The Navy has decided to purchase an additional Virginia-class fast-attack submarine at the cost of $2.2 billion.
In 2019, the Navy and General Dynamics Electric Boat signed a $24.1 billion contract for nine Virginia-class fast-attack submarines with the option of an additional vessel if the request was made in the contract’s lifetime. Now, the Navy has decided to activate that clause and purchase a tenth submarine of the class.
The submarine will come with the Virginia Payload Module, an enhancement to the standard version of the sub that adds four undersea vertical missile launchers. Also known as Block V, the module increases the fixed missile capacity of a Virginia-class fast-attack submarine by an impressive 230%.
“The 17,000 shipbuilders of Electric Boat are pleased to receive the award for the tenth Block V ship and are ready to meet the generational challenge of building the Virginia and Columbia classes concurrently,” Kevin Graney, president of the General Dynamics Electric Boat, said in a press release. “We are grateful for the continued support of our federal delegation, who strongly advocated for this important funding. Today’s announcement maintains the two-ship per year production cadence, provides continuity and development to our skilled workforce and promotes stability in our national supply base.”
When the initial contract was signed in 2019, it was the biggest shipbuilding contract in the history of the Navy. The huge investment reflects the Navy’s vision for the vessel. Navy leaders want Virginia-class fast-attack subs to fill multiple roles, including attack, surveillance, and special operations support.
The Navy is planning to purchase 66 Virginia-class fast-attack submarines to replace its aging Los-Angeles ships. Each Virginia-class sub costs approximately $3.5 billion.
The Navy operates three types of submarines: fast-attack, ballistic missile, and guided missile submarines, with a total of 68 vessels of all types.
Fast-attack submarines primary sink enemy ships and conduct reconnaissance. The Navy has three classes of fast-attacks subs (Los Angeles, Seawolf, and Virginia) and a total of 50 vessels.
Finally, Ballistic missile submarines provide the maritime aspect of the U.S.’ nuclear deterrence. The Navy has 14 Ohio-class (Trident II configuration) subs, and each packs 24 ballistic nuclear missiles.
Guided-missile submarines carry 154 Tomahawk guided missiles and support special operations. The Navy operates four Ohio-class (Trident I configuration).
Had no idea of the extra missile capacity. Wondering if these will help create some reach, or offensive capability in the South China Sea? Thinking China is watching this development.
Stavros Atlamazoglou says
Most definitely they are watching. But in the end, it’s a small upgrade in the grand scheme of things. If the Chinese Navy can deploy five or six times the number of US subs, a few extra missile tubes would certainly contribute but not make the difference.