SSN-774 Virginia-class New Attack Submarine [NSSN] Centurion
The Secretary of Defense in his October 1993 bottom-up review determined that production of the Seawolf class submarine would cease with the third submarine, and that the Navy should develop and build a new attack submarine as a more cost-effective follow-on to the Seawolf class, with construction beginning in fiscal year 1998 or 1999 at Electric Boat. The New Attack Submarine is the first U.S. submarine to be designed for battlespace dominance across a broad spectrum of regional and littoral missions as well as open-ocean, "blue water" missions.
Virginia is intended to be a submarine comparable in most respects to its immediate predecessor - the Seawolf - but in a more affordable configuration. The missions of Virginia include Covert Strike Warfare, Anti-Submarine Warfare, Covert Intelligence Collection/Surveillance, Covert Indication and Warning and Electronic Warfare, Anti-Surface Ship Warfare, Special Warfare, Covert Mine Warfare, and Battle Group Support.
The New Attack Submarine is designed for multi-mission operations and enhanced operational flexibility. SEAWOLF (SSN-21)-Class quieting has been incorporated in a smaller hull while military performance has been maintained or improved. Compared with the Seawolf, the NSSN is slower, carries fewer weapons, and is less capable in diving depth and arctic operations. On the other hand, the NSSN is expected to be as quiet as the Seawolf, will incorporate a vertical launch system and have improved surveillance as well as special operations characteristics to enhance littoral warfare capability. While the 688-I submarines are noisier than the improved Russian Akula class, the Seawolf is quieter than Akula and the projected Russian SSN-P-IX class. At her top speed, Virginia-class makes less noise than the 688-I submarines do at 5 knots.
The primary design driver for the NSSN is acoustic quietness equal to that of the Seawolf, even at the cost of reducing maximum top speed. With a focus on the littoral battlespace, the New Attack Submarine has improved magnetic stealth, sophisticated surveillance capabilities, and Special Warfare enhancements.
The New Attack Submarine is engineered for maximum design flexibility, responsiveness to changing missions and threats, and affordable insertion of new technologies to ensure that it will continue to be the right submarine well into the 21st Century. Integrated electronic systems with Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) components facilitate state-of-the-art technology introduction throughout the life of the class and avoid unit obsolescence. The Navy has never attempted such a large-scale integration effort on a submarine. While the BSY-1 and BSY-2 systems did have some level of integration, the NSSN combat system will have to be totally integrated. Both the BSY-1 combat system for the Improved Los Angeles-class and the BSY-2 combat system for the Seawolf-class submarines had problems that resulted in late delivery and increased costs.
The Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence (C3I) electronics packages also promote maximum flexibility for growth and upgrade. Coupled with the Modular Isolated Deck Structure (MIDS) and open-system architecture, this approach results in a lower cost and effective, command and control structure for fire control, navigation, electronic warfare, and communications connectivity.
The New Attack Submarine's sonar system is state-of-the-art and has more processing power than today's entire submarine fleet combined to process and distribute data received from its spherical bow array, high-frequency array suite, dual towed arrays, and flank array suite.
The New Attack Submarine's sail configuration houses two new photonics masts for improved imaging functions, and improved electronics support measures mast, and multi-mission masts that cover the frequency domain for full-spectrum, high data-rate communications. The sail is also designed for future installation of a special mission-configurable mast for enhanced flexibility and warfighting performance.
Virginia is capable of targeting, controlling and launching Mark 48 Advanced Capability torpedoes, mines, and Tomahawk missiles. Its sonar capability is expected to be similar to Seawolf's, and its electronic support suite and combat control system represent improvements over legacy systems. The external communications system will be an improvement over legacy systems, providing full, high data rate interoperability with U.S. and allied forces. These characteristics support intelligence and strike capabilities.
The Virginia Class (SSN 774) submarine Non-Propulsion Electronics System was integrated outside of the ship's hull. Sonar displays and processors; Navigation and Combat Control Architecture; Data Distribution and Display, Electronic Support Measures, Onboard Team Trainer; Total Ship Monitoring; and Submarine Regional Warfare systems were all electronically integrated on a rafted system and inserted into the Virginia hull.
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