Is the Navy’s Best Submarine in Danger of Becoming Obsolete?

    Dave Majumdar


    The problem the Navy is starting to encounter is that the Virginia-class design is simply running out of space for new technology to be inserted.

    The United States Navy’s Virginia-class nuclear-powered attack submarines are among the most successful vessels of their kind. Overall, the program continues to run smoothly, delivering boats on time and on budget.

    In short, the Virginia-class is a success story for the Navy and the service has increased the number of boats it intends to buy from 30 to 48. It is also possible that the number of Virginia-class submarines to be built might increase as the Navy ramps up to production to meet its revised requirement for 66 attack submarines, up from 48 boats. However, as time goes on, the Navy is starting to run out of room for upgrades and may have to switch to a next-generation SSN(X) design.

    The Navy is set to begin construction of the new Block V Virginia-class submarine in fiscal year 2019, which incorporates the Virginia Payload Module (VPM). The VPM significantly boosts the submarine’s firepower with the addition of four tubes each capable of carrying seven Tomahawk cruise missiles for a total of 28 additional weapons. The addition of the VPM hull section does not mean the end of the Virginia-class’ evolution, the Navy hopes to include other improvements to the vessels under the Tactical Submarine Evolution Plan (TSEP).

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