published Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

US Rep.: Early estimate is $400M to repair submarine after fire

Smoke rises from a dry dock as fire crews respond Wednesday, May 23, 2012 to a fire on the USS Miami SSN 755 submarine at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard on an island in Kittery, Maine. Four people were injured.
Smoke rises from a dry dock as fire crews respond Wednesday, May 23, 2012 to a fire on the USS Miami SSN 755 submarine at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard on an island in Kittery, Maine. Four people were injured.
Photo by Associated Press.

KITTERY, Maine — An early estimate from the Navy puts the price tag for repairs of a fire-damaged submarine in the range of about $400 million, a figure that suggests the nuclear-powered USS Miami will be repaired instead of scrapped, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree said Tuesday.

Pingree, a member of the Housed Armed Services Committee, released the estimate a day after becoming the first member of Congress to see the damage inside the USS Miami, which was in dry dock at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard for an overhaul when the fire broke out on May 23.

The $400 million estimate could change, "but I think it's a workable figure and I'm optimistic that this means the boat is repairable, that the work can be done at Kittery, and the Navy will be able to come up with the money for the repair," the congresswoman said in a statement.

Her figure contrasts with an estimate a week ago from Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who pegged the repair bill at $700 million to $1 billion. The Navy intends to provide a formal cost estimate for repairing the 22-year-old submarine in a few weeks.

The blaze created intense heat in the forward part of the sub. The Navy, which is conducting multiple investigations, is seeking to determine what caused the fire and whether the hull is structurally sound.

Pingree said the most intense heat was in the control room, and she described burnt metal, melted glass and charred wires. Also damaged were the torpedo room and crew quarters.

Working in favor of repairing the Los Angeles-class submarine was that much of the sensitive electronic equipment had been removed by shipyard workers who were three months into a 20-month overhaul. A decommissioned sub, the USS Memphis, could be tapped for parts to save money, Pingree said.

The Los Angeles-class attack submarine cost $900 million when it was built. New Virginia-class subs cost more than $2 billion apiece.

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