A Navy Virginia-Class Submarine Now Has a Magnetohydrodynamic Drive (April Fools!)

Block V Virginia-Class Submarine
April 3, 2024 Topic: Security Region: Americas Blog Brand: The Buzz Tags: Virginia-classSubmarinesU.S. NavyDARPAMilitaryDefense

A Navy Virginia-Class Submarine Now Has a Magnetohydrodynamic Drive (April Fools!)

A groundbreaking development for the Virginia-class, and indeed for naval propulsion technology as a whole, is the integration of a magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) drive system. Too bad it was an April Fools joke. 

 

Summary: A groundbreaking development (that ended up being an April Fools joke...) for the Virginia-class: a story about a magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) drive system. 

The Virginia-Class Is Getting a Big Upgrade: April Fools! 

The Virginia class is the U.S. Navy’s newest nuclear-powered, cruise-missile fast-attack submarine.

 

Designed to replace their Los Angeles-class predecessors, ships in this class will be acquired through 2043. 

The Navy’s latest submarine class prioritizes open-ocean and littoral missions ranging from intelligence-gathering operations to anti-submarine warfare. The sub class has been enhanced several times since the Virginia’s introduction in the early 2000s, and the most upgraded Virginia variant is the Block V.

Now, a vessel in this latest block of submarines will be fitted with a new capability. At least, that was what we thought initially

According to a recent report that ended up being an April Fool's joke, a magnetohydrodynamic drive (MHD) was developed under DARPA’s PUMP program to elevate the submarine’s performance. With this supposed new propulsion system in place, the ship would remain nearly undetectable.

As detailed by Naval News in their April Fools post, “Instead of a traditional propeller at the stern, the new propulsion will be entirely within the submarine’s hull. According to British experts, the only external clues are likely to be the water intake doors in the bow. These will resemble torpedo tube shutters but larger, approximately the diameter of a submarine-launched ballistic missile. But mounted horizontally, which is unusual for those missiles.”

However, the story was an April Fool's joke. 

An Overview of the Virginia-Class Submarines 

Twenty-one Virginia-class submarines are currently in service with the Navy. Manufacturer Electric Boat (a division of General Dynamics) built these ships in the 1990s with 3D visualization technology. The first Virginia-class vessel was completed in 2001. Electric Boat and Newport News Shipbuilding operate the only facilities capable of developing these nuclear-powered SSNs.

Virginia-Class

The vast majority of Virginia-class submarines in service today are Block I-III variants. Three Block IV ships are in use today, and several more are expected to enter service in the upcoming years. While each Virginia variant is highly capable, the newest Block V submarines are powerful. The Virginia Payload Module is being incorporated into these ships, tripling the capacity of shore targets for each boat. These mid-body sections, 84 feet long, are equipped with four large-diameter, vertical launch tubes capable of storing and launching a range of payloads, including Tomahawk missiles. 

About the Author: Maya Carlin 

Maya Carlin, National Security Writer with The National Interest, is an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel. You can follow her on Twitter: @MayaCarlin

Image: U.S. Navy. 

This piece has been updated to account for the April Fool's joke on this topic. We apologize for any confusion on this.