10 Virginia Flight I/II with 1 12-cell VLS with Tomahawk LACM, 4 single 533mm TT with Mk48 ADCAP mod 6 HWT

8 Virginia Flight III with 2 6-cell VLS with Tomahawk LACM, 4 single 533mm TT with Mk48 ADCAP mod 6 HWT


Probably the most-advanced submarine model operating today, Virginia-class boats are capable of hunting and destroying enemy submersibles and frigates, attacking ground targets with cruise missiles and performing underwater recon. At a length of 377 feet, the Virginia class is capable of achieving in excess of 25 knots. Virginia-class subs are utilising a piece of kit that can do the same for sonar. The Virginia’s ultra-low acoustic signature comes courtesy of a special anechoic coating. The coating, which consists of a series of sound-absorbent, rubberised panels that sit on top of the hull, work by dampening electromagnetic waves, reducing the number that bounce back off the surface of the sub and sapping their overall energy. Adding to the Virginia’s stealth ability is its revolutionary pump-jet propulsion, which works by drawing water into a turbine-powered pump via an intake then pushing it out at the rear, dramatically muf? ing noise.


Boeing’s AN/BLQ-11 21-inch unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) was launched from the torpedo tube of the Los Angeles-class attack submarine USS Hartford and later recovered by a 60-foot robotic arm in October 2007. It was the first autonomous launch and recovery operation from a submarine. Here, the vehicle and all its ship-board equipment is loaded aboard Hartford the same way torpedoes are loaded. In the future, UUVs will expand the footprint of the submarine.

The Virginia-class submarines are the U. S. Navy’s newest attack submarines and the most advanced submarines in the world. They are optimized for operation in the littorals (the shallow coastal regions of the ocean near the shore) and feature advanced technologies in the areas of firepower, maneuverability, and stealth.

The Virginia-class submarine is 377 feet long, 34 feet in diameter, and can travel at a speed of more than 25 knots. In terms of endurance, it can remain submerged for up to three months at a time. Typical missions for the Virginia class will include countering various threats from surface ships, mines, and diesel submarines; conducting undetected surveillance and reconnaissance; and the insertion and extraction of Special Operations Forces.

Some of the innovations on board the Virginia-class submarines include a new type of periscope, a modular design, and enhanced command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) capabilities. The new periscope is comprised of a photonics mast that contains several high-resolution color cameras and can send images to screen displays in the control room of the ship. The mast also contains a laser range finder that can help in calling periscope ranges. The modular design of the Virginia class gives the submarine a basic layout comprising the nuclear power plant, ship control functions, and self-defense mechanisms. The rest of the structure is available for various modular payloads according to mission type. For example, the torpedo tubes support launch and recovery of the LMRS and other forms of unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV).

Established in 2001 as a spin-off of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) to `productionise’ the Remote Environmental Measuring UnitS (REMUS) autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), Hydroid has subsequently grown to become the worldwide AUV market leader, with over four hundred REMUS 100, REMUS 600 and REMUS 6000 vehicles sold to date.

According to Graham Lester, Hydroid’s senior VP of sales and marketing, the company is thinking afresh about the way it addresses the various needs of AUV operators across the commercial, research and defence sectors. `We are thinking differently about how we meet the aspirations of our customer communities,’ he told UV. `Our expertise now extends to acoustics, autonomy, hardware, software, launch and recovery and ocean engineering. So we are no longer just about AUVs. Our broader capability now is in marine robotics.’

Lester also identified increasing interest n large and extra-large vehicles in the US market. `The USN’s Large Diameter UUV and Extra Large UUV programmes are evidence of this move towards bigger vehicles,’ he said, adding: `We are exploring work in this area including the potential of larger vehicles with greater endurance for a sustained presence as part of a growing need for subsea infrastructure.’

The operation of AUVs from submarines is another important line of development for Hydroid. `We foresee an increasing engagement with the submarine community in the coming years, particularly in relation to intelligence gathering, sustained presence and data collection,’ Lester said. `There are some specific challenges to be addressed with regard to submarine integration, such as launch and recovery and onboard storage of lithium-ion batteries. But the successful operation of a REMUS 600 vehicle from the Virginia-class attack submarine USS North Dakota in mid-2015 has provided a successful proof-of-concept.’

The redesign has also helped to reduce 15 crew watchstanders from the submarines’ complement, compared with the crew required for a Seawolf-class submarine. The Virginia-class acoustic sensor suite includes a high-frequency sonar optimized for detection of diesel-electric and advanced air-independent propulsion (AIP) submarines, mines, and other hazards.

The Virginia class will help to replace the aging fleet of Los Angeles-class submarines and provide greater affordability than the current Seawolf class. In September 1998, the U. S. Navy awarded a $4.2 billion contract for the team of General Dynamics’ Electric Boat and Northrop Grumman Newport News Shipbuilding to begin construction of the first four ships in the Virginia class.

General characteristics

Type: Nuclear attack submarine
Displacement: 7,900 metric tons (8,700 short tons)
Length: 377 ft (115 m)
Beam: 34 ft (10 m)
Propulsion: S9G reactor 40,000 shp (30 MW)
Speed: 25 knots (46 km/h) 25 knots (29 mph) or over
Range: unlimited
Endurance: Only limited by food and maintenance requirements.
Test depth: +800 ft (240 m)
Complement: 135 (15:120)
  • Block I-IV:
  • 12 × VLS (Tomahawk BGM-109) tubes
  • 4 × 533 mm torpedo tubes (Mk-48 torpedo)
  • 37 × torpedoes & missiles (torpedo room)
  • Block V:
  • VPM module (28 Tomahawk BGM-109)
  • 12 × VLS (Tomahawk BGM-109) tubes
  • 4 × 533 mm torpedo tubes (Mk-48 torpedo)
  • 65 × torpedoes & missiles

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