virginia class submarineMaster Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) Rick West visits the crew of the Virginia-class attack submarine Missouri (SSN 780) at Naval Submarine Base New London, July 30, 2010. Jennifer Villalovos / US NavyDevelopment of Virginia-Class submarines are broken up into procurement “Blocks.” Blocks I and II have already been delivered.The Block III subs, now under construction, are being built with new so-called Virginia Payload Tubes designed to lower costs and increase capability.Instead of building what most existing Virginia-Class submarines have — 12 individual 21-inch in diameter vertical launch tubes able to fire Tomahawk missiles – the Block III submarines are being built with two larger 87-inch in diameter tubes able to house six Tomahawk missiles each.Although the new tubes were conceived and designed as part of what the Navy calls its “Design for Affordability” strategy to lower costs, the move also brings strategic advantages to the platform, service officials say. Specifically, this means that the submarines are constructed such that they will be able to accommodate new technologies as they emerge — this could mean engineering in an ability to fire upgraded Tomahawk missiles or other weapons which may emerge in the future.”VCS are designed to remain current with technology advances for their entire operational life through extensive use of modular construction, open architecture design (uses industry common design), and commercial off-the-shelf components,” Chatmas said.Virginia class submarineThe USS New Hampshire (SSN 778) moored at General Dynamics Electric Boat shipyard in Groton moments before her christening ceremony, June 21, 2008. U.S. Navy photo by John NarewskiThe Block III Virginia-Class submarines also have what’s called a Large Aperture Bow conformal array sonar system – designed to send out an acoustic ping, analyze the return signal, and provide the location and possible contours of enemy ships, submarines and other threats.Virginia-class block V — Virginia payload modulesFor Block V construction, the Navy is planning to insert a new 84-foot long section designed to house additional missile capability. “Virginia Payload Modules.”The Virginia Payload Modules, to come in future years, will increase the Tomahawk missile firepower of the submarines from 12 missiles up to 40.”The VPM submarines will have an additional (approximately 84 feet) section with four additional Virginia Payload Tubes (VPTs), each capable of carrying seven Tomahawk cruise missiles, for a ship total of 40 Tomahawks,” Chatmas said.The idea is to have additional Tomahawk or other missile capability increased by 2026, when the “SSGN” Ohio-Class Guided Missile Submarines start retiring in larger numbers, he explained.Virginia class submarineThe Virginia-class fast-attack submarine USS Texas (SSN 775) alongside submarine tender USS Emory S. Land, November 10, 2011.U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Chris WilliamsonEarly prototyping work on the Virginia Payload Modules is already underway and several senior Navy leaders, over the years, have indicated a desire to accelerate production and delivery of this technology — which will massively increase fire-power on the submarines.While designed primarily to hold Tomahawks, the VPM missile tubes are engineered such that they could accommodate a new payload, new missile or even a large unmanned underwater vehicle, Navy officials said.The reason for the Virginia Payload Modules is clear; beginning in the 2020s, the Navy will start retiring four large Ohio-class guided-missile submarines able to fire up to 154 Tomahawk missiles each. This will result in the Navy losing a massive amount of undersea fire power capability, Navy officials explained.From 2002 to 2008 the U.S. Navy modified four of its oldest nuclear-armed Ohio-class submarines by turning them into ships armed with only conventional missiles — the USS Ohio, USS Michigan, USS Florida and USS Georgia. They are called SSGNs, with the “G” designation for “guided missile.”Read the original article on Scout Warrior. Copyright 2017. Follow Scout Warrior on Twitter.