The US Navy's VIrginia-class submarine.

General Dynamics (GD) Electric Boat has received a $17.6bn contract from the US Navy for the construction of ten Virginia-class, nuclear-powered attack submarines.

Under the multi-year block IV contract, Electric Boat and its industry partner Newport News Shipbuilding will build two submarines a year through to 2018.

With the construction on the first block IV submarine, SSN-792, scheduled to start on 1 May, the procurement of the tenth submarine is scheduled for delivery in 2023.

General Dynamics Electric Boat president Jeffrey Geiger said: "By continuing to produce two ships per year, the navy and industry team retains the stability required to achieve increased efficiencies, providing the fleet with the submarines it needs to sustain the nation’s undersea dominance."

With a displacement of 7,800t, hull length of 377ft and a diameter of 34ft, the Virginia-class submarines can cruise at speeds of over 25kt, while diving to more than 800ft deep.

"This is the largest number of boats ordered to date in a single contract block."

Catering to the latest mission requirements, such as anti-submarine, surface-ship warfare and special operations support, these ships can carry the Mark 48 advanced capability torpedoes, Tomahawk land-attack missiles and unmanned underwater vehicles.

Incorporating advanced intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities to gather intelligence vital to warfare efforts, Virginia-lass submarines will support national security interests.

Newport News Shipbuilding president Matt Mulherin said: "This is the largest number of boats ordered to date in a single contract block, which is great news, particularly in light of today’s challenging economic and political environments."

Previously, both companies have jointly delivered ten Virginia-class submarines to the US Navy, with eight more being built from a third block under contract.

In January the US Navy awarded GD two contracts for the development of advanced submarine technologies for current and future undersea platforms, as well as for continued work on the submarine modernisation programme.

Image: The US Navy’s Virginia (SSN 774) submarine, built by General Dynamics Electric Boat and Newport News Shipbuilding. Photo: courtesy of US Navy by General Dynamics Electric Boat.

Defence Technology