Electric Boat is the prime contractor and lead design yard for the U.S. Navy's Virginia-class attack submarines. Virginia is the first class of U.S. ships produced for post-Cold War missions and has been designed to be more cost-effective and perform a wider range of mission capabilities than previous classes. The company's construction teammate is Huntington Ingalls-Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia.
Contracts have been awarded for 18 ships of an anticipated 30-ship class. To date, eight ships have been delivered to the Navy: USS Virginia, USS Texas, USS Hawaii, USS North Carolina, USS New Hampshire, USS New Mexico, USS Missouri and USS California.
The contract for Block III ships, an eight-ship buy, was awarded in December 2008. There will be significant changes in Block III, including a new bow design and a 60-month construction span. Planned procurement of two ships per year is expected to begin in Fiscal Year 2011.
Construction work on the Virginia Class is evenly split between Electric Boat and Huntington Ingalls-Newport News Shipbuilding. Each yard is responsible for particular parts of each ship, alternating hull erection, sea trials and delivery. For example, Electric Boat builds all of the pressure hull pieces, engine rooms, and command and control systems modules. Newport News builds the non-pressure hull ends of the ship, weapons module, habitability module, auxiliary machinery room module and the fairwater. Modules are shipped to whichever yard is delivering a particular ship (Electric Boat delivers even-numbered ships; Huntington Ingalls-Newport News Shipbuilding delivers odd-numbered ships).
Virginia-class Cost Reduction
The Virginia Class has been targeted for aggressive cost and schedule reduction efforts in order to maintain affordability and viability of the program.
Working closely with the Navy and its industry partners, Electric Boat agreed to reduce the cost for Virginia-class submarines to $2 billion per hull in Fiscal Year 2005 dollars. This successful effort comprises three parts: multi-year procurement, improvements in construction practices and design for affordability.
Thus far, the program has realized some $200 million in savings through the multi-year procurement contract and resultant purchasing efficiencies.
The Virginia Class has been designed and built using advanced electronic design and data management tools that have been integrated into modular construction techniques. The use of Integrated Product and Process Design (IPPD) is credited with contributing to the success of the program.
Improvements in construction performance will reduce construction span from 84 months to 60 months. This is being achieved through greater use of modular construction, pushing as much work as possible into a manufacturing setting where it can be done more efficiently. USS New Hampshire was the first ship to be assembled from four modules, compared with the 10 modules required to build the lead ship of the class, USS Virginia.
The most significant design change to be implemented in Block III is the modification to the ships bow, starting with the North Dakota. The modification replaces the existing Sonar Sphere with a Large Aperture Bow Array, and the existing 12 vertical launch missile tubes with two Virginia Payload Tubes, each carrying six missiles in a Multiple-All-Up-Round Canister adapted from the SSGN configuration. The bow redesign will save more than $40 million per ship. Other design changes were selected based on their ability to reduce cost at a manageable risk level while not reducing existing ships performance.