The Virginia-class nuclear submarines are among the most successful in the US Navy. The program continues to operate, delivering ships on time and within budget, but analysts estimate that these ships are running out of renewal capacity and require a substitute if the US wants to remain competitive in the seas.
The Pentagon appears to be very satisfied with the Virginia-class nuclear attack submarines (SSN) and has already announced its intention to increase the number of vessels with an acquisition of between 30 and 48 units.
For the fiscal year 2019, the Navy plans to begin manufacturing a new Virginia Block V model that will incorporate a Virginia Payload Module (VPM) payload module. This module significantly increases the submarine’s firepower with four new tubes, capable of carrying seven Tomahawk cruise missiles each with an additional 28 weapons in total.
This is probably not the last evolution of Virginia. The Navy hopes to include other improvements in the ships under the new Tactic Underwater Evolution Plan (TSEP). According to this project, the Navy will not wait for the creation of other newer models but will introduce new technologies in the ships as the systems are ready to be implemented. This will allow us to erase the traditional dividing lines between different Virginia models: Block I, II, II and IV.
But the problem that engineers are beginning to find is that Virginia class design is literally running out of space to house new technologies, says a recent analysis published in the National Interest magazine. At some point, the Navy will have to jump to a new SSN design. While the original plan was for the new submarines to begin construction in 2034, the plans for the new SSN are in constant change, the article highlights.
“We are running out of design space in this great platform and the fleet has some needs that this platform cannot meet, which is why under the leadership of Admiral [William] Merz, we started the discussion on how we are going to take advantage of maximum improvements to the different Virginia models as we prepare for what will come after Virginia, ” said Brian Howes, then Interim Director of the Underwater Warfare Division , at the end of 2017.
Howes advanced that the TSEP program would identify the “capabilities that we are going to demand that are introduced to our shipbuilders in this platform, and if they can not be introduced, we will design them for the future”.
National Interest’s analysis concludes that the US Navy must move quickly to ensure that its submarines are not obsolete in the face of new threats, such as the new 885 Yasen class ships from Russia.
Source: Mundo Sputnik News