May 22 (UPI) -- General Dynamics Electric Boat Corp. has been awarded a $32.7 million contract for design support requirements for the Columbia-class submarine, which is expected to replace Ohio-class submarines in 2021.
The contract includes technological development funding for vendors and shipbuilders, concept design, engineering, affordability studies, and prototype manufacturing and assembly.
The funding will also goes to further research and development and cost-reduction efforts. Most of the work will be completed in Groton, Conn., with smaller contracts spread throughout the country. The work is expected to be completed by June 2017.
Fiscal 2017 shipbuilding and conversion funds of $32.7 million from the Navy has been allocated and will not expire at the end of the fiscal year.
The Columbia-class submarine is slated to replace the current fleet of Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines. Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles, or SLBMs, form a key part of the nuclear triad.
Operating under the sea and designed for silence that makes them almost impossible to detect by passive sonar, ballistic missile submarines are meant to provide a last ditch nuclear deterrent in the event land and air-based assets are destroyed in a first strike. Their ability to silently approach coastal areas gives them a first-strike capability of their own.
The first of the class, the Columbia, is expected to be completed in 2021. It will field 16 Trident II D5 nuclear ballistic missiles along with a complement of torpedoes.