Friday, May 22, 2009

First Virginia Class Payload Tube Increases Force's Versatility

Program Executive Office Submarines' Virginia-class Program Office marked a substantial milestone May 15 with the delivery of the first Virginia payload tube (VPT).

Built by General Dynamics Electric Boat (GDEB), the VPT arrived at GDEB's Virginia-class shipbuilding partner Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding's Newport News (NGSB-NN) facility for inclusion in Pre-Commissioning Unit North Dakota's (SSN 784) bow. As part of a teaming arrangement, NGSB-NN builds all Virginia-class bows while GDEB constructs all of the VPTs.

As the lead submarine being built under the third, or Block III contract, North Dakota will be the first Virginia-class submarine equipped with VPTs.

Unlike the first 10 Virginia-class submarines that housed 12 Tomahawk cruise missiles in individual Vertical Launch System (VLS) tubes, all Virginia-class submarines beginning with North Dakota will utilize two, 87.5-inch diameter, 35-plus ton tubes to house and launch the same number of missiles.

"The VPTs allow us to carry the same number of missiles as VLS-equipped Los Angeles- and Virginia-class submarines in a more economical way," said Virginia-class Program Manager Capt. Michael Jabaley.

"Two VPTs are less expensive to build and maintain than 12 VLS tubes, and when we couple those savings with the new large aperture bow array, we save forty million per ship beginning with SSN 788, the first of two ships we start building in fiscal year (FY) 2012," Jabaley concluded.

In addition to acquisition and life cycle savings, the VPTs provide the submarine force with greater payload flexibility.

"The VPTs provide commonality with the SSGN tubes, so payloads developed for one can go into the other," said Rear Adm. William Hilarides, Program Executive Officer, Submarines. "This affords the submarine force incredible flexibility and versatility to the far future."

In summarizing the Virginia Class' recent accomplishments, Hilarides said that, "The Navy / industry team promised to reach its cost and schedule goals, and we are making good on each and every one of them."

On May 3, Pre-Commissioning Unit Missouri (SSN 780) reached pressure hull complete only 64 weeks after the delivery of the first hull section to the shipyard - 19 weeks earlier than USS New Hampshire (SSN 778) and less than half the time required for USS Virginia (SSN 774). Further, New Hampshire became the third Virginia-class submarine to conduct an operational deployment prior to undergoing its post-shakedown availability.

"We, the Navy-industry team, promised to reach certain cost and schedule goals, and we are making good on each and every one of them," said Hilarides.