NATIONAL INTEREST — Though Russia continues to develop and build newer and ever more capable nuclear attack submarines such as the Project 885M Yasen-class, the U.S. Navy continues to maintain its technological edge by incrementally improving its Virginia-class attack boats.
“I think we have a very focused program called the acoustic superiority program to make sure that we in fact keep our technological lead—our acoustical advantage—and that’s a focus of every one of our developmental programs,” Capt. Mike Stevens, Naval Sea Systems Command’s Virginia-class program manager told me at the Navy League’s Sea, Air and Space symposium on May 17. “It doesn’t do any good to build submarines that aren’t up to par, so it’s a main part of our focus to make sure those submarine do maintain their acoustical advantage—not just today but 10, 20 years out.”
Indeed, while the highest profile planned improvement to Virginia-class boats is the addition of a new payload module that boosts the vessel’s Tomahawk missile capacity to 40, there are a host acoustical improvements to boats that are ongoing. “Acoustics are an essential element of a submarine,” Stevens said. “Stealth is the main aspect we focus on, so we always—from ship to ship even—we look at the acoustic health and make sure we’re doing what we can improve it.”