The US Navy announced a record $17.645 billion contract Monday to build 10 new SSN 774 Virginia-class nuclear-powered attack submarines. The order assures prime contractor General Dynamics Electric Boat and chief subcontractor Huntington Ingalls Newport News Shipbuilding of submarine orders through 2018.
The fixed-price incentive multiyear contract for 10 Block IV subs provides for two ships per year over the five-year period, each yard delivering one sub per year. The two shipbuilders share equally in a teaming arrangement to build the subs, with each yard responsible for certain portions of each hull.
“The Block IV award is the largest shipbuilding contract in US Navy history in terms of total dollar value,” said Rear Adm. Dave Johnson, program executive officer for submarines at Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA). It “builds upon the Virginia-class program’s successful Navy and industry relationship,” he added, calling the program “a model of acquisition excellence.”
Finally, some good news on the shipbuilding front. In spite of the weird split-yard building technique, which we can’t imagine really improves efficiency, the Virginia class has generally been a well run program, with most boats on time and on budget.
We don’t really tend to talk about subs here much. Partly that’s because the submarine service is rather tight-lipped about what it is they actually do. Mostly, though, its because a well run program doesn’t seem to generate nearly the number of press releases, blog posts, or editorials that a monumental screw-up like the LCS program does.
And its nice to see the Navy finally buying two a year. The predecessor SSN-688 class averaged about 2.5 deliveries a year, with a total of 62 delivered over the life of the program. Of that total, 40 are still in service, but many are rapidly approaching retirement age. Clearly, the Navy will need even more Virginia class boats in the out years. And at $1.7 billion and change per boat, that’s something of a steal.