The Navy last Friday awarded General Dynamics’ [GD] Electric Boat Corp. business unit a $2.4 billion modification exercising an option to build the second FY ’21 Block V Virginia-class attack submarine.

The Navy noted GD “will continue to subcontract with Huntington Ingalls Industries [HII] – Newport News Shipbuilding” for work on the vessel.

A mockup of the Block V Virginia-class attack submarine with the Virginia Payload Module in use. (Image: General Dynamics Electric Boat)

While GD is the prime contractor for these attack submarines, HII is a subcontractor and the two companies generally split the work of Virginia-class submarines where each makes certain parts of each vessel and take turns building the reactor and performing final assembly. The Navy expects Block V deliveries overall to run from 2025-2029.

In 2019, the Navy awarded GD a $22.2 billion contract for nine Block V Virginia-class submarines with an option for a 10th vessel that would raise the total contract value to over $24 billion. This multi-year procurement period lasts from FY 2019 – 2023 (Defense Daily, Dec. 2, 2019).

However, when Congress decided to procure two Virginia-class boats in the fiscal year 2021 budget rather than the initial request of just one, the multi-year procurement period rose to the 10 total submarines (Defense Daily, Dec. 4, 2020).

The announcement noted this vessel includes the Virginia Payload Module (VPM). Of the Block V submarines, eight are set to have the VPM.

The VPM adds four payload tubes so the submarine can hold a total 28 Tomahawk cruise missiles. This aims to help compensate for the planned retirement of four Ohio-class SSGN guided missile submarines that are themselves equipped with 24 vertical launch tubes with seven missiles each.

Under this latest mod, work will be split largely between Newport News, Va. (34 percent); Quonset Point, R.I. (14 percent); Sunnyvale, Calif. (7 percent); Groton, Conn. (7 percent); and various other locations. The work is expected to be finished by February 2030.

Funding obligated at the time of award is split between $2.1 billion in FY ’21 Navy shipbuilding accounts (79 percent), $388 million in FY ’20 Navy shipbuilding accounts (14 percent), $174 million in FY ’19 Navy shipbuilding accounts (6 percent); and $19 million in FY ’18 Navy shipbuilding accounts, with none set to expire at the end of this fiscal year.

The announcement noted this obligation includes funding for previously announced long-lead time material and economic ordering quantity material.

Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.) welcomed the news of this contract.

“The Navy’s announcement today of contract execution for the ‘option’ Virginia-class submarine—funded in last year’s NDAA and FY 2021 Omnibus budget—is the exclamation point on Congress’s efforts to protect our nation’s submarine fleet and industrial base,” Courtney said in a statement March 19.

“Almost exactly a year ago, the Trump White House sent Congress its 2021 budget that sought to eliminate this ‘option’ sub, which would have disrupted the two-per-year production cadence in the Virginia program that has been in place since 2011,” he added.

Courtney noted his committee started the process so that “Congress basically rewrote the budget tables for the Navy’s shipbuilding plan.”

“Our rewrite passed in the House both in the NDAA and Appropriations bills with overwhelming bipartisan votes, and was later adopted by the Senate in Conference Committee. It was even belatedly endorsed by the Trump budget director last November,” he continued.

Courtney argued this contract will help stabilize the submarine program’s workforce and keep recapitalization of the attack submarine fleet on track.