Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Newport announced a major milestone for its Virginia Payload Tube Life Cycle Support Facility, Nov. 20 – the installation of the first Virginia Payload Tube. The new facility allows Navy engineers to conduct tests with an actual Virginia-class submarine payload tube.
“This unique, ship-like facility will minimize impact on ships’ operational availability,” said Paul Melancon, project lead. “It will provide future payload integration and life cycle support, leading to savings in time and money.”
The launch tube is the centerpiece of the new facility, which is scheduled to become operational with the delivery of the first Virginia-class Block III contract submarine, Pre-Commissioning Unit North Dakota (SSN 784), in early 2014. North Dakota and all future Virginia class submarines will have two payload tubes, each capable of carrying six Tomahawk cruise missiles, vice the traditional 12 vertical launch system tubes found in previous submarines. The Virginia Payload Tubes not only reduce acquisition and life cycle costs, but afford the platforms more usable payload volume.
Design work for the new facility began in 2011 with the 95,000-pound launch tube section delivered to Newport in February 2012. By May 2014, the building will be fully wired to mimic a functional Virginia class submarine’s command center.
Once completed, engineers and technicians will use the facility to troubleshoot any life cycle payload tube issues to assess new technical concepts and the integration of future large payloads.
“The [facility] will be a valuable strategic asset and reinforce NUWC Newport’s position as the world’s leader in payload integration and submarine warfare,” said Jim Lilley, deputy project lead.
NUWC Newport, part of Naval Sea Systems Command, is one of two divisions of the Naval Undersea Warfare Center. NUWC Newport’s mission is to provide research, development, test and evaluation, engineering and fleet support for submarines, autonomous underwater systems, undersea offensive and defensive weapons systems and countermeasures.
Press Release, December 20, 2013; Image: General Dynamics