The US Navy has taken delivery of the PCU North Dakota (SSN 784) submarine, which is the first of eight Block III Virginia class vessels being built by General Dynamics (GD) Electric Boat.
Said to be delivered ahead of schedule and more than $30m below target expenses, the new submarine is planned to be commissioned on 25 October at the navy submarine base in Groton, US.
The delivery of the $2.6bn vessel follows an investigation by the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) into questionable third-party modules and had been redesigned as part of the Virginia Cost Reduction work completed to bring down the acquisition cost, while increasing operational flexibility.
The Design For Affordability (DFA) programme involved redesigning the ship's bow, replacement of 12 individual launch tubes with two large-diameter Virginia Payload Tubes, each with the capability of firing six Tomahawk Cruise Missiles as well as a range of payloads.
General Dynamics vice-president and Virginia programme manager Kurt Hesch said: "The full range of Block III improvements were successfully tested during North Dakota's sea trials.
"This is an important accomplishment that reflects the skill and commitment of everyone involved in the Virginia-class submarine programme. Maintaining this level of performance helps the navy attain its ship-building goals and ensures our continuing success as a business."
Mainly aimed at dominating the world's littoral and deep waters, the Virginia-class submarines are capable of conducting anti-submarine; anti-surface ship; strike; special operation forces; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; irregular warfare; and mine warfare missions.
The US Navy has taken delivery of 11 Virginia-class submarines, with seven additional Block III submarines under construction and a further delivery of ten vessels, which are currently being built as part of the recently awarded Block IV contract, that will be delivered two-per-year through 2018.
Image: The US Navy's PCU North Dakota (SSN 784) during bravo sea trials in Atlantic Ocean. Photo: courtesy of US Navy.