U.S. Navy Orders New Block of Attack Submarines

Credit: GDEB

Published Dec 3, 2019 4:42 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Naval Sea Systems Command has ordered nine Block V fast attack Virginia-Class submarines from General Dynamics Electric Boat (GDEB), with the option for one more - the largest shipbuilding contract award in the Command's history.

Construction on Block V ships will begin this year, with deliveries scheduled from 2025 through 2029. 

The Block V contract is a $22.2-billion fixed-price incentive fee, multi-year procurement contract for fiscal years 2019 through 2023. The option of a 10th submarine brings the total potential value of the contract to $24.1 billion. GDEB in Connecticut is prime contractor, and the major subcontractor is Huntington Ingalls Industries' Newport News Shipbuilding division in Virginia. 

Eight of the ships produced for Block V will include the Virginia Payload Module (VPM), which Electric Boat will build at a recently-constructed facility at Quonset Point, Rhode Island. The VPM will comprise four additional large-diameter payload tubes located amidships, increasing the fixed strike capacity from 12 to 40 missiles. VPM, which was designed by Electric Boat, will enable enhanced use of Special Operating Forces and allow the Navy to bring aboard additional weapons, sensors and other special payloads. 

Virginia-class submarines displace 7,800 tons, with a hull length of 377 feet and a diameter of 34 feet. With VPM, the submarines will displace 10,200 tons and have a length of 460 feet. They are capable of speeds in excess of 25 knots and can dive to a depth greater than 800 feet, while carrying Mark 48 advanced capability torpedoes, Tomahawk land-attack missiles and unmanned underwater vehicles.

The changes are anticipated to maintain undersea strike capacity with the expected retirement of the Navy's four guided-missile submarines and to provide future payload flexibility.

To date, the Navy has taken delivery of 18 Virginia-class submarines, and all 10 Block IV submarines are under construction. 

Kevin M. Graney, President, GDEB, said: "Increasing the cadence of our production from one per year to two, coupled with the start of full production of the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine, represents a generational increase in submarine production for our nation."

Over the life of the Virginia program, shipbuilders have driven delivery timelines from 88 months in Block I to a current average rate of 68 months, while doubling the build rate of submarines to two ships per year and consistently increasing ship capability.