New payload tubes from BAE Systems will upgrade the firepower of the U.S. Navy's Virginia-class submarines. (Andrew C. Jarocki/Staff)

WASHINGTON ― Courtesy of BAE Systems, some Virginia-class submarines will be able to pack a bigger punch.

The U.S. Navy has granted a contract to British company to produce payload tubes for two of the service’s Block V Virginia-class subs. Each will be extended in length with an additional mid-body section to create additional room for payloads and, in turn, for greater firepower.

One large-diameter payload tube can store and launch up to seven Tomahawk cruise missiles. The four new tubes per sub will add to the existing firepower of the two large-diameter, 87-inch Virginia Payload Tubes on the bow, each capable of launching six Tomahawk cruise missiles

Work will be performed at BAE System’s facility in Louisville, Kentucky, with deliveries scheduled to begin in 2020.

The Navy has paid particular attention to submarine production recently, even pushing up timetables for the Virginia class.

The Virginia Payload Module is “critical to the Navy’s undersea presence,” according to Joe Senftle, vice president and general manager of weapon systems at BAE. Senftle added that the new VPM will increase firepower by “tripling their payload capacity.”

A BAE spokeswoman said the tubes allow the Navy “to pursue the potential of other payload types,” such as unmanned systems or next-generation weapons.