Defense Officials have been calling on lawmakers to fund upgrades to America’s nuclear deterrent infrastructure, or nuclear triad, for years now.  The triad, which is made up of airborne, ballistic missile, and submarine based launch platforms is intended to ensure no first strike could neuter America’s nuclear response, ensuring the mutual portion of the classic strategy of mutually assured destruction.

Last month, the U.S. Air Force announced the awarding of two “technology maturation and risk reduction” contracts for America’s Ground Based Strategic Deterrent ICBM weapon system program, which will task Boeing and Northrop Grumman with developing a new long-range ballistic missile platform to replace the aging working horse Minuteman III, and now the U.S. Navy is following suit.  This week, the Navy announced that it will be awarding a massive $5 billion contract to General Dynamics’ Electric Boat out of Connecticut to complete the design of what promises to be America’s next generation of nuclear submarines.

The contract calls for the construction of 12 all new Columbia class ballistic-missile submarines that will replace America’s current fleet of 14 aging Ohio class subs, which were also built by General Dynamics Electric Boat starting in 1976.  The current fleet of underwater warships first entered service in 1981, and are expected to reach the end of their service life within the next few years.

The Ohio-class strategic deterrent submarine is going to reach the end of its operational life here in the next decade, so it’s extremely important for the Columbia detailed design and construction to proceed so that ship is built and delivered to the Navy in time,” Will Lennon, Electric Boat’s vice president for the Columbia-class submarine program, said.