Nine nuclear-powered, Virginia class attack submarines worth a whopping $22.2 billion were ordered by the US Navy on December 2. The contract is the most expensive shipbuilding contract ever, with the world's most advanced submarines. This comes just months after the head of the US Navy in the Pacific warned of a massive Chinese naval buildup and his trouble in getting enough submarines to counter it. Carl Schuster, a former director of operations at the US Pacific Command's Joint Intelligence Center told media that the deal marks the US Navy's latest response to China's growing military power and aggressive actions in the Western Pacific. He added that the PLAN (Chinese Navy) is getting better and larger so the US Navy has to respond. Schuster further clarified that China is no enemy, but it's actions do bear watching.
The ordered Virginia class submarines are the US Navy's key multi-mission undersea platform. As per reports, they are capable of fighting other submarines, surface ships, and land targets, as well as conducting special operations including intelligence gathering and reconnaissance. By now 18 subs are already in the Navy's fleet with another 10 in various stages of construction. Yet the new addition will have a substantial upgrade over their predecessors in the class. A 10th submarine could also be added to the contract, which would bring its value to $24 billion. The new submarines will be bigger displacing 10,200 tons compared to 7,800 on the current subs. The length of the submarines will be longer, that is 460 feet compared to 377 feet and they'll have more firepower, with the ability to launch strikes with 40 Tomahawk cruise missiles, compared to just 12 on the current ships. Moreover, the subs can generate their own water and oxygen and can stay submerged for months at a time.
Responding to the new additions, Rear Adm. David Goggins, the Navy's program executive officer for submarines, called them "a generational leap in submarine capability for the Navy" in a statement on the Navy's website Monday.
Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas B. Modly told the media that the US submarine force is fundamental to the power and reach of our integrated naval force. He added that the recent announcement affirms the US' commitment to future strength, undersea and around the world. Likewise, US Senator Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, hailed the new contract saying that the next generation submarines provide US forces with a distinct national security advantage. They are an unmatched tool for deterrence, he said in his statement to the media.
General Dynamics Electric Boat, the prime contractor of the US Navy will build the new submarines in Groton, Connecticut, with subcontractor Huntington Ingalls Industries. The contract would ensure a stable workload for the 4,000 workers at an Electric Boat shipyard in Rhode Island for years to come, said Senator Reed. The new submarines are scheduled for delivery between 2025 and 2029. Some of the new fleets will replace some of the old ships from the 1970s.