Virginia-Class: The U.S. Navy Submarine Creating Nightmares for Russia and China

U.S. Navy Virginia-Class Submarine

Virginia-Class: The U.S. Navy Submarine Creating Nightmares for Russia and China

The U.S. Navy's submarine fleet, renowned for its stealth and firepower, is set to welcome the newest addition, the SSN New Jersey, a Virginia-class fast-attack submarine.

Summary: The U.S. Navy's submarine fleet, renowned for its stealth and firepower, is set to welcome the newest addition, the SSN New Jersey, a Virginia-class fast-attack submarine. Commissioned on April 6 at the U.S. Naval Weapons Station Earle in Middletown, Connecticut, the SSN New Jersey's primary mission will be to seek and destroy enemy warships. This submarine is part of a broader plan to expand the Navy's Virginia-class fleet, aiming for a total of 66 submarines. With 22 already in service and more under construction, the SSN New Jersey, officially named SSN 796, represents a significant investment in naval capability, costing approximately $3.5 billion. The Virginia-class submarines, introduced in 2004, are nuclear-powered, allowing for extended operations without refueling and are equipped with advanced weapons systems for versatile combat roles. The SSN New Jersey, like its predecessors, is designed for longevity, with plans to operate these submarines well into the 2070s, underscoring their strategic importance to U.S. naval dominance.

The U.S. Navy's $3.5 Billion Investment: Inside the Virginia-Class SSN New Jersey

Submarines are some of the most powerful weapon systems in a country’s arsenal. They lurk in the depths of the ocean, ready to pounce on enemy shipping and deliver high-precision missiles, including nuclear weapons, to enemy targets thousands of miles away. 

The U.S. Navy has the most powerful submarine fleet in the world, with scores of vessels. And in a few weeks, the Navy will accept its newest submarine.

The SSN New Jersey 

On April 6, the Navy will commission the SSN New Jersey at the U.S. Naval Weapons Station Earle in Middletown, Connecticut. 

As a fast-attack submarine of the Virginia class, the SSN New Jersey will have a simple mission in the event of a conflict: find and sink enemy warships. 

Officially named SSN 796 New Jersey, the nuclear-powered submarine will join the most populous class of submarines in the U.S. Navy. The Navy currently operates three classes of fast-attack submarines (Los Angeles, Seawolf, and Virginia) for a total fleet of approximately 50 submarines. 

The Navy is planning to purchase a total of 66 Virginia-class submarines. As of February, 22 subs are in service, with the USS New Jersey soon to be the 23rd. In addition, 11 other submarines of the class are under construction, and four more are authorized by Congress.

The submarine has been years in the making. Its keel was laid in March 2019, and it comes with a price tag of approximately $3.5 billion. The new submarine will be the third warship to be named after the state of New Jersey. 

Powered by nuclear energy, the Virginia-class submarines can stay afloat for years without the need for refueling and are mainly limited by their victuals.

The Navy plans to operate the class well into the 2070s.

The Virginia-class Submarines 

Introduced with the SSN 774 Virginia in 2004, the Virginia class is the latest class of fast-attack submarines in the U.S. Navy. Built by General Dynamics Electric Boat Division and Huntington Ingalls Industries, the Virginia class is a powerful weapon system. 

At almost 380 feet long, the class has a beam of 34 feet and a displacement of approximately 7,800 tons submerged. The submarine can operate at depths of over 800 ft (about 250 meters). It can reach speeds of more than 25 nautical knots (over 28 miles per hour), and it relies on one nuclear reactor with one shaft for its propulsion. In terms of manpower, Virginia-class submarines have a crew of 132, with 15 officers and 117 enlisted personnel. 

But where the Virginia class shines is in its armament. There are five blocks, or modifications, with different combinations of weapons. Submarines carrying the Block I through IV weapons modifications have 12 Vertical Launching Tubes for Tomahawk cruise missiles and four 21-inch torpedo tubes that can fire Mk48 torpedoes or UGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles. Considering the restrictions imposed by the limited space, the Virginia-class can pack a healthy 25 torpedoes/anti-ship missiles and over a dozen cruise missiles. Block V will add more missiles through the Virginia Payload Module.

About the Author  

Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations and a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ). He holds a BA from Johns Hopkins University and an MA from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). His work has been featured in Business Insider, Sandboxx, and SOFREP. Email the author: [email protected].