Dec. 11 (UPI) -- The Navy has awarded $346.5 million to General Dynamics Electric Boat for research, development and services for Virginia-class nuclear, fast-attack submarines.
Under the modification to an existing contract, the shipyard will provide research for possible design improvements to the submarine, including the Virginia Payload Module. With options, the contract dating back to 2016 could total $1.3 billion through 2019, according to General Dynamics.
The Virginia-class is a nuclear-powered, fast-attack submarine built for anti-sub and anti-surface operations. It is armed with torpedoes, Tomahawk cruise missiles and is capable of mine-laying operations.
It can also deliver special forces teams in small boats as it has the ability to operate in shallow or littoral waters.
The Virginia-class is expected to gradually replace the Los Angeles-class attack submarine whose design dates back to the 1970s. The submarine has faced a number of redesigns and upgrades to simplify construction and reduce operating costs.
The Virginia Payload Module will triple the Virginia-class Tomahawk capacity and allow greater flexibility for installing other vertical launch weapons systems, according to the Navy and General Dynamics.