12 August 2016
ARLINGTON, Va. — The Navy plans to use a future Virginia-class attack submarine as a guinea pig for new acoustic-quieting technology that could be standardized on later boats of the class and on future classes.
The future USS South Dakota (SSN 790), a Block III Virginia-class SSN now under construction at General Dynamics’ Electric Boat shipyard in Groton, Conn., and Huntington Ingalls’ Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport News, Va., has been selected by the Navy to incorporate some new acoustic quieting features. South Dakota is scheduled for delivery to the Navy in 2018.
According to recent statements and testimony before Congress by Rear Adm. Michael E. Jabaley Jr., the Navy’s program executive officer for Submarines, South Dakota will feature an enhanced hull coating that will be installed during the submarine’s post-shakedown availability. In addition, large vertical-array sonar panels will be installed on both sides of the hull.
Also new will be an improved advanced hybrid propulsor — developed with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency — which Jabaley said “promises to present a significant acoustic advantage.”
Machinery improvements also will be included, many of which already have been incorporated on earlier boats.
“As we get quieter and quieter, we find some things that remain above the overall noise level, so we go and target those and that provides a huge return on investment, because it removes that noise spike in that one particular area,” Jabaley said July 8 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “Many of those machinery improvements have already been fielded on some ships. South Dakota will be the first to have the entire package and she will then be our acoustic superiority test ship. The lessons we will learn from her will then drive what we install on future ships including Ohio Replacement [next-generation ballistic-missile submarine] and what we back-fit on existing Virginias.
“This is our response to the continued improvement in our peer competitors submarine quality,” he said. “The Russians with production of the Severodvinsk SSGN [guided-missile submarine] took a significant step forward in their acoustic ability. We want to maintain pace ahead of that. We never want to reach acoustic parody. We always want to be better than anything any other country is putting out there in the submarine domain.”