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The Navy’s Block V Virginia-class Submarine Has a Secret

Virginia-class Submarine
Block IV Virginia-class Submarine.

Meet The US Navy’s Block V Virginia-class Submarine That Has A Secret…Payload Module – A little over a year ago, the United States Navy awarded a $2.42 billion contract modification to General Dynamics’ Electric Boat subsidiary to build an additional Block V Virginia-class submarine equipped with the Virginia Payload Module (VPM).

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The deal was awarded by The Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington D.C, and was an extension of the original contract that was awarded in December 2019 for nine boats with an option for a tenth. With that added submarine, the total cost of the contract with primary contractor Electric Boat will be $24.1 billion, a net increase of $1.89 billion for the full contract.

The Block V is more than just a few upgrades. In fact, the VPM will give the Virginia-class, which is already a heavily armed nuclear-powered fast-attack submarine, with a massive increase in capabilities. The Block V will greatly increase the number of missiles that can be carried and essentially make it a cruise missile submarine (SSGN).

At the same time, it won’t take away from what the boats do best.

Meet the Virginia-class

Designed for use in both the open-ocean and for littoral missions, which include anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and intelligence gathering operations, the U.S. Navy’s Virginia -class was developed to replace the more expensive Seawolf-class while still providing a capable boat to address nautical threats from near-peer adversaries in the 21st century.

Since entering service in 2004, the Virginia-class subs have been able to support five of the U.S. Navy’s six maritime strategy core capabilities including sea control, power projection, forward presence, maritime security and deterrence. It is able to do this by providing a combination of stealth, endurance, mobility and firepower.

The SSNs have a fly-by-wire ship control system that also provides improved shallow-water ship handling, while subs were also designed to deploy special operator forces including Navy SEALS. A reconfigurable torpedo room can accommodate a large number of SOF and all their equipment for prolonged deployments and future off-board payloads.

Improving the Class

Twenty-two of the planned sixty-six Virginia-class submarines has been completed to date, while six more are now under construction. As the Navy is completing the Block IV submarines, it is now looking forward to the enhancements provided with the Block V.

All of the ten planned Block V submarines will also be equipped with acoustic superiority upgrades, which the Navy has seen as crucial to maintaining design superiority over Russian and Chinese submarines. The overall design will differ from the Block IV boats by approximately twenty percent, according to a February 2022 Congressional Research Service (CRS) report.

“Most Virginia-class boats procured in FY2019 and subsequent years are to be built with the Virginia Payload Module (VPM), an additional, 84-foot-long, mid-body section equipped with four large-diameter, vertical launch tubes for storing and launching additional Tomahawk missiles or other payloads. When procured at a rate of two boats per year, VPM-equipped Virginia-class SSNs have an estimated procurement cost of about $3.45 billion per boat,” the reported noted.

The Block V submarines are larger than the previous versions, with the length increased from 377 feet to 460 feet, and with greater displacement from 7,800 tons to 10,200 tons. As a result, the Block V versions of the Virginia-class are the second-largest U.S. submarines produced behind only the Ohio-class. This added eighty-three-foot section is to increase the number of missile launch tubes from twelve to forty, which in essence could triple the capacity of short targets for each boat.

As part of the Virginia Payload Module (VPM), this extended mid-body section can be used to store and fire additional Tomahawk cruise missiles and other payloads; including large-diameter unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs). Each VPM on the Block Vs also provides the capacity for 40 cruise missiles. The VPM also increased the number of torpedo-sized weapons carried by each submarine from about thirty seven to about sixty-five, an increase of seventy-six percent.

Additionally, with advancements in hypersonic missile technology, the Virginia-class’s larger launcher will be well suited to host such weapons once they are deployable. The boats can also host the new version of the anti-ship Maritime Strike Tomahawk.

According to H I Sutton, writing for Naval News, the Block Vs are expected to receive the Large Vertical Array (LVA) flank sonars – which would be in addition to the six ultra-modern Light Weight Wide Aperture Arrays (LWWAA) that are located along the submarine’s side.

While this has greatly increased the estimated recurring unit procurement costs of the Block V boats, the numerous improvements and upgrades will make these the most heavily armed attack submarines ever in the U.S. Navy, and could ensure that they’re able to serve well into the 2070s and beyond.

SSN(X) Submarine

Image of Block III US Navy Virginia-class Submarine.

Supercavitating Torpedoes

030521-D-9078S-001
(May 21, 2003) — This conceptual drawing shows the new Virginia-class attack submarine now under construction at General Dynamics Electric Boat in Groton, Conn., and Northrop Grumman Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport News, Va. The first ship of this class, USS Virginia (SSN 774) is scheduled to be delivered to the U.S. Navy in 2004. U.S. D.O.D. graphic by Ron Stern. (RELEASED)

Block V Virginia-Class Submarines

(FY98–08) – SSNs 774 – 783. Block III (FY09–13) – SSNs 784 – 791. Increase in platform capability. Design for Affordability (2 VA per year) Block I & II Bow Design. 12 VLS Tubes. Block III and later 2 VIRGINIA Payload Tubes. 10 Ships Delivered. 8 Ships – 2 Delivered, 6 Under Construction. Block IV (FY14–18) – SSNs 792 – 801. Block V (FY19–23) – SSNs 802 – and later. RTOC enables increased Ao per hull. VPM (beginning with 19-2 ship) and AS increase undersea influence effects. 10 Ships – 5 Under Construction, 5 Under Contract. In Design Phase, FY19 Construction Start. 16.

Virginia-Class

Image of Virginia-class Submarine features. Image Credit: Creative Commons.

Now a Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military hardware, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes.

Written By

Expert Biography: A Senior Editor for 1945, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,000 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Texan1111

    March 31, 2022 at 6:52 pm

    Many readers The Forum probably realize this, Seal Team 6 has already been infiltrated throughout Moscow living with the locals ready to take their orders to take out whoever the president decides. To be on Seal Team 6, you have to have passed the so-called hell week. This is five days of intense exercise with sleep deprivation. Think about that and all of the time or much of the time there is a guy yelling at you

  2. CM

    March 31, 2022 at 11:06 pm

    I’m surprised that the author is a Sr Editon. With basic grammatical errors, I would’ve assumed he was an intern.

  3. alan lindquist

    April 1, 2022 at 12:15 am

    The sub was a secret, not any more.lol

  4. Yankinasia

    April 1, 2022 at 1:49 am

    So, how soon will china still the secrets and build there own.

  5. Yankinasia

    April 1, 2022 at 1:51 am

    So, how soon will china steal the secrets and build there own.

  6. Alex

    April 1, 2022 at 8:53 am

    Texas1111: nothing to say about the submarine, dreamer?

  7. CHINO

    April 1, 2022 at 11:15 am

    IF THE SUBMARINES DOESN’T HAVE EMERGE SYSTEM WHEN EMERGENCY TAKES PLACE IT’S JUST ANOTHER SUBMARINE WITHOUT EMERGENCY EMERGE CAPABILITIES SPANISH ARMADAS DESIGN F16-F18-SPACE SHUTTLE$$$$$ XL200 FLYING SAUCERS NOW DELTAS TWIN WING’S JET FIGHTER 1-4 JET ENGINE’S TURBULENCE FAN’S 240 MISSILES DAREDEVILS SQUADRONS SHARKS UNITED STATES’MARINES CORPS FIRST BLUE ANGELS COMPETITION

  8. Shari D. (Ex-VA Army Navy Air Force "Neighbor" and U.S.A.F. Wife)

    April 1, 2022 at 11:45 am

    For those criticizing the author for “basic grammatical errors,” you would probably do well to examine your own comment for basic spelling errors first.
    Even spell check does not correct for context or grammar usage, it only looks at possible spelling errors of each word. So, if the word itself is incorrect for usage, as long as it’s spelled correctly, it will pass. And sometimes not even correctly then, if previous typing errors have been absorbed into the dictionary.
    Checking before posting (aka “proofreading”) is always best, since even “spell check” can leave you sitting there looking silly.

  9. Raymond A Closs

    April 1, 2022 at 3:56 pm

    Well,guessing it isn’t a secret anymore. (Spell check was not needed for the grammar nazi douchebag.

  10. Joseph A DALE

    April 1, 2022 at 5:49 pm

    Way to go Blabber Mouth Pete…guess what…99% of Americans didn’t need to know this….but the Chinese and the Russians are singing your praise for confirming their long held beliefs as to our Stupidity

  11. bobby

    April 1, 2022 at 6:47 pm

    we built a sub like this in school. You have to remember to cover all the holes with tape so water dont get in thats the secret.

  12. Puppethead

    April 2, 2022 at 12:54 am

    Pretty sure the USS Jimmy Carter (SSN23) is also still bigger than a Virginia Block V. The Virginia Payload Module has been in the public domain since at least 2012, so I don’t know why you call it a secret.

    Also, the payload descibed above is just plain confusing. All Virginias have 4 533mm torpedo tubes, with 25 weapons (Mk48 torpedoes, UGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles). Addtionally, Blocks I & II have 12 vertical launch tubes for 12 Tomahawks (total 37 weapons).
    Blocks III & IV instead have 2 Virginia Payload Tubes, each containing 6 vertical launch tubes, for 12 Tomahawks (again, total 37 weapons).
    Blocks V and predicted VI & VII are as Blocks III & IV, with the addition of the Virginia Payload Module, containing 4 Virginia Payload Tubes, each containing 7 vertical launch tubes, for 28 more Tomahawks (total of 40 vertical launch tubes, overall total of 65 weapons).
    The 4 VPM tubes could each have their 7 Tomahawk-sized tubes replaced with 3 tubes for the upcoming hypersonic missile, or with a swimmer delivery vehicle or other SEAL equipment. There have even been suggestions that some VL Tomahawks could be substituted with RIM-161 Standard SM-3 Anti-Ballistic Missiles, to be launched under the remote guidance of an AEGIS-equipped DDG51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyer or E-2D Hawkeye radar plane.

  13. Gary Bilke

    April 3, 2022 at 2:51 pm

    Well it “ain’t” no more!!

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