Construction has begun on the SSN 787 Virginia-class submarine at General Dynamics [GD] Electric Boat facility in Groton, Conn., marking the first time in 22 years the Navy has begun construction on two submarines in the same fiscal year, the service said yesterday.

Work on the 13th submarine of the class began on Sept. 2, the Navy said. The 2011 fiscal year ends September 30. Construction on the SSN 786 began in March at Electric Boat.

Post-Cold War budget cuts forced the Navy to slow the construction rate on subs, but with the redesign of portions of the Virginia class the Navy says it has been able to reduce costs by 20 per cent per boat and construction time from 84 months to 60.

"To get to this important point, our Navy/industry shipbuilding team executed a very successful design for affordability program that yielded significant cost savings and has allowed the Navy to increase production in a fiscally-responsible manner," Rear Adm. David Johnson, program executive officer for submarines, said.

"A great deal of our success comes from increasing construction efficiencies; our last two submarines were delivered in 65 months, which is eight months early to their contract delivery date and we are well on our way to getting that number down to 60 months for our two fiscal year 2012 authorized boats," Johnson added, referring to the SSN 788 and SSN 789.