The massive contract for nine nuclear-powered, Virginia class attack submarines comes just months after the head of the US Navy in the Pacific warned of a massive Chinese naval buildup
and his trouble in getting enough submarines to counter it.
The deal "marks the US Navy's latest response to China's growing military power
and aggressive actions in the Western Pacific," said Carl Schuster, a former director of operations at the US Pacific Command's Joint Intelligence Center.
"The PLAN (Chinese Navy) is getting better and larger so the US Navy has to respond," he said. "It doesn't make China an enemy, but China's actions do bear watching."
Virginia class submarines are the US Navy's key multi-mission undersea platform. They are capable of fighting other submarines, surface ships and land targets, as well as conducting special operations including intelligence gathering and reconnaissance.
Eighteen of the subs are already in the Navy's fleet with another 10 in various stages of construction.
But the nine new subs will represent a substantial upgrade over their predecessors in the class. The Navy also has an option for a 10th sub in the contract, which would bring its value to $24 billion.