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26 Sep 02. General Dynamics Corp.’s (NYSE:GD – News) Electric Boat unit won a five-year, $443m contract to convert four submarines with nuclear capabilities to non-nuclear missions, the Navy on said Thursday.

Four retiring nuclear-fueled Ohio-class submarines are due to be converted to perform non-nuclear missions under a $1bn program included in the defense budget for fiscal 2002, which ends on Monday. GD won the contract for design of a Trident submarine optimised for covert strike and special operations support. The converted submarines will carry up to 154 Tomahawk cruise missiles rather than the nuclear-tipped Trident strategic ballistic missiles they currently deploy. Adapting a Trident submarine for cruise missiles involves altering 22 of its 24 missile tubes to carry seven conventional missiles each, for the total of 154 missiles per submarine. Those weapons will give each new submarine, known in Navy jargon as SSGNs for guided-missile submarines, about the same land-attack capability as a group of three or four surface combat ships. In addition, the space freed up by the two unused missile tubes will be converted to launching areas or equipment storage for up to 102 special operations forces.

The SSGNs will also serve as platforms to develop and test new weapons systems, including a Northrop Grumman (NYSE:NOC – News) Corp.-designed mini-submarine designed to carry Navy SEALs and their gear to and from hostile shores. The submarines to be converted, coincident with their mid-life refuelling, are the Ohio, Michigan, Florida and Georgia. Electric Boat of Groton, Connecticut, designed and built all 18 ships of the Ohio class.

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