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U.S. Navy Orders 8 New Subs

December 23, 2008
The Virginia-class attack  submarine New Mexico is commissioned in front of nearly 1,700 guests and crewmembers. (MC1 Todd A. Schaffer / Navy)

The Virginia-class attack submarine New Mexico is commissioned in front of nearly 1,700 guests and crewmembers. (MC1 Todd A. Schaffer / Navy)

Source: Defense News
Published: 23 Dec 06:16 EST (11:16 GMT)

As expected, the U.S. Navy announced on Dec. 22 a $14 billion contract to buy eight new SSN 774 Virginia-class submarines.

The fixed-price incentive, multiyear procurement contract was awarded to General Dynamics Electric Boat, lead shipyard for the Virginia-class submarines. Electric Boat’s facilities at Quonset Point, R.I., and Groton, Conn., share equally in building the submarines with Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding’s Newport News shipyard in Virginia.

In making the announcement, Rear Adm. William Hilarides, program executive officer for submarines, told a group of reporters at the Pentagon that more than 12,000 companies of all sizes located in 48 states take part in building the Virginia-class subs.

The first of the eight submarines, the North Dakota (SSN 784) – so far the only vessel in the group to be named – was authorized in the 2009 defense act. The Navy plans to ask for SSN 785 in 2010 and thereafter ask for two submarines each in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

The eighth ship in the group, SSN 791, is scheduled to be delivered in 2019.

The new group of subs is referred to collectively as Block III. Previous Virginia-class submarines were authorized in two groups of five subs each. With the new contract, 18 submarines of the class are in service, under construction, on order or authorized. The Navy plans to buy 30 Virginia-class submarines.

According to General Dynamics, the contract immediately provides $2.4 billion to fund construction of the North Dakota and carry out advanced procurement for SSN 785. Significant economies of scale will be realized, the company said, by the ability to purchase materials, parts and components for multiple ships at one time.

The Block III submarines will be the first of the class to be fitted with the Virginia Payload Tubes (VPT), a development of the modified former ballistic missile launch tubes in the Ohio-class converted cruise missile subs. Two VPTs in the bow of each of the new submarines will replace 12 vertical launch tubes used for Tomahawk cruise missiles in previous submarines. The 92-inch-wide VPTs each can hold six cruise missiles.

The new subs also will feature the Large Aperture Bow (LAB) Array of sound-detection gear, replacing the traditional sonar sphere of earlier ships. Hilarides said the LAB Array provides improved passive listening capability over traditional spheres using transducers.

The Navy claims the LAB Array and VPTs, along with more than two dozen other modifications, shaved $40 million per submarine beginning with the 2012 ships.

Hilarides noted the price for the each of the two submarines in 2012 will be $2 billion, calculated in 2005 dollars. Adjusted for inflation, he said, the actual price in 2012 will be $2.6 billion.

Reaching the goal of a $2 billion submarine represented a lengthy effort by the Navy and its shipbuilders, Hilarides said. He commented that to lower ship prices, “Steady, stable and long construction runs are the key to controlling costs in shipbuilding.”

The Navy also worked to the line on what it wants the submarines to do.

“Requirements on the Virginia class have been extremely stable from the beginning,” Hilarides noted.

No new submarine contracts are now scheduled to be awarded for several years. Hilarides said that negotiations for the next group, Block IV, would begin in about 2012.

As for what possible design changes might be incorporated into those new submarines, Rear Adm. Cecil Haney, director of the Submarine Warfare Division, declined to answer. “That would be premature,” he said at the Pentagon. “I want to see more reports from commanders after deployment.”

The submarine-building community praised the new agreement.

“This contract will provide good jobs not just in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Virginia, but in thousands of communities across the country as our vendors gear up for increased production on the Virginia class,” Electric Boat president John Casey said in a statement.

Matt Mulherin, general manager of the Newport News shipyard, said in a statement that the agreement “brings stability to the submarine program, to our work force and to the shipbuilding supplier industrial base for the next decade.”

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