USS Virginia Class Nuclear Submarines


Thanks to friend, Bill Walker, for sending this in.

Step aboard the Navy's $2.4 billion Virginia-Class nuclear submarine.

The USS Virginia-class submarines are the United States' newest and most advanced submarines.

The first Virginia slipped beneath the waves just eight years ago and only nine vessels have been completed. They take more than five years to build and run about $2.4 billion apiece. Here, we look at the Virginia class of submarines from stern to bow, finding out what makes these ships unique. We'll start in the engine room, move our way over the reactor, through the barracks to the command center and down into the torpedo room.

The Virginia-class submarine is a new breed of high-tech post-Cold War nuclear subs


The submarines are nearly 400 feet long and have been in service since 2003


The ships were designed to function well in both deep sea and low-depth waters


So far, nine have entered service — here is Cheryl McGuiness, the widow of one of the pilots killed on 9/11, christening the USS New Hampshire


Here are the USS Virginia's engines, which power a pump-jet propulsor rather than a conventional propeller.


This design cuts back on corrosive damage and also makes the ship stealthier.


The engine room, near the sub's stern, is the place where power from the SG9 nuclear reactor core drives the ship to nearly 32 mph when it is submerged


This hallway — extending from the engine room, over the reactor and through the living habitat in the center of the ship — is dark so that sailors can sleep


The ship has an airlock chamber with room for 9 SEALs


The SEALs can exit the sub while it is underwater by passing through this airlock.


This lock-out chamber is in the center of the ship.


Submariners eat well — the quality of the food is designed to offset the stress and burden of living underwater for months at a time


As one sailor said, "It's like having comfort food 24-hours a day


Farther toward the bow of the sub, the command center is directly beneath the main sail of the sub and where the navigators do their work.


The command center on the Virginia subs are much more spacious compared previous submarines.


The command center doesn't have to be directly under the deck of the ship in the
Virginia-class subs because there isn't a periscope.


The monitor the Commander is looking at is this is the sub's "periscope" — a state-of- the-art photonics system, which enables real time imaging that more than one person can see at a time.


The Virginia eliminates the traditional helmsman, planesman, chief of the watch and diving officer by combining them into two stations manned by two officers.


The subs are equipped with a spherical sonar array that scans a full 360-degrees.


The Virginia subs carry a full crew of 134 sailors


Despite computer navigation systems all routes are plotted manually as well.


Down below the command center is the torpedo room, where it is possible to set up temporary bunks for special operations team.


The ships carry up to 12 vertical launch tomahawk missiles and 38 torpedoes.


Here an officer on the USS Texas fires water through the torpedo tubes as part of a test.


The subs were designed to host the defunct Advanced SEAL Delivery system, a midget submarine that transported the Navy SEALs from the sub to their mission.


The only thing in front of the torpedo room is the bow of the submarine, which contains sonar equipment and shielding designed to make the sub stealthier.


Even as they are being built, new improvements and upgrades are being added into the design of the submarines.

That's what the U.S. has in the works beneath the waves.

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