By Team Submarine Public Affairs
The Navy conducted multiple launches of Tomahawk cruise missiles from USS Virginia (SSN 774) in August in the as part of the program's developmental and operational testing efforts. The test launches, the first ever for a Virginia-class submarine, included the launch and extended flight of multiple missiles to demonstrate the 's launch capabilities.
“Completing the Tomahawk flight tests is an important milestone in proving the class design and brings us a significant step closer to the program's full rate production decision in 2009,” said Rear Adm. (sel.) David Johnson, Virginia Class program manager. “The Virginia Class was conceived and designed as a multi-purpose warship and these flight tests are another indication of the significant capabilities a submarine brings to the fight,” said Johnson.
Capt. Rick McQueen, program manager for Naval Air Systems Command’s (NAVAIR) Tomahawk Program Office, noted that the missile launches were the culmination of years of joint effort between NAVAIR and Naval Sea Systems Command developers and engineers.
“Virginia Class submarines provide a brand new flexible, stealthy platform for employment of the Tomahawk Weapon System, while the Tomahawk provides the platform with a long range, accurate, and flexible strike capability to support the Navy's warfighting roles,” said McQueen.
The Submarine Force has experienced an influx of capability during the past 15 months, according to Rear Adm. William Hilarides, Program Executive Officer Submarines. As examples, he cited the SSGN Strike certification of USS Florida (SSGN 728) in May 2007; USS Ohio’s (SSGN 726) participation as a Special Operations Forces command, control, and support platform during the Exercise Key Resolve/Foal Eagle in February/March 2008; and the Submarine Rescue Diving and Recompression System’s successful debut during the international Exercise Bold Monarch in May/June 2008.
“We will keep pushing the boundaries to deliver the capability to the hands of the warfighter,” Hilarides concluded.
The Virginia Class is currently executing Operational Evaluation (OPEVAL) testing that is designed to evaluate the submarine's war fighting capabilities in operationally realistic and demanding scenarios across its seven mission areas – Anti-Submarine; Anti-Surface Ship; Strike; Naval Special Warfare; Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance; Battle Group Support; and Mine Warfare. The OPEVAL testing, conducted by the Commander, Operational Test and Evaluation Force, continues through the fall of 2008.
The Virginia Class has celebrated three construction milestones so far this year – the April 12 Keel Authentication of Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) (SSN 779), USS North Carolina’s (SSN 777) Commissioning on May 3, and the Christening of PCU New Hampshire (SSN 778) on June 21. will be commissioned into the Navy on October 25 at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, marking the first time in 12 years that the Navy has commissioned two submarines of the same class in the same year. In the coming months the Virginia Class program will also celebrate PCU Missouri’s (SSN 780) Keel Laying on Sept. 27 at General Dynamics Electric Boat’s , , facility, and PCU New Mexico’s Christening at Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding’s shipyard in , on Dec. 13.