Conceived as a successor to the Los Angeles class, the Virginia-class fast attack submarine (SSN) is the biggest shipbuilding program the U.S. Navy has ever undertaken. At a cost of USD$2.7 billion per submarine, the 50+ vessels the Virginia-class program will eventually deliver put it among the Pentagon’s top technology investments for the new millennium. Virginia-class SSNs will be commissioned through the year 2043, and are expected to remain in service until 2070.
The U.S. Navy is required to maintain a fleet of 30 Virginia-class SSNs. In 2004, it placed a bulk-buy contract for the first 10 vessels. The Virginia program is supported by a number of industry teams, with General Dynamics – Electric Boat Division and Northrop Grumman Newport News leading the design. To optimize the structure of the submarine, the engineering and design teams at Electric Boat and Newport News utilize the U.S. Navy’s NAVSEA (Naval Sea Systems Command) CAD/SAE simulation systems.
In 2008, Groton, Connecticut-based General Dynamics and Newport News, Virginia-based Northrop Grumman signed an USD$14 billion contract for the production of eight more submarines. In 2014, an additional contract for ten more boats worth USD$17.6 billion was signed. The Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics is expected to commence construction on two Virginia-class submarines per year over a 5-year period, and conclude deliveries by 2023.
Propelling the Virginia-class SSN are the General Electric S9G pressure water reactor (designed to last the vessel’s lifetime), two single-shaft turbine engines, and a United Defense 29.84-MW pump jet propulser. In 2013, Babcock & Wilcox Nuclear Operations was awarded a contract for the nuclear propulsion components. The SSN’s steering and diving is controlled via a 4-buton, 2-axis joystick.
For full-spectrum radar processing, automatic threat warning, and situation assessment, the Virginia-class SSN’s mast is mounted with Lockheed Martin’s AN/BLQ-10 electronic support measures. For range and bearing data, the vessel is equipped with Northrop Grumman’s AN/WLY-1 acoustic countermeasures system. Goodrich manufactures the SSN’s high-frequency sail array acoustic windows and composite sonar domes.
Since the Virginia-class SSN is expected to be active until 2070, its hull structure contains structurally-integrated enclosures fitted with modular, isolated deck structures for ease of installation, repair, and upgrade of the vessel’s systems.
With a lower acoustic signature than Russia’s Akula-class and 4th-generation submarines, the Virginia-class SSN has a noise register akin to that of the U.S. Navy’s Seawolf-class SSN. By incorporating the latest in anechoic coatings, isolated deck structures, and a new propeller design, the Virginia-class SSN achieves this low noise level.
To deliver special warfare forces such as Navy SEAL team or Marine reconnaissance team, the Virginia-class submarine has an integral lock-out/lock-in chamber in the hull that can house a Northrop Grumman Oceanic and Naval Systems ASDS (Advanced SEAL Delivery System) mini-submarine.Equipped with 12 vertical missile launch tubes and four 533mm torpedo tubes, the Virginia-class SSN has the ablity to launch 16 Raytheon/McDonnell Douglas Tomahawk cruise missiles.
The following are Virginia-class boats that have been commissioned:
- USS Virginia (SSN 774), Portsmouth, NH
- USS Texas (SSN 775), Pearl Harbor, HI
- USS Hawaii (SSN 776), Pearl Harbor, HI
- USS North Carolina (SSN 777), Pearl Harbor, HI
- USS New Hampshire (SSN 778), Groton, CT
- USS Missouri (SSN 780), Groton, CT
- USS California (SSN 781), Groton, CT
- USS Mississippi (SSN 782), Groton, CT
- USS Minnesota (SSN 783), Norfolk, VA
- PCU North Dakota (SSN 784), No homeport - Construction began March 2009. Christened 2 November 2013.
- PCU John Warner (SSN 785), No homeport - Construction began March 2010
- PCU Illinois (SSN 786) - Construction began in March 2011.
- PCU Washington (SSN 787) - No homeport, construction began in September 2011
- PCU Colorado (SSN 788) - No homeport, construction began in March 2012.
- PCU Indiana (SSN 789) - No homeport, construction began September 2012.
- PCU South Dakota (SSN 790) - Under contract.
- PCU Delaware (SSN 791) - Under contract.
The general characteristics of theVirginia-classsubmarine are as follows:
|| General Dynamics Electric Boat Division and Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc. - Newport News Shipbuilding.|
| Date Deployed
|| USS Virginia commissioned October 3, 2004|
|| One nuclear reactor, one shaft|
|| 377 feet (114.8 meters)|
|| 33 feet (10.0584 meters)|
|| Approximately 7,800 tons (7,925 metric tons) submerged|
|| 25+ knots (28+ miles per hour, 46.3+ kph)|
|| 132: 15 officers; 117 enlisted|
|| Tomahawk missiles, twelve VLS tubes, MK48 ADCAP torpedoes, four torpedo tubes.|