Here are two more articles from this morning’s edition of Undersea Warfare News:

Navy Receives First Block III Virginia-Class Submarine

Kris Osborn, DoD Buzz, Sep 4

The Navy officially accepted delivery of the USS North Dakota on Aug. 29, signaling the arrival of a new high-tech fast attack submarine equipped with improved missile tubes, computers, electronics and sonar technology.

Christened in November, the USS North Dakota will be the first of eight Block III Virginia-class boats delivered to the Navy, submarines engineered with a series of technological upgrades and innovations compared to earlier Blocks I and II boats, Navy officials said.

Blocks I and II, totaling 10 ships, have already been delivered to the Navy. All eight Block III boats are being built under a $14 billion Navy deal with General Dynamics’ Electric Boat from December of 2008.

The Block III subs are built with new so-called Virginia Payload Tubes designed to lower costs and increase missile-firing payload possibilities, Navy officials explained.

Instead of building what most existing Virginia-class submarines have – 12 individual 21-inch in diameter vertical launch tubes able to fire Tomahawk missiles – the Block III submarines are being built with two-larger 87-inch diameter tubes able to house six Tomahawk missiles each.

While primarily done to lower costs for the boat, this technical change will allow the possibility of future missiles and off-board sensors to be launched from the tubes, Navy officials said.

“North Dakota delivered ahead of schedule and under budget,” Capt. David Goggins, Virginia Class program manager, said in a written statement. “When one considers the scope of design changes, this represents a tremendous achievement.”

All Virginia-class submarines are also engineered with a computerized fly-by-wire touchscreen control system wherein boat operators use a joystick to navigate, unlike the mechanical hydraulic controls used on prior models.

The Block III boats also have a Large Aperture Bow array which places a conformal sonar system in the bow of the boat, Navy officials said.

“The LAB array provides improved passive listening capabilities over traditional spherical arrays employed on earlier submarines,” Rear Adm. Joseph Tofalo, director of undersea warfare, said in a written statement. “The LAB array includes a medium-frequency active array. The hydrophones used to determine a bearing of either incoming passive sounds or active reflected sounds are taken directly from previous design and technology advancements.”

Navy officials said that the North Dakota successfully completed Alpha, Bravo, and Board of Inspection and Survey trials, assessments which evaluate the submarine’s seaworthiness and operational capabilities. During the trials, the crew took the submarine to test depth, conducted an emergency surfacing, and tested the submarine’s propulsion plant, service officials said.

“North Dakota and her crew delivered an outstanding performance,” Program Executive Officer for Submarines Rear Adm. David C. Johnson said in a written statement. “It was almost 10 years ago that the first ship of the class, USS Virginia delivered on Oct. 12, 2004. Since then, this program has delivered 10 ships, with North Dakota the latest. We continue to meet the Virginia Class standard of delivering submarines early, under cost, more complete and ready for tasking right out of the shipyard. North Dakota set a new benchmark for excellence in what is the arguably the best performing program in defense acquisition.”

The Navy postponed North Dakota’s original May commissioning date because of quality issues with vendor-assembled and delivered components that required an unplanned dry-docking to correct. Additional design certification work was also required on the submarine’s redesigned bow, a Navy statement said.

“Now that certifications are complete, and we’re armed with lessons learned,” said Goggins, “we can move forward knowing that we are providing our fleet with the most capable, and battle-ready submarine possible.”


USS North Dakota Delivered: Unequalled Predator and Industrial Benchmark

Rear Adm. Joseph Tofalo, Navy Live, Sep 3

Last Friday USS North Dakota (SSN 784) delivered to the fleet under budget and two days earlier than its contractual delivery date.

As part of the Navy’s acceptance, North Dakota was evaluated in the areas of construction and equipment operation by the Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) team. The INSURV team assessed this as the best performance to date of any of the 11 Virginia-class submarines serving in the fleet. What makes this even more significant is the superior on time, and under budget performance that was accomplished, despite a 20% redesign of this, the first boat of the Block III Virginia-class submarines. The delivery marks a culmination of over five years of work by the Virginia-class Program Office, the shipbuilders, Supervisors of Shipbuilding, and the rest of the Navy team including a crew of more than 135 sailors who are training to operate forward in defense of our nation.

Carry A Big Stick

The arrival of North Dakota is a significant milestone and will improve our existing capabilities. The two newly designed Virginia Payload Tubes (VPTs), each capable of launching six missiles, replace the twelve individual missile tubes that comprised the Vertical Launch System (VLS) in previous submarines. Primarily done to reduce the cost of each submarine, moving from 12 individual cells to two larger diameter tubes has the added benefit of optimizing the equivalent space and providing additional future payload flexibility. In addition to weapons, we may also be able to leverage the efficient use of space in future submarines to deploy unmanned aerial or undersea vehicles for any variety of tasks. The flexibility gained is a significant force multiplier.

Another major, but less obvious war fighting improvement, is the shift from the traditional spherical array to a water backed Large Aperture Bow (LAB) array and advanced combat control system. The LAB array provides improved passive listening capabilities over traditional spherical arrays employed on earlier submarines. The LAB array includes a medium-frequency active array. The hydrophones used to determine a bearing of either incoming passive sounds or active reflected sounds are taken directly from previous design and technology advancements. The hydrophone advancements eliminate the need for Quality Assurance (QA) maintenance related specifically to submarine safety, and ultimately reduces costs. The redesigned bow was one of 100 design changes initiated as a part of the cost reduction strategy. The initiatives resulted in a savings of $100 million per hull. These savings, combined with improved performance, are a win by any standard.

Undersea Dominance

The superior performance by North Dakota and the entire Virginia-class team, underpins the value the submarine force plays in a variety of missions from maintaining maritime trade routes through the full spectrum of conflict. Undersea dominance relies in no small part on this team delivering the best ships ready to support national objectives the day they are delivered. We are already working on leveraging technologies from North Dakota and the Virginia-class into the design of the nation’s replacement for the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines. The Ohio Replacement is a national priority and we are recapitalizing our sea based strategic deterrent fleet with the same expertise and capabilities that delivered North Dakota.

Rear Adm. Joseph Tofalo is Director, Undersea Warfare Division. (N97)


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