Virginia Class Submarines

Click on this 15 minute video for a guided video tour of the USS New Hampshire, a Virginia Class submarine already completed and similar to the USS Illinois

About Virginia Class Submarines

Stealth, Endurance, and Agility Under the Sea

Designed by Electric Boat, the Virginia-class is being built jointly under a teaming arrangement between Electric Boat and Northrop Grumman Newport News in Virginia. In 1998, the U.S. Navy awarded a $4.2 billion contract for the construction of the first four ships of the class. Virginia is the first of these. Displacing approximately 7,800 tons with a length of 370 feet, Virginia is longer but lighter than the previous Seawolf-class of submarines.

The 132-member crew can launch Tomahawk land-attack missiles from 12 vertical launch system tubes and Mark 48 advanced capability torpedoes from four 21-inch torpedo tubes.

Virginia will be able to attack targets ashore with highly accurate Tomahawk cruise missiles and conduct covert long-term surveillance of land areas, littoral waters or other sea forces. Other missions Virginia will conduct include anti-submarine and anti-ship warfare, special forces delivery and support, and mine delivery and minefield mapping. With enhanced communications connectivity, Virginia also will provide important battle group and joint task force support, with full integration into carrier battle group operations.

The Virginia-class of attack submaries surpasses the performance of any current projected threat submarine, ensuring U.S. undersea dominance well into the next century. The Virginia class (or SSN-774 class) of attack submarines are the first U.S. subs to be designed for a broad spectrum of open-ocean and littoral missions around the world. They were designed as a cheaper alternative to the Cold War era Seawolf-class attack submarines, and are slated to replace aging Los Angeles class subs, seventeen of which have already been decommissioned.


The Virginia Class fast attack submarines incorporate several innovations. Instead of periscopes, the subs have a pair of extendable “photonics masts” outside the pressure hull. Each contains several high-resolution cameras with light-intensification and infrared sensors, an infrared laser rangefinder, and an integrated Electronic Support Measures (ESM) array. Signals from the masts’ sensors are transmitted through fiber optic data lines through signal processors to the control center. The subs also make use of pump-jet propulsors for quieter operations

On December 22, 2008, the Navy awarded a new $14B contract to the GDEB/NGC team for eight more VA-class subs, the first of which will be NORTH DAKOTA. Beginning in 2011, the Navy will double the current production rate by building two subs per year. The new contract calls for construction times of 60 months and costs to be held at $2B each (in 2005 dollars).

On 21 June 2008, the Navy christened the New Hampshire (SSN-778), the first of the Block II boats. The submarine was delivered 8 months ahead of schedule and $54 million underbudget.[8] The Block II boats are built in four sections, compared to the ten sections of Block I boats. This enables a cost savings of $300 million per boat, reducing the cost to $2 billion per boat and the construction of two boats per year. Beginning in 2010, new vessels of the class will include a software system that can monitor and reduce Electromagnetic (EM) signatures when needed.


Block I

  • USS Virginia (SSN-774), commissioned and in service.
  • USS Texas (SSN-775), commissioned and in service.
  • USS Hawaii (SSN-776), commissioned and in service.
  • USS North Carolina (SSN-777), commissioned and in service.

Block II

Block III

Step Aboard the Navy’s $2.4 Billion “Virginia” Nuclear Submarine

The USS Virginia-class submarines are the United States newest and most advanced submarine. The first Virginia slipped beneath the waves just eight years ago and only nine vessels have been completed. They take more than five years to build and run about $2.4 billion apiece. Here, we look at the Virginia class of submarines from stern to bow, finding out what makes these ships unique. We’ll start in the engine room, move our way over the reactor, through the barracks to the command center and down into the torpedo room. The Virginia-class submarine is a new breed of high-tech post-Cold War nuclear subs.

The submarines are nearly 400 feet long and have been in service since 2003.

The ships were designed to function well in both deep sea and low-depth waters.

So far, nine have entered service – here is Cheryl McGuiness, the widow of one of the pilots killed on 9/11, christening the USS New Hampshire.

Here are the USS Virginia’s engineering spaces, which power a pump-jet propulsor rather than a conventional propellor

This design cuts back on corrosive damage and also makes the ship stealthier.

The engineering spaces, near the sub’s stern, is the place where power from the SG9 nuclear reactor core drives the ship to nearly 32 mph when it’s submerged.

This hallway – extending from the engine room, over the reactor and through the living habitat in the center of the ship – is dark so that sailors can sleep.

The ship has an airlock chamber with room for 9 Navy SEALs for Special Operations (SpecOps).

The SEALs can exit the sub while it is underwater by passing through this airlock.

This lock-out chamber is in the center of the ship.

Submariners eat well – the quality of the food is designed to offset the stress and burden of living underwater for months at a time.

As one sailor said, “It’s like having comfort food 24-hours a day.

Going further toward the bow of the sub, the command center is directly beneath the main sail of the sub and where the navigators do their work.

The command center on the Virginia subs are much more spacious compared previous submarines.

The command center doesn’t have to be directly under the deck of the ship in the Virginia-class subs because there isn’t a periscope.

The monitor the Commander is looking at is this is the sub’s “periscope” – a state-of-the-art photonics system, which enables real time imaging that more than one person can see at a time.

The Virginia eliminates the traditional helmsman, planesman, chief of the watch and diving officer by combining them into two stations manned by two petty officers.

The subs are equipped with a spherical sonar array that scans a full 360-degrees.

The Virginia subs carry a full crew of 134 sailors.

Despite computer navigation systems all routes are plotted manually as well to ensure accuracy of navigation.

Down below the command center is the torpedo room, where it is possible to set up temporary bunks for special operations team.

The ships carry up to 12 vertical launch tomahawk missiles and 38 torpedoes.

Here a petty officer on the USS Texas fires water through the torpedo tubes as part of a test.

The subs were designed to host the defunct Advanced SEAL Delivery system, a midget submarine that transported the Navy SEALs from the sub to their mission.

The only thing in front of the torpedo room is the bow of the submarine, which contains sonar equipment and shielding designed to make the sub stealthier.

Even as they are being built, new improvements and upgrades are being added into the design of the submarines.