Electric Boat Corporation
Electric Boat Corporation
75 Eastern Point Road
Groton, Connecticut 06340-4989
Telephone: (860) 433-3000
Fax: (860) 433-1400
Web site: http://www.gdeb.com
Wholly Owned Subsidiary of General Dynamics Corporation
Incorporated: 1899 as the Electric Boat Company
Sales: $2.6 billion (2005)
NAIC: 336611 Ship Building and Repairing
Electric Boat Corporation is America’s leading submarine manufacturer and formed the basis of parent company General Dynamics Corporation, which was established in 1952. In addition to complex state-of-theart naval subs, which can have millions of parts and cost more than $2 billion apiece, Electric Boat has produced smaller vessels for underwater scientific research. It also performs overhauls, a process that can take more than a year for a nuclear submarine. Electric Boat has two main sites: its main shipyard in Groton, Connecticut, and an automated hull fabrication and outfitting facility at Quonset Point, Rhode Island.
Electric Boat Company was incorporated in New Jersey on February 7, 1899, to take over the assets of three companies. Two of the three were the Electric Launch Company, which had been making small battery-powered Elco pleasure boats for seven years, and Electro Dynamic Company, a nearly 20-year-old manufacturer of dynamos.
The most significant part of the deal over the long term, however, was the third company: Holland Torpedo Boat Company, an Elizabethport, New Jersey, firm credited with building the first submarines for the U.S. Navy. The first practical submersible was the Holland, launched in 1897; an earlier attempt at a steam-powered design proved impractical due to heat issues.
The Holland was 54 feet long (6 feet shorter than the Hunley, which the Confederates had used in the Civil War), displaced 75 tons submerged, and could travel fewer than 200 miles at five knots. It used a 50-horsepower gasoline engine for surface propulsion and a similar sized electric motor for moving underwater.
Though design of the Holland has largely been credited to Irish-American inventor John P. Holland, his plans have been described as sketchy. British émigré Arthur du Busc (or Busch), chief constructor at the Crescent Shipyard, translated Holland’s ideas from paper to steel. Another key figure was Larry Nixon, who ran the Crescent Shipyard.
Isaac L. Rice, president of Philadelphia’s Electric Storage Battery Company, led the group that formed Electric Boat and served as its first leader. Holland became a salaried engineer at Electric Boat after transferring his patents to the newly formed company. He and du Busc also built a few subs in Europe and Japan, respectively. Holland resigned from Electric Boat in 1904, dismayed at his diminishing influence in the company and losing rights to his designs.
The Navy bought the Holland on April 11, 1900, paying Electric Boat $150,000 for a craft that had cost $236,000 to develop. A contract for a half-dozen Adder-class submarines soon followed, however. Four of these would be constructed at the Crescent Shipyard in Elizabethport, New Jersey, which had built the Holland; the other two were subcontracted to San Francisco’s Union Iron Works. In 1911, Electric Boat bought the New London Ship and Engine Co., adding what would become its main shipyard in Groton, Connecticut.
Financier Henry R. Carse took over the company following Isaac Rice’s death in 1915. When Carse died in 1942, he was succeeded by Lawrence York Spear, an engineer. Spear had turned down a promising naval career in 1902 to join Electric Boat. A native of Ohio, Spear had studied shipbuilding in Scotland before overseeing steel warship construction at a couple of U.S. shipyards. During his tenure at Electric Boat, he was credited with making subs faster and more far-reaching.
SUBMARINES AT WAR
Steel vessels were a relatively new innovation in the history of naval warfare—at the dawn of the 20th century, the U.S. fleet still had a lot of wood and canvas in it, and submersibles were more novel still.
Electric Boat had supplied all but three of the 30 submarines the U.S. Navy possessed in 1914. Though Germany took the lead in this field with its notorious U-boats, Electric Boat supplied another 85 subs over the course of World War I, making it by far the largest U.S. builder. (Electric Boat also subcontracted some work to other yards, and the Navy built some vessels at its own facilities.)
The company’s Electric Launch unit was busy making other types of watercraft. It produced 550 antisubmarine boats for Great Britain and constructed 150 steel-hulled cargo vessels to replenish the merchant fleet.
Submarine development all but dried up in the 1920s. Electric Boat did supply 21 new submarines to the Navy in the decade preceding World War II. Another 74 Shark-class submarines were built during the war itself. The plant at Groton, Connecticut, expanded in size and employment, with the number of workers increasing fivefold to 12,500. Submarines accounted for roughly 40 percent of all Japanese ships sunk during World War II. In addition, the Elco factory made nearly 400 PT, or “patrol torpedo,” boats for the Navy. Employment was slashed to 4,000 after the war.
COLD WAR BUILDUP
Electric Boat acquired the Canadian aircraft manufacturer Canadair Ltd. for $22 million in 1947. In addition to cargo planes, it produced several U.S.-designed aircraft under license, from cargo transports to fighter jets. General Dynamics Corporation was formed in February 1952 as a holding company for Electric Boat and Canadair.
By this time, the average Navy sub measured more than 300 feet, displaced 1,500 tons, and had a range of 20,000 miles. Electric Boat was developing the world’s first nuclear submarine, the Nautilus, at the behest of the Navy. It was launched in 1954. Nuclear fuel gave the vessel unprecedented range and endurance. Electric Boat introduced numerous other technical innovations to support the West’s bid for strategic superiority over the Soviets during the Cold War.
Fleet ballistic missile submarines extended a nuclear deterrent across the world. The first of this type was the George Washington, commissioned in 1959. It was designed to carry 16 Polaris nuclear missiles as a deterrent to the Soviets. The next year, 1960, another of the company’s subs, the nuclear-powered Triton, circumnavigated the globe underwater in 84 days.
Electric Boat is the industry leader in the engineering, design, production, and life cycle support of the world’s most advanced nuclear submarines. We deliver the highest quality, affordable products and services to our customers through the commitment, technical excellence, and innovation of our workforce and the application of disciplined process. We strive to balance and meet the needs of our customers, shareholders, employees, and partners.
The evolution of submarines progressed rapidly with the addition of the Sturgeon class of attack submarines in 1966. Construction of the Los Angeles– class nuclear attack submarines, designed for stealth, began in 1971. (Electric Boat’s rival Newport News Shipbuilding won a part of this award.) The Los Angeles program, however, was marked by cost overruns and high turnover, leading to an embarrassing public censure of the company by Admiral Hyman Rickover. There was also a new family of ballistic missile submarines called the Ohio class (also popularly known as Tridents after the type of missile they carried).
Electric Boat’s facilities were extensively upgraded in the 1970s. In 1973, a hull fabrication center was established at Rhode Island’s Quonset Point Naval Air Station, a military base that was being closed. Electric Boat built an automated frame and cylinder facility there a few years later. The Groton facility was also updated. A new land-level construction facility went online in 1977.
The arms race with the Soviets caused the ranks to swell to 25,000 employees during the Reagan administration. At the end of the 1980s, Electric Boat began building the first of a new class of attack submarines called Seawolf. The Seawolf was dubbed the world’s fastest, quietest, and most heavily armed submarine upon its launch in 1997.
AFTER THE COLD WAR
The last Los Angeles-class attack sub was launched in 1994, and the last Trident submarine was delivered three years later. By the late 1990s, employment was down to about 7,500 people. However, work was already underway on the newest generation of attack submarines, eventually named the Virginia class, to be produced in collaboration with an old rival, Northrop Grumman Newport News.
An automated steel processing center was added to the Quonset Point Facility in 2001. This was described as the greatest advance in submarine construction since welded hulls (which Electric Boat had introduced with the Cuttlefish of the 1930s).
NEW MISSIONS AFTER 9/11
As the world situation changed, particularly in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, so did the equipment demands of the U.S. Navy. In 2002, Electric Boat received a contract to convert four of the oldest Ohio-class vessels from ballistic missile carriers to special operations support subs. (They had been made available by the START II treaty, which mandated a reduction in the number of strategic missile submarines to 14.)
Called SSGN (the letters standing for Submersible Ship, Guided missile, Nuclear-powered), the new configuration traded two dozen Trident missiles for up to 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles and space to carry up to 102 Special Forces troops and specialized gear. The last of the three Seawolf-class subs, the Jimmy Carter, was also specially equipped for surveillance and special operations when it was delivered in 2004. The first of the Virginia-class subs had been launched the previous year.
In spite of the new program, the total number of submarine orders fell to about one a year for Electric Boat. The company was producing the Virginia-class program in collaboration with the only other submarine builder, rival Northrop Grumman Newport News.
Electric Boat employed more than 10,000 people, primarily at its main shipyard in Groton, Connecticut, and the automated hull fabrication and outfitting facility in Quonset Point, Rhode Island. However, some layoffs were underway due to a reduction in orders in 2006.
Frederick C. Ingram
EB Groton Engineering, Inc.; Electric Boat—Australia LLC; Electric Boat—UK LLC.
- The U.S. Navy’s first practical submarine, the Holland, is launched by the Holland Torpedo Boat Company.
- Electric Boat Company is formed to take over Holland Torpedo Boat, Electric Launch, and Electro Dynamic Company assets.
- Groton, Connecticut’s New London Ship and Engine Company is acquired.
- The Cuttlefish is the Navy’s first welded hull submarine.
- General Dynamics Corporation is formed as holding company for Electric Boat and Canadair Ltd.
- First nuclear submarine, the Nautilus, is launched by Electric Boat.
- Hull fabrication center is established at Quonset Point Naval Air Station in Rhode Island.
- First of the Ohio, or Trident, ballistic missile submarines is launched.
- First of three Seawolf attack submarines is launched.
- Virginia-class attack submarine is launched; the SSGN program begins Ohio-class guided missile subs for special operations support.
PRINCIPAL OPERATING UNITS
Groton; Quonset Point.
Northrop Grumman Newport News.
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