General Dynamics Electric Boat has been awarded a modification contract to continue its design efforts to produce Virginia Class submarines that are affordable for the US Navy.

The $60m contract is a modification to the block III contract, which was initially awarded in 2008 for the procurement of eight submarines through 2013.

Under the contract, Electric Boat will continue to develop and implement cost-reduction design changes called ‘design for affordability’ (DFA) to reduce the acquisition costs by 20% for fiscal year 2012.

The significant design change will be modifications to the submarine’s bow, replacement of the sonar sphere with a large aperture bow array and the 12 vertical-launch missile tubes with two Virginia payload tubes, each carrying six missiles.

The overall contract has a potential value of $14bn and the last block III ship is scheduled for delivery in 2019.