The US Navy will spend $1.07bn for long lead time to service two Virginia-class nuclear-powered cruise missile attack submarines (SSN).

The US Department of Defense (DoD) awarded the sole-source modified contract to the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) of the SSNs, General Dynamics Electric Boat (EB). Work will be completed in 2033.

EB is presently constructing SSNs in Block V of the class. The funds will enable the General Dynamics subsidiary to purchase materials and major components for hulls 812 and 813.

Virginia-class SSNs have a full range of advanced mission requirements: including anti-submarine and surface ship warfare.

The class embodies the commitment by the navy and industry to reduce costs without decreasing capabilities through a multi-year procurement strategy.

“Crucial demand”

President of EB, Kevin Graney, suggests that the US Navy is prodding industry to deliver the coveted capabilities required of an advanced force.

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“This contract modification sends a crucial demand signal to the submarine industrial base, enabling our suppliers to invest in the capacity and materials needed to increase production volume,” Graney stated.

The DoD stress the need to keep pace with China’s advancing military capabilities. An arms race has ensued, which spurred growing investment in the US defence industrial base.

The President increased the navy budget by $11.1bn, or 4.5%, compared to the 2023 budget. Research and development into new capabilities has swelled by $1bn.

At the forefront of this aggressive posture – at least in the maritime domain, specifically in the Indo-Pacific where China is most predatory – is the submarine fleet.

The Biden administration aims to strengthen domestic supply chains for critical weapons and systems. The DoD recently bolstered comapanies within the hypersonics industry, particularly companies that produce thermal-resistant materials.

Graney’s assertion suggests submarine production is part of this enormous military-industrial expansion.

Virginia-class capabilities

The North American region, supported by the US Navy’s multi-year procurement programmes, will maintain its leading position with a compound annual growth rate of 3.7%, according to GlobalData intelligence.

The procurement of Virginia-class attack SSNs and Columbia-class ballistic missile (SLBM) submarines is driving the growth of the submarine market in the US.

With a robust capability for anti-submarine warfare, Virginia-class vessels include specialised weapons, sensors, and other equipment that enable them to perform land attacks, gather intelligence, conduct mine reconnaissance, and support special forces.

In addition, the Virginia class can deploy midget submarines for infiltration and shallow water operations. In 2016, USSOCOM awarded a $236m contract to Lockheed Martin and Submergence Group for three submersibles, with the first delivered in 2019.