(Bloomberg) -- Delivery of two new US Navy attack submarines to counter China’s growing surface fleet is running as much as two years late, according to service budget documents.

The USS Idaho was given a ceremonial launch on March 16, complete with the breaking of a bottle of waters from Idaho lakes next to its bow. But it’s not actually scheduled for delivery until September 2025, more than two years after a June 2023 goal that was outlined in 2020, according to the documents.

Similarly, the USS New Jersey — which the Navy projected would be delivered in January 2022 and then in September 2023 — is now scheduled for this September, according to Representative Joe Courtney of Connecticut, one of the House’s top submarine advocates. Construction contracts for both vessels were awarded in April 2014. The USS Hyman G. Rickover was delivered in October, at least nine months late.

The Virginia-class submarine is armed with both torpedoes and land-attack missiles and, starting later this year, anti-ship Tomahawk cruise missiles. The subs are intended to give the US a crucial advantage in any conflict with China.

Overall, delivery dates for Virginia-class subs are running an estimated 24 to 36 months past the contracted dates, according to results of the Navy’s new 45-day ship review made available to Bloomberg News in advance of its release this week.

The persistent delays underscore some lingering effects of the coronavirus pandemic, which reduced the shipbuilding workforce, and a dwindling reservoir of expertise and slowed component deliveries. The subs are built by General Dynamics Corp. and HII. A spokesperson for General Dynamics, the prime contractor, referred all comment on the program to the Navy.

In the report accompanying the fiscal 2024 defense spending bill signed into law last month, congressional lawmakers criticized the Virginia-class program for delays and cost overruns that are expected to exceed $3 billion and may ripple into the program to build the US’s new nuclear-missile class sub.

“Concerns remain about construction cost and schedule performance, which impact not only the construction and delivery” of the Virginia fleet but also the 12-vessel Columbia-class sub construction schedule, which utilizes the same workforce, the lawmakers said.

The 45-day review says General Dynamics will require more than 2,200 new hires per year over the next 10 years to sustain both submarine programs. 

Aukus Impact

The Virginia-class delays could undermine the Aukus partnership involving the US, Australia and the UK if they aren’t reversed soon.

Under the Aukus agreement, starting in about 2032 the US Navy is supposed to sell Australia the first of as many as five existing or new Virginia-class subs. Those vessels would fill a gap until delivery in the late 2030s of the first new vessels to be built in the UK and Australia with technology from the US and UK.

General Dynamics and HII are supposed to be completing two submarines a year but instead are averaging the completion of one plus 20% of the work building a second sub. The Navy projects the contractors hitting the two-a-year rate by 2028.

The slow pace is the prime reason the Navy requested one instead of a planned two Virginia-class submarines in fiscal 2025, officials said.

“The Navy is committed to the timely delivery of submarines,” Nickolas Guertin, the service’s assistant secretary for acquisition, said in a statement, citing support for the submarine industrial base and the upcoming shipbuilding review.

The Naval Sea Systems Command said it continues to work with the shipbuilders “to meet requirements to deliver New Jersey.” Material issues and testing delays “impacted its delivery schedule,” the command said.

(Updates in sixth paragraph with GD comment)

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