The 13th Virginia-class nuclear attack submarine, the USS Illinois, has been delivered to the U.S. Navy ahead of schedule, according to a statement by the Naval Sea Systems Command (NSSC). The U.S. Navy accepted delivery of the new sub on August 27.
The nuclear attack submarine is the ninth of its class to be delivered ahead of schedule, according to the press release. The Illinois will be commissioned in October of this year and is scheduled to assume operations in 2017. The submarine completed successfully completed its first dive earlier in the month. (The submarine is designed to dive to to depths of 240 meters–800 feet–and beyond.)
“Illinois successfully completed the independent Navy’s Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) trials, which evaluate the submarine’s seaworthiness and operational capabilities, on Aug. 21,” the NSSC statement reads. “During INSURV trials, the crew took the submarine to test depth and tested the submarine’s propulsion plant and material readiness.”
The Illinois is third of eight Virginia-class Block III submarines delivered to the U.S. Navy. Overall, the service is planning to acquire 48 Virginia-class subs. As I explained elsewhere (See: “US Navy Commissions Most Lethal Warship”):
The Virginia-class submarines are being built in block increments, with Block I and Block II already delivered to the U.S. Navy. The 114.8 meter (376.6 feet) long, 7,925-ton USS John Warner is the second of eight Block III Virginia-class submarines built with the new Virginia Payload Modules (VPM) – larger tubes that increase the ship’s missile-firing payload possibilities (See: “US Subs Getting Fire Power Boost”).
According to the U.S. Navy website, “The first 10 Block I and Block II Virginia-class submarines have 12 individual 21-inch diameter vertical launch tubes able to fire Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAMS). The Block III submarines are built with two-larger 87-inch diameter tubes able to house six TLAMS each.”
The boat is furthermore equipped with four torpedo tubes armed with MK48 torpedoes. In addition to a redesigned bow, Block III Virginia-class subs contain “a water-backed Large Aperture Bow (LAB) sonar array that replaces the air-backed sonar sphere found in the first 10 Virginias.”
In August 2015, at the commissioning ceremony of the USS John Warner, then Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert said that the Virginia-class “is the most high-tech, it is the most lethal warship pound for pound that we have in our inventory.”
The new nuclear attack sub class “is specifically designed to fulfill the seven core competencies of the U.S. Navy’s submarine force: anti-submarine warfare; anti-surface warfare; delivery of special operations forces; strike warfare; irregular warfare; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and mine warfare. It can operate at speeds in excess of 25 knots while submerged,” I reported last year.