The U.S. Navy to Facelift Existing Missile Submarine Fleet



The Navy “Boats”

  • Ohio (1981 to 1997)
  • Virginia (2000 – present)
  • Planned – Columbia

The U.S. Navy Ohio class submarines are reaching their age out date. The current 14 Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines have been in service between 1981 and 1997.

The new Columbia class submarine, in conjunction with the existing Virginia class submarine, is meant to take over as the next line of defense for the American Navy.

Congress passed funding for the Virginia submarines in the form of an upgrade called “Virginia Payload Module” or VPM’s, meaning that the Virginia’s Tomahawk strike missile load-out will increase from 12 to 40 by inserting a module increasing the length of the submarine.

This mammoth task is entrusted to the Huntington Ingalls Industries to do the upgrades on the Virginia class submarines and start the new production of the Columbia class submarines. The Columbia class submarines will serve for more than 40 years and will carry hundreds of nuclear warheads to sea at a time and is due to enter service in 2031.

On the 23rd of May, technology and production amalgamated when a steel cutting ceremony took place where the first steel plate was cut with a plasma-burning machine and using an all-digital blueprint to aid in construction.



Length: 560 ft
Beam: 42 ft
Propulsion: nuclear reactor

  • 12 knots surfaced (22 km/h; 14 mph)
  • 20 knots submerged (official) (37 km/h; 23 mph)
  • 25 knots submerged (reported) (46 km/h; 29 mph)

Range: Limited only by food supplies
Test depth: +800 ft (240 m)
Complement: 15 officers, 140 enlisted
Armament: 22 tubes, each with 7 Tomahawk cruise missiles, totaling 154


Length: 377 ft (115 m)
Propulsion: S9G reactor 40,000 shp (30 MW)
Speed: 25 knots (46 km/h; 29 mph) or over
Range: unlimited
Endurance: Only limited by food and maintenance requirements.
Test depth: +800 ft (240 m)
Complement: 135 (15 officers; 120 NCOs and enlisted)
Block I-IV:

  • 12 × VLS (Tomahawk BGM-109) tubes
  • 4 × 533 mm torpedo tubes (Mk-48 torpedo)
  • 37 × torpedoes & missiles (torpedo room)

Block V (VPM Module):

  • 2 × VLS (Tomahawk BGM-109) tubes
  • 4 × 533 mm torpedo tubes (Mk-48 torpedo)
  • 65 × torpedoes & missiles


Length: 560 ft (171 m)
Installed power: Nuclear reactor
Range: Unlimited
Complement: 155 (accommodation)
Armament: 16 × Trident D5

The Objective

The U.S. Navy submarine facelift will form a powerful deterrent against a surprise land nuclear attack on American soil and any of its Allies.

Image by David Mark from Pixabay

Bianca Van der Watt

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