The U.S. Navy has accepted delivery of the Virginia-class nuclear attack submarine USS Colorado (SSN-788), the 15th boat of the Virginia-class, on September 21, the service announced in a statement.
“This next-generation attack submarine provides the Navy with the capabilities required to maintain the nation’s undersea superiority,” the press releases states. It is the fourth U.S. Navy ship to be commissioned with the name Colorado. Construction of the boat began in 2012.
Virginia-class SSNs are built in block increments, with Block I and Block II already delivered to the U.S. Navy. The USS Colorado is the fifth Virginia-class Block III submarine featuring a redesigned bow with increased payload capabilities. As I explained elsewhere (See: “US Subs Getting Fire Power Boost”), Block III subs are fitted with the so-called Virginia Payload Modules (VPM):
While the first 10 Block I and Block II Virginia-class submarines feature 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,” according to the U.S. Navy website. The new 87-inch tubes have been designed to accommodate future missile systems in addition to the Tomahawk.
In addition, Virginia-class Block III boats are equipped with four torpedo tubes for MK48 torpedoes. Furthermore, next to a redesigned bow, Block III Virginia-class boats also contain “a water-backed Large Aperture Bow (LAB) sonar array that replaces the air-backed sonar sphere found in the first 10 Virginias.” This, in combination with the its so-called fly-by-wire capability, enables the boat to perform important intelligence and surveillance missions.
“Colorado’s delivery brings another Block III Virginia-class submarine to the fleet within budget. The submarine’s outstanding quality continues the Program’s tradition of delivering combat ready submarines to the fleet,” said Captain Mike Stevens, Virginia-class submarine program manager. “The Colorado is the most capable Virginia-class submarine bringing advanced capabilities and technology to the Navy fleet.”
Virginia-class subs are multipurpose platforms 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,” as I explained elsewhere.
In May, the U.S. Navy took delivery of the USS Washington, the 14th boat of the Virginia-class following the successful completion of sea trials off the coast of Virginia in early April. The U.S. Navy plans to induct up to 51 boats of the class in years ahead.