The Fastest and Quietest Submarine in the US Navy: The Virginia-Class

They are silent, heavily armed, and one of the most advanced in the world.
Submarine conducts alpha trials in the Atlantic Ocean

The war under the sea is a never-ending conflict, it adjusts to the new global conditions – and the Virginia Class submarines are proof of this.

They are up to date to be ready for action anywhere in the world. In fact, A Virginia-class submarine is the equivalent of a stealth aircraft in the water and can go undetected during its missions… But,  what makes them so special? Are they as good as they seem to be?

The Virginia-Class submarines

US Navy 030803 N 0000X 002 The U.S. Navys newest and most advanced nuclear powered attack submarine and the lead ship of its class PCU Virginia SSN 774 is moved outdoors for the first
PCU Virginia (SSN 774)

Virginia-class submarines (or SSN-774 class) are a series of nuclear-powered attack submarines in operational service with the US Navy since 2004. 

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The groundbreaking Virginia Class U.S. submarines are the quickest and quietest submarines in the US Navy and are fitted to launch Tomahawk missiles and support the whole US Navy’s carrier strike groups.

It is armed with 12 vertical missile launch tubes and four 533 mm torpedo launch tubes. So, because of their performance, these submarines are among the most powerful maritime warfare weapon in the US.

Why were Virginia-Class submarines created?

The attack submarine Minnesota under construction. 8414176878
Virginia-class attack submarine Minnesota

These submarines are created to manage a broad spectrum of missions, and they were conceived as a lower-cost substitute for the Seawolf-class nuclear-powered submarines conceived during the Cold War, which were more costly to use than the Virginia class.

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Also, these nuclear-powered submarines have refined navigation and detection technology that employs artificial intelligence to make them much more efficient in every functional aspect.

That’s why Virginia-Class submarines are more developed than any other submarine in the world. They have a state-of-the-art sonar, high-resolution cameras, and an electromagnetic system that lessens its detection.

Specs

USS Virginia
USS Virginia by U.S. Navy, Public Domain.

After the pricey aircraft carriers, it’s evident that these new submarines will bring powerful multipurpose capabilities to the US Navy.

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  • Speed: 25+ knots (46 km/h; 29 mph) 
  • Range: Unlimited
  • Length: 377 feet (115 meters) / 460 feet (140 meters) for Block V
  • Beam: 34 feet (10 meters)
  • Propulsion: 1 × S9G nuclear reactor
  • Maximum depth: Over 800 ft (240 m)

Virginia-Class submarines are powerful but costly

1024px USS Virginia torpedo control panel
USS Virginia torpedo control panel

The US Navy operates a huge submarine fleet, the biggest in the world with about 71 active submarines, all of them nuclear-powered, up-to-date.

But the Virginia Class submarines are a massive investment with roughly $3.45 billion per unit, not to mention yearly functioning costs and future upgrades.

The fastest US submarine

Submarine conducts alpha trials
Submarine conducts alpha trials in the Atlantic Ocean by DVIDSHUB, Public Domain

Despite being the quickest submarine in the US, it is far from being the fastest submarine ever, since that recognition goes to the Soviet submarine K-222 which reached a speed of 44.7 knots (82.8 kph or 51.4 mph).

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Similarly, Russian Yasen Class submarines can achieve a speed of up to 35 knots mobilizing their 13800 tons while a Virginia Class block V submarine is qualified of reaching a speed of 25 knots.

However, its contemporary technology and its capacity to pass undetected through the oceans make it one of the finest submarines in the world because not just the speed counts for stealthy submarines, all their technologies are essential to make the submarine work.   

Wrapping up

The Virginia-Class submarines are one of the best submarines in the world. Russia and China are making quick progress in the design of next-generation submarines though, and they’re becoming increasingly faster and more powerful to compete with the American submarines.

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But these U.S. submarines are currently second to none, their performance is phenomenal and they are constantly upgraded to remain ahead for the foreseeable future.


Featured image credit: Submarine conducts alpha trials, U.S. Navy, Public domain