June 23 (UPI) -- The Navy awarded General Dynamics a contract for the first two vessels in a new class of ballistic-missile submarines that could total $9.5 billion if all options are exercised, according to the Pentagon.
The $869 million deal announced Monday funds material procurement, as well as industrial base development, for the first two Columbia SSBNs, as well as Virginia- and Ford-class ships.
The agreement is still subject to Pentagon approval, but includes construction contract options that could increase the value of the deal to $9.5 billion for the Columbia-class ships.
Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition James Geurts said Monday that the deal "is the result of a lot of hard work between the shipbuilder teams and our teams to negotiate the first two ships' cost."
"That will allow us to begin full-rate construction of the first ship, begin advanced construction of the second ship with the intent then to begin full construction of that second ship in FY '24," Geurts said.
The $869-million contract also includes support for United Kingdom Strategic Weapon Support System kit manufacturing, as well as options to increase funding for submarine production and support for Britain.
Huntington Ingalls, which is performing advance construction activities under a contract with General Dynamics, cut the first steel plate of the Columbia ballistic missile submarine at Newport News shipbuilding in Virginia in May 2019.
The future Columbia is set to deliver in 2028 and undertake its first nuclear strategic deterrent patrol in 2031, as Ohio-class submarines are scheduled to begin retirement.