General Dynamics (GD) Electric Boat has awarded a contract to BAE Systems to produce 28 additional payload tubes for the US Navy’s Block V Virginia-class attack submarines.

The follow-on contract involves the delivery of seven four-tube sets for the Virginia Payload Modules (VPM). Each tube can carry and launch up to seven Tomahawk and future guided cruise missiles.

The Navy seeks to increase the firepower and payload capacity of the Block V Virginia-class vessels.

According to the Navy, the VPM tubes are similar to the Virginia Payload Tubes (VPTs) used on Block III Virginia-class submarines and forward ships.

The incorporation of the VPM into the Block V subs provides more payload space through the addition of a mid-body section.

The VPM extends the hull by 84ft and improves the submarine’s strike capabilities.

BAE Systems Weapon Systems vice-president and general manager Joe Senftle said: “The VPM is critical to the Virginia class because it offers not only additional strike capacity but the flexibility to integrate future payload types, such as unmanned systems and next-generation weapons, as threats evolve.

“We’ve invested heavily in the people, processes, and tools required to successfully deliver these payload tubes to Electric Boat and to help ensure the Navy’s undersea fleet remains a dominant global force.”

According to the contract, the firm will start deliveries in 2021. The contract work is set to be performed at BAE Systems facility in Louisville, Kentucky.

BAE Systems previously received contracts to provide nine payload tubes for the programme.

The company supplies propulsors, spare hardware, and tail cones for Block IV Virginia-class vessels. It also intends to provide this equipment for the Block V programme.

General Dynamics Electric Boat Division and Huntington Ingalls Industries Newport News Shipbuilding are builders of the Virginia-class submarines.

In March, Electric Boat won a $2bn contract modification for long-lead-time material to support the construction of Block V ships.