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SSN-774 Virginia-class Design

The new attack submarine is armed with a variety of weapons. It carries the most advanced heavyweight torpedoes, mines, Tomahawk cruise missiles, and Unmanned Undersea Vehicles (UUVs) for horizontal launch. In addition, Tomahawk missiles are carried in vertical launch tubes. The New Attack Submarine also features an integral Lock-Out/Lock-In chamber for special operations and can host Special Operations Forces' underwater delivery vehicles.

Virginia's new capabilities have not required any additional crew. In fact, a thorough re-engineering of the ship's functionality, manpower requirements, and billet structure has enabled the reduction of 15 crew watchstanders in comparison to SEAWOLF. The key to this greater efficiency has been technology insertion, particularly for automating tasks and handling information, and Virginia's modular design would facilitate even further reductions as new technologies become available.

  • Ship Control Station: Virginia's digital "fly-by-wire" advanced ship control station would be operated by a Pilot, Copilot, and a Relief Pilot. These three watchstanders replace the customary Diving Officer, Chief of the Watch, Helmsman, Planesman, and Messenger needed on previous submarine classes.
  • Navigation-Quartermaster Watchstation: The increased use of automation, such as electronic charting, allows combining the duties of the Navigation Electronics Technician and the Quartermaster of the Watch into those of a single Navigation Watchstander.
  • Throttleman-Reactor Operator: Increased use of technology and automation allows the Reactor Operator also to perform the duties of the Throttleman while carrying out his current responsibilities.
  • Auxiliaryman Aft Watchstation: The relative simplicity and innovative automation of Virginia's engineroom would allow engineroom personnel to monitor installed auxiliary equipment, thus eliminating the Auxiliaryman Aft watchstation.
  • Torpedo Room Watch: Automated systems and tours by other watchstanders allow the elimination of the Torpedo Room Watchstander.

The VIRGINIA Class submarine Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence (C3I) system is the first submarine combat system to take full advantage of the affordability and capability now available through use of commercial electronics.

The VIRGINIA Class would deploy covert, non-provocative electronic and acoustic sensors for continuous monitoring of the regional battlespace, including enemy electronic signals, communication links, and the local tactical situation. Its acoustic sensor suite would include a much-improved high frequency sonar specifically optimized for hunting diesel-electric and advanced air-independent propulsion (AIP) submarines, mines, and shallow-water hazards to navigation.

The Virginia would carry a mix of both "tried and true" and innovative acoustic sensors. The heart of the sonar suite would comprise a Spherical Active/Passive Array, the Lightweight Wide Aperture Array, and the TB-29(A) Thin-Line Towed Array. The new Lightweight Wide Aperture Array is optimized for locating quite diesel-electric submarines. Additionally, the high-frequency sonar suite would consist of a sail-mounted array and a new "chin"-mounted array, located right beneath the sphere. With the addition of the chin-array and improved processing and displays, Virginia provides the Submarine Force with its best-ever hull-mounted mine detection and avoidance capability. On the processing side, the Virginia sonar system would use a variant of the Acoustic Rapid COTS Insertion (AN/BQQ-10) system that is being backfit on the 688- and TRIDENT-class boats. Additionally, Virginia gets an innovative acoustic intercept system (WLY-1) that would incorporate six additional sensors and introduce a capability to estimate target range as well as bearing. In conjunction with UUVs and other off-board sensors, such as the Advanced Deployable System, the Virginia's sonar suite provides a powerful capability for Joint Task Force and Carrier Battle Group Commanders to prepare and monitor the undersea battlespace before committing follow-on forces.

The most radical change in the Virginia sensor suite appears in the ship's control room. The electromagnetic and electro-optics suite would include two no-hull-penetrating Photonics Masts, without a conventional periscope. This is a major break with tradition for the Submarine force. The Virginia class would not have a conventional periscope. The Officer of the Deck would no longer stand and "hang-on" the periscope, looking through a maze of mirrors, prisms, and lenses. Instead, the Photonics Mast contains several high-resolution, color cameras that send visual images to large screen displays in the ship's control room. Equipped with enhanced infrared and low-level light image enhancement features, the mast also includes an infrared laser range finder, making the art of calling periscope ranges much less challenging. Furthermore, the mast would embody an improved integrated Electronic Support Measures (ESM) array and associated signal processing for unparalleled situational awareness - all gained covertly from under the sea.

To support an unprecedented array of joint littoral warfare missions, Virginia would deploy with capabilities for Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (C4SIR) unknown in earlier attack submarines. Like our 688s and SEAWOLFs with modernized capabilities, the Virginia Class would be a key "node" within the emerging concept of Network-Centric Warfare and would be equipped with state-of-the-art combat systems fully linked to external targeting and intelligence grids. Virginia would maximize commonality with the Surface Navy and other joint forces by fielding the latest capabilities for building Common Tactical and Operating Pictures and supporting the coordination and launch of TLAMs. Off-board sensor information would be fused directly with own-ship data to yield a comprehensive and accurate view of the tactical situation shared mutually among U.S. and coalition forces.

Conformal sonar arrays seek to provide an optimally sensor coated submarine with improved stealthat a lower total ownership cost. New technology called Conformal Acoustic Velocity Sonar (CAVES) would replace existing Wide Aperture Array technology and would be implemented starting in early units of the VIRGINIA Class. This technology would be expanded to allow conformal sonar arrays on other parts of the ship that would create new opportunities for use of bow and sail structure volumes while improving sonar sensor performance.

William Cole, writing in "The Honolulu Star-Advertiser" on 06 March 2017, reported that "In 2010, when rubberlike quieting material started to peel off the hulls of newer Virginia-class submarines, the Navy said it was fine-tuning a fix for a problem occurring on the first few ships made. Seven years later, the Navy still appears to be seeking a cure. When the $2 billion USS Mississippi recently returned to Pearl Harbor, its "Mold-In-Place/Special Hull Treatment" looked ragged and was missing chunks on at least one side of the hull. The sub was commissioned in 2012."

Anechoic, or echo-reducing, tiles were first used by Nazi Germany in World War II. The application helps break up incoming sound waves and reduces the sound that travels back from sonar. The Soviets adopted the use of the coating, and the US Navy followed in 1988.



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