L-3 Communications’s electro-optics unit has received a $48.7m contract from the US Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) to develop and manufacture a new, slimmer version of its photonics mast.

The development will form part of the Block 4 Low Profile Photonics Mast (LPPM) programme for use on the US Navy’s Virginia-class submarines.

Under the contract, L-3 KEO will carry out engineering and design work for the lower-profile mast during the first year.

The agreement also carries options to manufacture up to 29 photonics masts over a subsequent four-year period. In addition, the deal covers engineering services and provisioning item orders, with a contract maximum ceiling value of $157m.

L-3 Electronic Systems president Steve Kantor said: "We are extremely pleased to collaborate with the US Navy on the Block 4 LPPM programme, which will significantly enhance Virginia-class submarines in deployments around the globe.

"This is a great opportunity to build on our long-standing partnership with the navy by delivering sophisticated imaging technologies to a valued customer with well-defined, mission-critical requirements."

"We are extremely pleased to collaborate with the US Navy on the Block 4 LPPM programme."

The non-hull-penetrating LLPM will reduce the signature of the periscope, which will make it less identifiable as a US Navy submarines.

The efforts of KEO will help NAVSEA construct new submarines and deliver retrofits to existing submarines as part of a continuous modernisation programme.

The Virginia-class submarines are being built by General Dynamics (GD) Electric Boat in collaboration with Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Newport News Shipbuilding unit, as part of a $17.6bn contract.

The submarines meet the navy’s multi-mission requirements with stealth, sophisticated surveillance capabilities, and special warfare enhancements.

Image: The US Navy’s Virginia-class submarine, USS Virginia. Photo: courtesy of US Navy photo by General Dynamics Electric Boat.