Endurance, and Agility Under the Sea
Designed by Electric Boat,
the Virginia-class is being built jointly under a teaming
arrangement between Electric Boat and Northrop Grumman
Newport News in Virginia.
In 1998, the U.S. Navy awarded a $4.2 billion contract for
the construction of the first four ships of the class.
Virginia is the first of these. Displacing approximately
7,800 tons with a length of 370 feet, Virginia is longer but
lighter than the previous Seawolf-class of submarines.
The 132-member crew can
launch Tomahawk land-attack missiles from 12 vertical launch
system tubes and Mark 48 advanced capability torpedoes from
four 21-inch torpedo tubes.
Virginia will be able to
attack targets ashore with highly accurate Tomahawk cruise
missiles and conduct covert long-term surveillance of land
areas, littoral waters or other sea forces. Other missions
Virginia will conduct include anti-submarine and anti-ship
warfare, special forces delivery and support, and mine
delivery and minefield mapping. With enhanced communications
connectivity, Virginia also will provide important battle
group and joint task force support, with full integration
into carrier battle group operations.
The Virginia-class of
attack submarines surpasses the performance of any current
projected threat submarine, ensuring U.S. undersea dominance
well into the next century.
The Virginia class (or SSN-774 class) of attack submarines
are the first U.S. subs to be designed for a broad spectrum
of open-ocean and littoral missions around the world. They
were designed as a cheaper alternative to the Cold War era
Seawolf-class attack submarines, and are slated to replace
aging Los Angeles class subs, seventeen of which have
already been decommissioned.
The Virginias incorporate several innovations. Instead of
periscopes, the subs have a pair of extendable "photonics
masts" outside the pressure hull. Each contains several
high-resolution cameras with light-intensification and
infrared sensors, an infrared laser rangefinder, and an
integrated Electronic Support Measures (ESM) array. Signals
from the masts' sensors are transmitted through fiber optic
data lines through signal processors to the control center.
The subs also make use of pump-jet propulsors for quieter
For additional information
on Virginia-class submarines, visit the Navy's
fact file website.
On December 22, 2008, the
Navy awarded a new $14B contract to the GDEB/NGC team for
eight more VA-class subs, the first of which will be NORTH
DAKOTA. Beginning in 2011, the Navy will double the current
production rate by building two subs per year. The new
contract calls for construction times of 60 months and costs
to be held at $2B each (in 2005 dollars).
On 21 June 2008, the Navy
christened the New Hampshire (SSN-778), the first of the
Block II boats. The submarine was delivered 8 months ahead
of schedule and $54 million under budget. The Block II
boats are built in four sections, compared to the ten
sections of Block I boats. This enables a cost savings of
$300 million per boat, reducing the cost to $2 billion per
boat and the construction of two boats per year. Beginning
in 2010, new vessels of the class will include a software
system that can monitor and reduce EM signatures when