Substandard welding has been found in missile tubes bound for the US and Royal Navy’s new ballistic missile submarines.

Twelve missiles tubes being built by American contractor BWXT are reportedly being reviewed for substandard welds that were uncovered after discrepancies were found in the equipment the company was using to test the welds before sending them to General Dynamic Electric Boat, which is the prime contractor for the Columbia-class ballistic-missile sub program, according to a report by Defense News.

“All BWXT welding requiring volumetric inspection has been halted until the investigation is complete,” Bill Couch, a spokesperson for NAVSEA said.

“Initial reports indicate that the other vendors do not have the same issue, and they continue to produce missile and payload tubes.”

The US Navy has not said how many of BWXT’s tubes have known issues.

The compartments will be used by American Columbia class and British Dreadnought-class submarines will carry their Trident D-5 nuclear-armed submarine-launched ballistic missiles in multiple ‘quad pack’ Common Missile Compartments, a deliberate decision to simplify the process of building the two types of subs and hopefully save money.

There is no question that the future Common Missile Compartment will be built around the nuclear deterrence mission as its primary focus. That is unlikely to be its sole use, however, and it would not be surprising if some of those other potential uses ended up influencing the CMC’s design.

As is the case with a force more focused on multi role capability, versatility is key. Industry is unsurprisingly quiet on the specifics of the engineering and technology but industry has given some intriguing glimpses at what we may see in the water, one day.

8 COMMENTS

  1. I now work in manufacturing and have done for some years and use volumetric NDE regularly. The reason it exists is to highlight inclusions and defects… the process has worked as it should. The welding issues will be addressed and all will be well! Or it won’t… and the items will be rejected for remanufacture… worst case would be a slight impact on delivery schedule!

    Impressive to see the size of the tubes vs the height of a man though!! You don’t realise the scale of the trident delivery system until you can relate it to something obvious like a 6ft (ish) man!!!

    • How does releasing this information affect the security of the boats?
      It’s pretty obvious the missiles will be fired from something and showing a bare tube as in the picture is hardly going to give anyone the info needed to affect the system. This is about as scary as showing a photo of test jets and claiming that somehow gives any adversary the ability to shoot it down or build it themselves.
      I know what a Typhoon looks like that doesn’t mean I can build one in my back garden.

      I also don’t have a garden long enough for it to take off even if I did.

  2. it’s pretty much a non-story at this point. perhaps when the subs are delayed and over budget as a result of this or similar, we’ll get excited – but not surprised

    • First thing that crossed my mind, if that’s how they were built. You’d think simple gravity could produce minute distortions in circularity.

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