Improved Block V Virginia Class Submarines could defer development of SSN(X)

The U.S. Navy might defer developing a new, next-generation nuclear attack submarine — or SSN(X) — unless such a design holds the potential to provide a revolutionary leap over a modernized variant of the current Virginia-class attack submarine.

Over the years, the Virginia-class has proven to be an adaptable and versatile design with plenty of room for growth. Indeed, the Virginia-class submarine may prove so capable that a future SSN(X) — which is tentatively planned for 2034 — might prove to be unnecessary.

The Navy has a choice to make in seven or eight years from now — either develop a new SSN(X) with potentially game-changing technologies or continue building advanced Virginia-class variants.

A future SSN might act as an underwater mothership for unmanned underwater vehicles and an SSN(X) might have no moving parts to be quieter.

The Navy has essentially reached the limits of what is possible for acoustic signature reduction with a purely mechanical system. While the future Ohio Replacement Program ballistic missile submarines are expected to use a permanent magnetic motor to increase stealth, Jabaley wants to take a step further.

A future Virginia-class derivative could include a version of the permanent magnet motor

Next year a new Virginia Sub will have new modifications. These are the first major improvements to the Virginia class’ acoustical performance since it became operational in 2004. The Navy was spurred into action by the advent of Russia’s new Project 885 Yasen-class SSGNs, the first of which — called Severodvinsk — has greatly impressed the service’s leadership.

The biggest improvement to the Virginia class will come with the Block V vessels — the first of which will start construction in 2019 as the second submarine built that year.

The Block V submarines will add a Virginia Payload Module that will add four additional payload tubes amidship, each of which can accommodate seven Tomahawk cruise missiles for a total of 28 weapons. Overall, the Block V Virginia class will be capable of launching 40 Tomahawk cruise missiles from its payload tubes.

SOURCES- US Navy, National Interest