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Virginia-Class Submarine Block IV Award Becomes Largest U.S. Navy Shipbuilding Contract

General Dynamics Electric Boat and the Huntington Ingalls Industries-subsidiary Newport News Shipbuilding were awarded the largest ever U.S. Navy shipbuilding contract on April 28. The nearly $18 billion deal is for the construction of 10 additional nuclear-powered Virginia-class submarines.

“The Virginia-class program has already proven itself to be one of the best, if not the best, performing shipbuilding programs in the country and we look forward to continuing our important role in building these submarines.”

The addition of 10 more Virginia-class submarines will bring the class total to 28. The Navy currently operates 10 Virginia-class submarines, with the construction eight more under contract. “This is the largest number of boats ordered to date in a single contract block, which is great news – particularly in light of today’s challenging economic and political environments,” said Matt Mulherin, president of Newport News Shipbuilding, in a General Dynamics Electric Boat release. “The Virginia-class program has already proven itself to be one of the best, if not the best, performing shipbuilding programs in the country and we look forward to continuing our important role in building these submarines.”

Virginia-Class Submarine North Dakota

The Virginia-class attack submarine Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) North Dakota (SSN 784) is rolled out of an indoor shipyard facility at General Dynamics Electric Boat in Groton, Conn., Sept. 11, 2013. North Dakota’s commissioning has been postponed indefinitely due to an investigation into parts supplied by an unnamed third-party vendor. U.S. Navy photo courtesy of General Dynamics

The Block IV contract award of $17.6 billion will see the construction of two ships per year over a five-year period. Construction of the first Block IV Virginia-class, SSN 792 will begin May 1. The final ship is tentatively scheduled for delivery in 2023. “Our delegation fights hard all year long to ensure that Congress and the Navy remain committed to building two submarines per year, and this contract keeps that commitment through 2023.,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) in a joint statement with Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.). Under the contract, General Dynamics Electric Boat and Newport News Shipbuilding will each take turns building the reactors compartments and the ensuring the final assembly of the submarines. Each company will build certain parts of each boat.

“By continuing to produce two ships per year, the Navy and industry team retains the stability required to achieve increased efficiencies, providing the fleet with the submarines it needs to sustain the nation’s undersea dominance.”

The contract will split the build between the two shipyards, Groton, Conn. and Newport News, Va., which has industry base implications. “This award has great significance for the U.S. Navy, our company, and the entire submarine industrial base,” said Jeffrey S. Geiger, president of Electric Boat. “By continuing to produce two ships per year, the Navy and industry team retains the stability required to achieve increased efficiencies, providing the fleet with the submarines it needs to sustain the nation’s undersea dominance.”

USS Missouri (SSN 780)

The Virginia-class attack submarine USS Missouri (SSN 780) exits the Thames River as it departs Naval Submarine Base New London, Conn., for a scheduled deployment, June 18, 2013. With the awarding of the contract on April 28, the U.S. Navy is now scheduled to have a fleet of 28 Virginia-class submarines. U.S. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. Jeff Prunera

The 10 Virginia-class submarines in Navy service under Block I and II contracts are the USS Virginia (SSN 774), USS Texas (SSN 775), USS Hawaii (SSN 776), USS North Carolina (SSN 777), USS New Hampshire (SSN 778), USS New Mexico (SSN 779), USS Missouri (SSN 780), USS California (SSN 781), USS Mississippi (SSN 782) and USS Minnesota (SSN 783). The future USS John Warner (SSN 785), USS Illinois (SSN 786), and USS Washington (SSN 787) are all currently under construction as part of a Block III contract. The North Dakota (SSN 784) was officially scheduled to join the fleet during a May 31 commissioning ceremony, but that was delayed indefinitely while an investigation into parts supplied by a third-party vendor is ongoing.

The North Dakota (SSN 784) was officially scheduled to join the fleet during a May 31 commissioning ceremony, but that was delayed while an investigation into parts supplied by a third-party vendor is ongoing.

Virginia-class submarines have a displacement of 7,800 tons, with a hull length of 377 feet, and a diameter of 34 feet. Capable of speeds of more than 25 knots, Virginia-class submarines can dive to depths of more than 800 feet. The Virginia-class can be equipped to carry an array of Mark 48 torpedoes, Tomahawk cruise missiles, and unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV).

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Steven Hoarn is the Editor/Photo Editor for Defense Media Network. He is a graduate of...