Attack submarines are designed to seek and destroy enemy submarines and surface ships; project power ashore with Tomahawk cruise missiles and Special Operation Forces (SOF); carry out Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions; support battle group operations; and engage in mine warfare.
Virginia class has several innovations that significantly enhance its warfighting capabilities with an emphasis on littoral operations. Virginia class SSNs have a fly-by-wire ship control system that provides improved shallow-water ship handling.
The class has special features to support SOF, including a reconfigurable torpedo room, which can accommodate a large number of SOF and all their equipment for prolonged deployments and future off-board payloads. The class also has a large lock-in/lock-out chamber for divers.
In Virginia-class SSNs, traditional periscopes have been supplanted by two photonics masts that host visible and infrared digital cameras atop telescoping arms. With the removal of the barrel periscopes, the ship’s control room has been moved down one deck and away from the hull’s curvature, affording it more room and an improved layout that provides the commanding officer with enhanced situational awareness.
Additionally, through the extensive use of modular construction, open architecture, and commercial off-the-shelf components, the Virginia class is designed to remain state-of-the-practice for its entire operational life through the rapid introduction of new systems and payloads.
SSN-784 North Dakota was the first of the eight-ship group of Virginia-class submarines known as Block III. These ships embody a U.S. Navy and industry commitment to reduce costs without decreasing capabilities through an initiative comprising a multi-year procurement strategy, improvements in construction practices and the Design For Affordability (DFA) program.
As part of the Virginia-class’ third, or Block III, contract, the Navy redesigned approximately 20 percent of the ship to reduce their acquisition costs. Most of the changes are found in the bow where the traditional, air-backed sonar sphere has been replaced with a water-backed Large Aperture Bow (LAB) array, which reduces acquisition and life-cycle costs while providing enhanced passive detection capabilities. The new LAB Array eliminates hundreds of hull penetrations and replaces tranducers with lower cost, life-of-the-ship hydrophones.
The new bow also replaces the 12 individual Vertical Launch System (VLS) tubes with two 87-inch/2.2 meters Virginia Payload Tubes (VPTs), each capable of launching 6 Tomahawk cruise missiles. The VPTs simplify construction, reduce acquisition costs, and provide for more payload flexibility than the smaller VLS tubes due to their added volume. By nearly doubling the payload space available from 1,200 feet3/34 m3 with the 12 vertical launch tubes to 2,300 feet3/65 m3, the VPTs will enable Virginia-class ships to deploy a wider variety of payloads.
Newport News Shipbuilding is teamed with General Dynamic Electric Boat to build Virginia-class submarines. Newport News Shipbuilding builds the stern, habitability & machinery spaces, torpedo room, sail and bow. Electric Boat builds the pressure hull, engine room and control room. Newport News Shipbuilding and Electric Boat each perform work on the reactor plant as well as alternate on the final assembly, test, outfit and delivery.
Virginia Payload Module
When Ohio-class SSGN submarines (Guided Missile Submarine, Nuclear-powered) joined the fleet beginning in 2005, they provided the U.S. Navy with a significant increase in stealthy, survivable strike capacity. To retain this capability when the SSGNs begin coming off the line in the 2020s, General Dynamics Electric Boat has a proposed an effective and affordable solution – the Virginia Payload Module, or VPM.
The VPM comprises 4 additional large-diameter payload tubes in a module inserted amidships in Virginia-class submarines, extending the hull by 70 to 80 feet/21.3 to 24.4 m and boosting the strike capacity by more than 230 percent per ship, but increasing the cost less than 15 percent.
The VPM allows for distribution of strike assets, giving theater commanders greater discretion in staging payload and allowing them to more easily cover widely separated targets.
VPM, which is an established requirement, will leverage payloads developed for Block III Virginia Class Submarines and SSGNs into three times as many large-diameter tubes when compared to previous Virginia Class submarines. That increased volume enables wider use of Special Operating Forces, and provides flexibility for the designers of tomorrow’s weapons, sensors, adjunct vehicles and other potential payloads.
Block V (SSN-802-805) will begin construction in 2019 and initial operating capability is expected in 2026. It changes the nature of payload discussions from ‘what can you shoot?’ to ‘what do you need?’
|Builder||General Dynamics Electric Boat Division and Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc. – Newport News Shipbuilding|
|Date Deployed||October 3, 2004|
|Propulsion||One GE PWR S9G(*) nuclear reactor, two turbines, one shaft; 40,000 hp/30 MW|
|Length||377 feet/114.8 m|
|Beam||33 feet/10.0584 m|
|Hull Diameter||34 feet/10.3632 m|
|Displacement||Approximately 7,800 tons/7,925 metric tons submerged|
|Speed||25+ knots/28+ mph/46.3+ km/h|
|Diving Depth||800+ feet/244+ m|
|Crew||132: 15 officers; 117 enlisted|
|Armament: Tomahawk missiles||12 individual VLS (Vertical Launch System) tubes or two 87-in/2.2 m Virginia Payload Tubes (VPTs), each capable of launching 6 Tomahawk cruise missiles|
|Armament: MK-48 ADCAP (Advanced Capability) Mod 7 heavyweight torpedoes||4 torpedo tubes|
|Weapons||MK-60 CAPTOR (Encapsulated Torpedo) mines, advanced mobile mines and UUVs (Unmanned Underwater Vehicles)|
(*) – Knolls Atomic Power Laboratories
USS Minnesota (SSN-783) got her first taste of the sea in early May 2013 during her sea trials
Nuclear Submarine Lineup
|SSN-774 Virginia||EB||8-16-03||10-23-04||Portsmouth, New Hampshire|
|SSN-775 Texas||NNS||7-31-05||9-9-06||Pearl Harbor, Hawaii|
|SSN-776 Hawaii||EB||6-19-06||5-5-07||Pearl Harbor, Hawaii|
|SSN-777 North Carolina||NNS||4-21-07||5-3-08||Pearl Harbor, Hawaii|
EB – Electric Boat, Groton, Connecticut
NNS – Newport News Shipbuilding, Newport News, Virginia
SSN – Attack Submarine, Nuclear-powered
|SSN-778 New Hampshire||EB||6-21-08||10-25-08||Groton, Connecticut|
|SSN-779 New Mexico||NNS||12-13-08||11-21-09||Groton, Connecticut|
|SSN-780 Missouri||EB||12-5-09||7-31-10||Groton, Connecticut|
|SSN-781 California||NNS||11-6-10||10-29-11||Groton, Connecticut|
|SSN-782 Mississippi||EB||12-3-11||6-2-12||Pearl Harbor, Hawaii|
|SSN-783 Minnesota||NNS||10-27-12||9-7-13||Norfolk, Virginia|
|SSN-784 North Dakota||EB||11-2-13||10-25-14||Groton, Connecticut|
|SSN-785 John Warner||NNS||09-06-14||08-01-15||Norfolk, Virginia|
|SSN-786 Illinois||EB||10-10-15||10-29-16||Groton, Connecticut|
|SSN-790 South Dakota||EB||Under Construction|
|SSN-791 Delaware||NNS||Under Construction|
|SSN-792 Vermont||EB||Under Construction|
|SSN-793 Oregon||EB||Under Construction|
|SSN-794 Montana||NNS||Under Construction|
|SSN-795 Hyman G. Rickover||EB||On Order|
|SSN-796 New Jersey||NNS||On Order|
|SSN-797 Iowa||EB||On Order|
|SSN-798 Massachusetts||NNS||On Order|
|SSN-799 Idaho||EB||On Order|
|SSN-800 Arkansas||NNS||On Order|
|SSN-801 Utah||EB||On Order|
It took a team of shipbuilders about eight hours to move the Virginia-class submarine John Warner (SSN-785) into the floating dry dock where it was christened