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Attack Submarine – SSN – Seawolf Class

Built by the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics, the Seawolf-class attack submarines was a product of the Cold War. This family of vessels was conceived to maintain the U.S.’s acoustic advantage over Soviet submarines. Since the Cold War ended, focus shifted to littoral missions, and the cost of maintaining the Seawolf program was deemed prohibitive. The Seawolf-class attack submarine was curtailed in favor of the more cost-efficient Virginia-class family.

The lead ship-the USS Seawolf(SSN-21)-was ordered in 1989 and commissioned in July 1997. The second Seawolf-class vessel-the USS Connecticut (SSN-22) was commissioned in December 1998. The third and final SSN-the USS Jimmy Carter (SSN-23)-was commissioned in 2005 with modifications to improve the payload capacity and underwater maneuverability of the vessel.

The modular design of the Seawolf-class SSN gives it greater maneuverability than the Los Angeles-class SSN. The Seawolf family also has room for future upgrades and weapon developments, and better sonar systems. It is nuclear-powered by a General Electric PWR S6W reactor system, two 52,000-horespower turbines, a pump-jet propulsor, a single shaft, and a secondary propulsion submerged motor.

Initially, the Seawolf-class submarine was fitted with a Lockheed Martin BSY-2 combat data system with a network of seventy Motorola 68030 processors. Eventually, these were upgraded with the Raytheon AN/BYG-1 combat system. Managing the weapons control of the submarine is the Raytheon MK2 fire control system.

Like the Los Angeles-class attack submarine, the Seawolf-class SSN is not built with external weaponry. Instead, it is armed with both the land-attack and anti-ship version of Raytheon’s subsonic Tomahawk missile. With eight 660-mm tubes for launching warhead-equipped weapons, the Seawolf-class SSN carries 50 missiles and torpedoes including the Gould-Honeywell Mk-48 ADCAP torpedo to engage both high-performance surface ships and fast deep-diving submarines.

The following are the three Seawolf-class attack submarines currently deployed:

  • USS Seawolf (SSN 21), Bangor, WA
  • USS Connecticut (SSN 22), Bangor, WA
  • USS Jimmy Carter (SSN 23), Bangor, WA

The general characteristics of the Seawolf-class SSN are as follows:

Builder General Dynamics Electric Boat Division.
Date Deployed USS Seawolf commissioned July 19, 1997
Propulsion One nuclear reactor, one shaft
Length SSNs 21 and 22: 353 feet (107.6 meters);SSN 23: 453 feet (138.07 meters)
Beam 40 feet (12.2 meters)
Displacement SSNs 21 and 22:9,138 tons (9,284 metric tons) submerged; SSN 23 12,158 tons (12,353 metric tons) submerged
Speed 25+ knots (28+ miles per hour, 46.3+ kph)
Crew 140:14 Officers; 126 Enlisted
Armament Tomahawk missiles, MK48 torpedoes, eight torpedo tubes.


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