BAE Systems won a General Dynamics [GD] contract for an undisclosed amount to produce payload tubes for two new U.S. Navy Block V Virginia-class attack submarines, BAE said Tuesday.

For this contract, BAE will deliver two sets of payload tubes, each consisting of four tubes, for the Virginia Payload Modules (VPM) on future unnamed submarines SSN-804 and SSN-805. General Dynamics is one of the prime builders of the submarine along with Huntington Ingalls Industries’ [HII] Newport News Shipbuilding.

USS Washington (SSN 787), a Virginia-class submarine, completing initial sea trials. Photo: Ashley Major/Huntington Ingalls Industries.
USS Washington (SSN 787), a Virginia-class submarine, completing initial sea trials. Photo: Ashley Major/Huntington Ingalls Industries.

VPM is an additional midbody section in new submarines that contains four large-diameter vertical launch tubes to store additional Tomahawk cruise missiles or other payloads like larger unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs).

The extra four launch tubes in each set can carry up to 28 more Tomahawk cruise missiles at seven per tube. This increases a Virginia-class submarines potential Tomahawk complement to rise from 37 to 65.

The VPM is meant to help compensate for the lost strike capability when the Navy’s four Ohio-class cuise missile submarines (SSGNs) are retired in the mid to late 2020s.

A December 2017 Congressional Research Service (CRS) report noted each SSGN has 24 large-diameter vertical launch tubes, with 22 capable of carrying up to seven Tomahawk each, with a maximum of 154 missiles per submarine and 616 over the four boats. If 22 Virginia-class submarines are built with the VPM, then they would carry the same number of total Tomahawks as the four SSGNs.

The CRS report noted the VPN is expected to cost $305 million per submarine after the initial unit in FY 2010 dollars. Using the Defense Department’s deflator for procurement, CRS found this worked out to about $340 million in FY 2017 dollars–a 13 percent increase in unit procurement cost considering the Virginia-class unit procurement cost in late 2017 stood at $2.7 billion.

Under this contract, BAE will also develop the processes and tooling needed for the Block V payload tube production.

Work will occur at the company’s Louisville, Ky., facility. Deliveries are expected to start in 2020.

BAE is already producing the payload tubes for SSN-803 under an earlier VPM contract. The company highlighted it was chosen to provide propulsors, spare hardware, and tailcones for the earlier Block IV Virginia-class submarines “and stands ready to provide the same support for the Block V subs.”

With the VPM, the Navy is adding significant capability to the Virginia-class by increasing the firepower of these subs and tripling their payload capacity,” Joe Senftle, BAE vice president and general manager of weapon systems, said in a statement.

The Navy is planning to build one of the two Virginia-class boats in the FY ’19 budget request with the VPM and then all subsequent submarines in the class.