How the US Navy Is Making Its Virginia-Class Subs Even More Deadly

Illustration for article titled How the US Navy Is Making Its Virginia-Class Subs Even More Deadly

The US Navy's fleet of heavily-armed SSGN subs will run through their nuclear fuel supplies by 2026. At that point, they must be replaced at a cost of $8 billion apiece. Problem is, $8 billion is roughly half of the Navy's annual ship production budget. So what's the Navy to do?


It plans to stretch—literally—its Virginia-class attack submarines by an extra 94 feet to store 26 extra missiles (for a total of 40) and outfit them with an advanced sensory suite—at a quarter the cost of a new SSGN, just $2 billion apiece. Sure the SSGN carries 154 Tomahawks apiece, but there are only four SSGN's in the US fleet—compared to the 10 Virginia-class available. This modification will help spread the fleet's firepower out more evenly.

Once the Virginia-class subs reenter service, they'll be accompanied by torpedo-shaped "large-diameter Unmanned Underwater Vehicles" packed with long-range sensory equipment to act as a remote and highly-maneuverable extra set of eyes and ears. They'll also carry a UAV that can be launched from the expanded Tomahawk tubes. [Wired - art courtesy of AP Images]

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I would also like to point out as having served on an SSBN which was what the 4 'Gn's were converted from that these boats are 20+ years old. Which is a scary thought by anyones standards that the hulls have been ground down by sailors that really have no idea what their doing ever refit period and repainted slowly degrading the hull integrity. Over a 20 year period now big deal but keep extending out that time period which is what they will most likely do once they hit 40 years and cant afford to replace them. This is an accident waiting to happen and im just glad i didnt stay in for the long haul!