Oct. 14 (UPI) -- Electric Boat Corp. has been awarded a $434.3 million contract by the U.S. Navy for work on Virginia-class submarines, including lead yard support, about a month after a report to Congress raised questions about the program.
The contract, announced Friday by the Department of Defense, calls for lead yard support for Virginia-class submarines to maintain, update and support the design and data of including added technology insertion, throughout the construction and post-shakedown of new submarines.
Electric Boat and its partner, Newport News Shipbuilding, have been constructing the nuclear-powered fast-attack submarines for the Navy since 2000. Seventeen have been completed, each shipyard is scheduled to build two per year in 2020, 2021 and 2022, on top of three each in 2023.
More than 94 percent of work on the contract is expected to be performed at Electric Boat's Groton, Conn., facilities, with some also expected in Newport News, Va., and Quonset, R.I. Work under the deal is expected to be completed by September 2020.
Virginia-class vessels are the Navy's newest submarine warfare platform, designed to provide stealth, intelligence gathering and next-generation weapons. Overall, the branch intends to acquire 66 of the vessels.
In May, Electric Boat received a $497 million contract modification to further develop the Navy's fleet of Columbia-class of ballistic missile submarines. In July, it also secured a $173.8 million contract, potentially worth over $1 billion if options are activated, for attack submarine design and engineering.
But a Congressional Research Service report in September highlighted concerns with Electric Boat's capability to build both Columbia-class and Virginia-class vessels at its Connecticut shipyard, largely because of a Navy modification to the Virginia-class design.
The Navy seeks to improve the attack power of the submarines, with each new vessel 85 feet longer than standard -- up from 377 feet -- and equipped with dozens of additional missile firing tubes. The cost of the submarines will increase, from $2.8 billion each to $3.2 billion.
Earlier in 2019, both Electric Boat and Newport News Shipbuilding had issues with delivery times as the program moved from one submarine per year to two.
"The program has experienced months-long delays in efforts to build boats relative to their targeted delivery dates," the report said in part. "Program officials said vendor quality issues with welding on VPM [Virginia Payload Module] have caused a 3.5-month delay in the schedule for the payload tubes for the first two submarines with VPM."
The report added that several at-sea Virginia-class boats were seen in 2016 to have been built with certain defective parts, and noted the "operational and cost implications" of the program."
Peeling surfaces, made of a rubber-like sound insulation material, on the hulls of the newest ships, were noted in the CRS report. The report is the subject of a demand in the 2020 defense budget, calling for reports from Electric Boat and Newport News Shipbuilding on the progress of the Virginia-class constructions program.