General Dynamics Electric Boat and Huntington Ingalls Industries’ (HII) Newport News Shipbuilding were awarded a $22 billion contract by the U.S. Navy for the building and delivery of nine Virginia-class Block V nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs), HII announced in a December 2 statement.
Construction of the latest batch of Virginia-class SSNs is expected to kick off in 2019 with deliveries scheduled from 2025 through 2029.
Eight of the nine SSNs will be built with the Virginia Payload Module (VPM)–four large-diameter tubes that replace 12 individual vertical launch tubes found on Block I and II boats and increase the submarine’s missile payload at a lower cost. Overall, Block V SSNs will be capable of firing up to 28 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAMS) from these VPM launch tubes. (In addition, to 12 TLAMS that can be launched from the sub’s bow.)
“VPM will provide the Navy with undersea strike capability that currently resides with Ohio-class guided-missile submarines, and the flexibility to host a variety of payloads,” according to HII.
Additionally, Virginia-class boats are fitted with four torpedo tubes for MK48 heavyweight torpedoes. Block V subs reportedly also feature new quieting technology and improved enemy submarine tracking capabilities.
“Virginia-class submarines, which are being built to replace the Los Angeles-class submarines as they are retired, incorporate dozens of new technologies and innovations that increase firepower, maneuverability and stealth, and significantly enhance their warfighting capabilities,” HII said in the press release. “These submarines are capable of supporting multiple mission packages and can operate at submerged speeds of more than 25 knots for months at a time.”
Virginia-class SSNs are multipurpose platforms designed to seek and destroy enemy subs, surface combatants, and strike land targets. They can also be used for surveillance and reconnaissance missions and can deploy Special Operations Forces.
Newport News and its teaming partner Electric Boat have built and delivered 18 Virginia-class SSNs to date.
“Today’s contract maintains the Virginia-class build rate that provides continued stability to our workforce and to the 5,000 suppliers that will support submarines for the next decade,” said Dave Bolcar, Newport News’ vice president of submarine construction. “This contract also continues the two per year construction cadence essential to sustaining production efficiencies, while ensuring our national security and the Navy’s continued undersea superiority.”
The future USS Delaware, the 18th Virginia-class SSN and the ninth to be delivered by HII, was officially handed over to the U.S. Navy on October 28.
The Delaware is the final Virginia-class Block III SSN to be launched as part of a $17.6 billion contract the U.S. Navy awarded for the construction of ten Block IV Virginia-class SSNs in 2014. The attack sub is expected to be commissioned in 2020.