The Navy signed, Dec. 22, the expected five year, $14 billion contract with General Dynamics to build eight new Virginia class submarines. The contract calls for a production rate of one ship per year in 2009 and 2010 and two per year in 2011, 2012 and 2013. The Virginia class are built under a teaming arrangement between General Dynamics Electric Boat as the prime and Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding as its partner, each building portions and alternating delivery of the submarines.
The Navy said the increased production rate is possible because it was able to shave $400 million off the $2.4 billion authorized for 2012 for Virginia construction. That cost target was set by then Navy Chief Adm. Michael Mullen back in 2005. A Navy press release said that half the savings came from increasing production to two ships per year, thereby spreading production costs over more ships. The Navy also spent $600 million to redesign portions for more efficient production and to reduce construction time from 84 to 60 months.
The redesign involved 100 “discrete” changes, the release said, the most extensive being the replacement of the sonar sphere with a Large Aperture Bow Array, said to provide better “passive listening,” and the 12 vertical launch tubes with two large diameter Virginia Payload Tubes. The Navy says the replacement tubes reduce lifecycle costs and allows the subs to fit a wider variety of payloads. "The payload tube interface is identical to the SSGN's tubes so what we put in one, we can put in the other, and with two hatches instead of twelve we've cut out a lot of maintenance," said Rear Adm. William Hilarides, program executive officer for submarines.