The U.S. Navy has begun construction on its next advanced, high-tech spy submarine

Currently unnamed, a new covert underwater operations submarine based on the existing Virginia-class of attack subs is currently under construction.
Christopher McFadden
The new submarine will be based on the Virginia-class attack submarine.

U.S. Navy/Wikimedia Commons 

The United States Navy, it is reported, has ordered the construction of a new, high-tech spy submarine that can lurk and perform its covert operations from the safety of the sea floor. Currently unnamed, the new submarine will allegedly be based on the existing Virginia class of submarines. While its mission remit is top secret, it could be used for missions like a rocket- and missile-test part retrieval, hacking of underwater communication infrastructure, and other underwater secret missions.

Naval News reports the new submarine could also be used as a kind of mothership for uncrewed underwater vehicles, remote-controlled micro-submarines known as remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), and human divers.

Operating spy submarines has a long history in the U.S. Navy. The USS Halibut, a submarine built to launch cruise missiles, was modified by the service in 1965 to launch and recover divers and ROVs. The USS Jimmy Carter is the only special-mission submarine currently deployed by the U.S. Navy. She is the last of the Seawolf-class attack submarines, was built in the early 2000s, and is significantly longer than other subs thanks to an insert for a 100-foot Multi-Mission Platform (MMP).

The MMP provides “extra accommodation, working space, and hangars (‘aquariums’) for Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs), Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs), and possibly manned submersibles,” according to undersea authority and author H.I. Sutton.

The contract for its construction has been handed to the famous Electric Boat shipyard based out of Groton in Connecticut. As the current range of Virginia-class submarines currently lacks the capability for such the tasks mentioned above, it is anticipated that the new submarine would undergo significant modifications to the traditional design for the class.

This could include, among other plans, converting the Virginia-class Payload modules that are currently used to house Tomahawk cruise missiles.

These submarine areas could, for example, be converted for use as diver lockout chambers or as hangers for underwater drones. It is also anticipated that the current layout for the Virginia class could be stretched to add hangers or provide the required space for other equipment it would need to complete its covert missions.

Something called a "drop keel" is another element of the submarine that could be incorporated. The torpedo-shaped, cylindrical design of contemporary nuclear-powered assault subs minimizes water resistance against the hull, allowing for faster-submerged. Adding a "drop keel," or a flat part of the submarine's hull that protrudes from the bottom, could enable the sub to rest horizontally on the ocean's floor—a beneficial modification given the submarine's intended use.

The new spy sub will probably also undergo modifications to relocate the reactor water intakes. Since silt and other debris can obstruct the intakes that draw in water to control the reactor's temperature, most nuclear submarines cannot rest on the ocean floor for long. The intakes on the hull of the new sub would, therefore, need some modification that raises them higher to prevent ingesting foreign objects.

Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
message circleSHOW COMMENT (1)chevron
Job Board