia-class Block V fast attack submarines are late and over budget. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that human resources issues caused this illness. “Overall increasing workforce demand, as well as additional factors such as correspondingly less experienced workers,” are to blame. If labour shortages remain in Block V, the GAO questioned whether the Navy could proceed with Block VI.

Virginia Block V submarines have more weaponry. The elongated part behind the sail will include 28 missile slots which lengthen the submarine but add 65 Tomahawk-sized guns. It exceeds the Seawolf-50 Class’s Tomahawk cruise missiles.

The Navy wants 72–78 additional attack submarines. Ten Virginia Block V boats Block V will include new weaponry and sensors. An 84-foot addition will include four vertical launch tubes and more Tomahawks. Seven missiles per tube. Virginia Payload Module

The Block V Tomahawks on board will be upgraded for anti-shipping. If China starts a war, it will need Block V boats in the Indo-Pacific. The U.S. Navy needs as many anti-ship missiles as possible to confront China’s largest Navy.

GAO fears delays and higher costs for these changes. The GAO believes the Navy prioritised Block V modifications while building the Columbia-class submarine. Workers are few. Welders are scarce, so Electric Boat, a subsidiary of General Dynamics Company, is hiring more women.

Huntington Ingalls Industries Newport News Shipbuilding, another major submarine function, Object() [native code], lacks welders, electricians, riggers, and other shipyard employees. Both businesses informed the military that workforce shortages would continue to hinder submarine development. Companies worry about hiring less-skilled people.

According to the GAO, the first three Block V Virginia-class subs will be late. Delays will also increase costs. The Navy had promised to resolve its labour issues by 2022, but it failed. It affects Block VI submarine upgrades. In 2020, the Navy considered Block VI a “bridge” to the next-generation SSN (X) development. Block VI boats will be quieter than Block V. Block VI enhancements were scheduled for delivery between FY24 and FY28. Block V labour shortage delays and prices make those dates unlikely.

The Navy previously recruited shipyard employees from the industry. The service department is reconsidering that practice and contemplating methods to lure more workers to its submarine-building yards. One strategy to ease this problem is to focus on the comparatively high remuneration that these positions provide and spread the word that this type of employment would be a wonderful fit for women. The Navy will also tell high school and community college students that shipbuilding is financially and personally rewarding because workers defend their country.

Human error—poor planning and execution—causes delays and expense overruns. Supply chain difficulties can delay and overspending. It’s now an H.R. issue. The Navy must recruit talented shipbuilders who want to stay in the industry to compete with China. Warfighters cannot get the best submarines without a strong industrial base.

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