A Lethal Underwater Hunter: The Virginia Class Submarine. The Virginia class of hunter-killer submarines is the United State Navy’s latest fast attack submersible. Designed as a more cost effective alternative to the Seawolf Class, which had been built to Cold War requirements. The Virginia class submarine is the third class of US Naval vessels to carry the name of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Built in tandem by General Dynamics Electric Boat and Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding Newport News. Each of the 30 planned submarines in this class (six completed as of early 2010) are expected to cost less than 2 billion dollars. They are intended to replace the Los Angeles Class now in service.
Over 370 feet long and more than 30 feet wide, the Virginias are capable of diving to depths in excess of 800 feet. They can travel over 25 knots (29mph) while underwater. The boats of this class of submarines, by tradition, are called ‘boats’ rather than ships. They are crewed by over 130 officers and enlisted personnel, and are powered by an S9G nuclear reactor. The nuclear propulsion system requires refueling only after more than three decades, allowing the Virginias to remain at sea and underway for as long as food and water can hold out.
US Navy Virginia Class Submarine
American hunter-killer submarines’ primary missions have, historically, been the interdiction of commerce and warships, reconnaissance, and the protection of other naval vessels. However, since the end of the Soviet threat, the submarine fleet has been additionally tasked with conducting covert operations such as the delivery of special forces teams. They also firing Tomahawk land attack cruise missiles at targets far inland. The Virginia class submarine is the first designed specifically with these newer missions in mind.
Each boat has twelve vertical launch tubes each containing a Tomahawk missile. Four torpedo tubes are capable of launching MK 48 torpedoes and the new Tactical Tomahawk missile. The Virginias are also the first class of submarines built specifically to mate with the Advanced SEAL Delivery System, a miniature submarine meant to covertly deliver SEAL teams onto hostile shores.
Although the Virginias must be able to perform new, nontraditional missions, plenty of attention has been given to making them the most modern attack submarines in existence. They are capable of dealing with the threat posed by the newest classes of submarines built by other nations. A first for the class is the elimination of the traditional submarine periscope. Instead, the Virginias are equipped with two telescoping photonics masts, which utilize digital technology to transmit visual and infrared data via fiber optic lines to the Submarine control center. These masts also house laser rangefinders and electronic countermeasures equipment.
Another first for the class is the heavy use of pump jet propulsion, which allows for reduced cavitation. This is a side effect of traveling through water that makes it easier to detect a submarine. In addition, the Virginias will be equipped with an electromagnetic signature reduction system, which will also help to keep the submarines invisible to potential threats trying to find the boats using magnetic detection equipment.
As navies around the world move ahead with new nuclear powered submarine designs, such as the Borei and Graney/Severodovinsk in Russia, the Type 95 in China, and the Astute class in Britain. The Virginia class submarine indicates that the United States Navy does not intend to fall behind. Design your navy rings to commemorate your service in the United States Navy.