Virginia class

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.

USS Minnesota (SSN-783) – Attack Submarine, Nuclear-powered
USS Minnesota (SSN-783) – Attack Submarine, Nuclear-powered

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.

Virginia-class submarines can stay submerged for up to three months at a time
Virginia-class submarines can stay submerged for up to three months at a time

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.

General Characteristics
General Characteristics

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.

The DFA program focuses primarily on the redesign of the submarine's bow, lowering program costs by $800 million, increasing capability and providing the capacity for additional growth at no additional cost
The DFA program focuses primarily on the redesign of the submarine’s bow, lowering program costs by $800 million, increasing capability and providing the capacity for additional growth at no additional cost

 

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.

In Virginia-class SSNs, traditional periscopes have been supplanted by two photonics masts that host visible and infrared digital cameras atop telescoping arms
In Virginia-class SSNs, traditional periscopes have been supplanted by two photonics masts that host visible and infrared digital cameras atop telescoping arms

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?’

The concept of the Virginia Payload Module
The concept of the Virginia Payload Module

 

General Characteristics

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

 

Block I

Ship Yard Christening Commissioned Homeport
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

 

Block II

Ship Yard Christening Commissioned Homeport
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 Groton, Connecticut
SSN-783 Minnesota NNS 10-27-12 9-7-13 Norfolk, Virginia
The submarine USS John Warner (SSN-785) delivered on June 25, 2015, two and a half months ahead of schedule (Photo by Chris Oxley/HII)
The submarine USS John Warner (SSN-785) delivered on June 25, 2015, two and a half months ahead of schedule (Photo by Chris Oxley/HII)

 

Block III

Ship Yard Christening Commissioned Homeport
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-787 Washington NNS 03-05-16
SSN-788 Colorado EB 12-03-16
SSN-789 Indiana NNS 04-29-17
SSN-790 South Dakota EB Under Construction
SSN-791 Delaware NNS Under Construction

 

Block IV

Ship Yard Christening Commissioned Homeport
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

 

Block V

Ship Yard Christening Commissioned Homeport
SSN-802 (Unnamed)
SSN-803 (Unnamed)
SSN-804 (Unnamed)
SSN-805 (Unnamed)
SSN-806 (Unnamed)
SSN-807 (Unnamed)
SSN-808 (Unnamed)
SSN-809 (Unnamed)
SSN-810 (Unnamed)
SSN-811 (Unnamed)

 

Block VI

Ship Yard Christening Commissioned Homeport
SSN-812 (Unnamed)
SSN-813 (Unnamed)
SSN-814 (Unnamed)
SSN-815 (Unnamed)
SSN-816 (Unnamed)

 

Block VII

Ship Yard Christening Commissioned Homeport
SSN-817 (Unnamed)
SSN-818 (Unnamed)
SSN-819 (Unnamed)
SSN-820 (Unnamed)
SSN-821 (Unnamed)

 

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

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