The Los Angeles-Class attack submarine is perhaps the best U.S. Navy submarine to ever sail. Sure, today they are not as modern as the Virginia-class or newer boats by Russia. But she was a Cold War legend and has a proud history that is untouchable. We asked one expert to break it down: Comprising over half of the US Navy’s fast attack submarine fleet to this day despite their age, the Los Angeles-class submarine has been in service since 1976.
The Navy’s workhorse, there are more Los Angeles subs in service (33) than any other type of submarine in the world. 62 have been built in total, some of them, including the USS Dallas, USS Jacksonville, and USS Bremerton served for nearly 40 years before being decommissioned.
Los Angeles-class Submarine, The Specs
The top speed of the Los Angeles remains classified, although we know the sub can exceed 25 knots. Some estimates place the sub’s top speed at 30 to 33 knots. Renowned military author Tom Clancy guessed that the Los Angeles could hit 37 knots.
Regardless, the Los Angeles is a fast boat. To achieve these speeds, the Los Angeles relies on a General Electric S6G pressurized water reactor –a 165 megawatt reactor driving two 26 MW steam turbines.
Los Angeles-class Submarine, The Weapons
The Los Angeles isn’t just fast – it also packs a punch.
The sub can carry about 25 torpedo tube-launched weapons, including Tomahawk cruise missiles and Harpoon missiles.
Additionally, the Los Angeles can deploy Mark 67 and Mark 60 CAPTOR mines.
The systems used to control the Los Angeles’s weapons have changed many times over the boat’s five decades of service. Initially, the boat was designed with the Mk 113 (“Pargo”) system. But eventually, the Mk 113 was replaced with the Mk 117 FCS, the first “all digital” fire control system.
The Mk 117 was phased out, too, in favor of the Mark 1 Combat Control System/All Digital Attack Center. The Mk 1, a Lockheed Martin product, allowed the Los Angeles-class to fire Tomahawk missiles. And finally, the Mk 1 was replaced with Raytheon’s Mk 2, which allowed for vertical launching capabilities.
Los Angeles-class Fiction
The Los Angeles-class has been a fixture in popular culture. Tom Clancy, especially, featured the Los Angeles submarine prominently. In Clancy’s The Hunt for Red October, perhaps the seminal work of fiction involving modern submarine warfare, the USS Dallas is vital to the plot. He also includes the USS Chicago in Red Storm Rising, and the USS Cheyenne in SSN. Clancy discusses the USS Miami in-depth during the 1993 non-fiction book Submarine: A Guided Tour Inside a Nuclear Warship.
Curiously, in 2012, while the Miami was undergoing scheduled maintenance, a fire broke out. The blaze lasted 12 hours and injured seven firefighters. Repairs would cost $450 million dollars. Initially, the fire was attributed to industrial vacuums. Later, however, a civilian panter, Casey J. Fury, was indicted and sentenced for arson, after confessing to starting the Miami fire. Apparently, Fury started the fire because he wanted to go home from work early.
End of the Line
The Los Angeles-class was scheduled to be phased out, in favor of the newer, fancier Seawolf-class submarines. But only three Seawolf subs were ever built (of the 29 originally planned), leaving the Los Angeles intact as the Navy’s primary fast attack submarine.
And yet, the Navy still hopes to retire the Cold War era Los Angeles–this time with the Virginia-class submarine. 22 Virginias have already been completed, with the most advanced Block V variants currently under construction. The Virginia is scheduled to serve until the 2070s or so, at which point the Los Angeles should be long retired.
Harrison Kass is a Senior Defense Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison has degrees from Lake Forest College, the University of Oregon, and New York University. He lives in Oregon and regularly listens to Dokken.