BAE Systems to provide Virginia-class submarine propulsors for US Navy

According to a contract published by the United States Department of Defense (DoD) on February 8, 2021, BAE Systems Platforms & Services, Minneapolis, Minnesota, is awarded a $17,576,524 fixed-price incentive contract for Virginia-class submarine propulsors of the U.S. Navy.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 The Virginia-class attack submarine Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) John Warner (SSN 785) conducts sea trials in the Atlantic Ocean. (Picture source U.S. Navy)

The U.S. Navy has been procuring Virginia (SSN-774) class nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs) since FY (Fiscal Year) 1998. The submarine is designed by General Dynamics's Electric Boat (EB) and Huntington Ingalls Industries incorporating the latest in stealth, intelligence gathering, and weapons systems technology.

According to a U.S. Congress report, the Virginia-class design was developed to be less expensive and better optimized for post-Cold War submarine missions than the Seawolf-class design. The baseline Virginia-class design is slightly larger than the Los Angeles-class design12 but incorporates newer technologies, including technologies used in the Seawolf-class design. Los Angeles-class submarines were built in three successive flights from 1972 to 1996. As of 2020, 32 of the Los Angeles class are still in commission and 30 are retired from service.

The U.S. Navy plans to build most Virginia-class boats procured in FY2019 and subsequent years 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 land attack missiles or other payloads.

The VPM’s vertical launch tubes are to be used to store and fire additional Tomahawk cruise missiles or other payloads, such as large-diameter unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs).24 The 4 additional launch tubes in the VPM could carry a total of 28 additional Tomahawk cruise missiles,25 which would increase the total number of torpedo-sized weapons carried by the Virginia-class design from about 37 to about 65—an increase of about 76%.

In addition to the VPM, the Navy is introducing acoustic and other improvements to the Virginia-class design that are intended to help maintain the design’s superiority over Russian and Chinese submarines.

Since 1989, BAE Systems has manufactured propulsors that significantly contribute to the overall stealth and effectiveness of a submarine. Initially delivering this key technology for the Seawolf-class, we continue to successfully manufacture propulsors for Virginia class subs as well. The propulsor is used to improve the propeller’s efficiency and help lower its sonar signature.

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