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House of cards (Opinion)

9th September 2021 - 12:15 GMT | by Harry Lye in London

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USS West Virginia departs Norfolk Naval Shipyard in Portsmouth, Virginia, following a refuelling and overhaul. (Photo: USN)

The USN has high ambitions but investment is needed, as outdated shipyard infrastructure could undermine its ability to field and maintain a 355-ship navy.

On 13 August, US Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command awarded a $1.7 billion contract to expand and reconfigure a dry-dock complex at one of the USN’s four public shipyards — the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Maine.

The work will allow Dry Dock 1 at Portsmouth to receive Virginia-class submarines, as it is currently only large enough to support Los Angeles-class boats. The work is part of the USN’s broader Shipyard Infrastructure Optimisation Program (SIOP), which aims to modernise crumbling infrastructure and cut the time it takes to maintain its ships and submarines. 

USN leaders have publicly acknowledged the problem of maintenance capacity to address

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