2022 Fast Attack Submarine Report – Defending Freedom from Beneath the Waves

Fast Attack Submarines 

Defending a nation like the United States has never been an easy task. From the very beginning of the country, we have faced extreme challenges from powerful ocean going powers like Great Britain at it’s zenith, to the Imperial Japanese Navy that emerged from Pearl Harbor in December 1941 as the most powerful Pacific fleet. At times, including the Cold War, the danger knew no boundaries since the USSR had a blue water Navy that was able to launch weapons from beneath the waves that could have devastated the country.

At the end of World War 2, our Navy was without a doubt the largest ocean going fleet in the world. But as the world tried to heal after the war, many of those ships were put into Mothball Fleets. Experience from the past war showed that destroying all of those assets was not the best choice in case of future conflicts. That proved true enough during the Korean and Vietnam Conflicts. Even the great Battleships of the Iowa class served duty as part of Reagan’s response to global threats.

Submarines underwent a significant change with the introduction of nuclear power.

Building the next generation of boats – Nuclear power in 1955

Over the next sixty years, new missions and new threats would drive significant advances in those submarines.

The result is that the US Nuclear Fast Attack fleet is probably the most technologically advanced force in the world.

During most of the 1980s, when plans called for achieving a 600-ship Navy including 100 SSNs, the SSN force included more than 90 boats, peaking at 98 boats at the end of FY1987. The number of SSNs declined after that in a manner that roughly paralleled the decline in the total size of the Navy over the same time period. The 50 SSNs in service at the end of FY2020 included the following:

28 Los Angeles (SSN-688) class boats;

3 Seawolf (SSN-21) class boats; and

19 Virginia (SSN-774) class boats.

The stated goal for submarine levels is to be between 65-70 submarines of all types.

But all of that comes at a cost.

The newest class of submarine in the Fast attack fleet is the Virginia class subs. The cost to build one of these marvels is about 3.45 Billion Dollars (December 2021 report to congress)


“The Navy continues to build the next-generation attack submarine, the Virginia (SSN 774) class. Nineteen Virginias have been commissioned to date, and they will replace Los Angeles Class submarines as they retire. The Virginia class has several innovations that significantly enhance its warfighting capabilities, including in littoral — or coastal — operations. Virginia class SSNs have a fly-by-wire ship control system that provides improved shallow-water ship handling. The class has special features to support SOF, including a reconfigurable torpedo room which can accommodate a large number of SOF personnel and all their equipment for prolonged deployments as well as future off-board payloads. The class also has a large lockout truck (LOT) for divers. In Virginia-class SSNs, traditional periscopes have been supplanted by two photonics masts that host visible and infrared digital cameras atop telescoping arms. With the removal of the barrel periscopes, the ship’s control room has been moved down one deck and away from the hull’s curvature, affording it more room and an improved layout that provides the commanding officer with enhanced situational awareness. Additionally, through the extensive use of modular construction, open architecture, and commercial off-the-shelf components, the Virginia class is designed to remain state-of-the-practice for its entire operational life through the rapid introduction of new systems and payloads.”

US Navy Attack Submarines 2022


Attack submarines are designed to seek and destroy enemy submarines and surface ships; project power ashore with Tomahawk cruise missiles and Special Operation Forces (SOF); carry out Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions; support battle group operations; and engage in mine warfare.

Challenges for the future

There are internal and external challenges to the submarine force and its ability to perform its function. Beyond operational stress that comes from global operations with a numerically smaller fleet, the realities of repair and construction constraints are evident already and will magnify in the future.

From the 2021 Congressional review:

Submarine construction workforce training pipeline

“The committee notes that over the next decade, the submarine shipbuilding industry must hire at least 18,000 new skilled workers to support the production of the Columbia–class ballistic missile submarine and the continued construction of the Virginia–class submarine. The submarine industry has worked closely with State and local governments, community colleges, high schools, and community-based non-profits for the past several years to establish new training pipelines to support these increased hiring needs. Thus far, such pipeline training programs have placed more than 2,500 people in submarine industry jobs.”

External Challenges

China and Russia still pose a significant threat capability that must be countered. Smaller nations that have non-nuclear submarine fleets also represent in-theater threats that cannot be ignored. The safety of our country depends on having the means to counter all of these threats. I truly hope that we are up to the task.

Mister Mac

General Characteristics, Los Angeles Class

A total of 62 Los Angeles-class submarines, commonly called 688s, were procured between FY1970 and FY1990 and entered service between 1976 and 1996. They are equipped with four 21-inch diameter torpedo tubes and can carry a total of 26 torpedoes or Tomahawk cruise missiles in their torpedo tubes and internal magazines. The final 31 boats in the class (SSN-719 and higher) were built with an additional 12 vertical launch system (VLS) tubes in their bows for carrying and launching another 12 Tomahawk cruise missiles. The final 23 boats in the class (SSN-751 and higher) incorporate further improvements and are referred to as Improved Los Angeles-class boats or 688Is. As of the end of FY2020, 34 of the 62 boats in the class had been retired.

Builder: Newport News Shipbuilding Co.; General Dynamics Electric Boat Division

Date Deployed: Nov. 13, 1976 (USS Los Angeles)

Propulsion: One nuclear reactor, one shaft

Length: 360 feet (109.73 meters)

Beam: 33 feet (10.06 meters)

Displacement: Approximately 6,900 tons (7011 metric tons) submerged

Speed: 25+ knots (28+ miles per hour, 46.3 +kph)

Crew: 16 officers; 127 enlisted

Armament: Tomahawk missiles, VLS tubes (SSN 719 and later), MK 48 torpedoes, four torpedo tubes


USS San Francisco (SSN 711) Charleston, South Carolina (Moored Training Ship)

USS Providence (SSN 719) Bremerton, Washington

USS Chicago (SSN 721) Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

USS Key West (SSN 722) Guam

USS Oklahoma City (SSN 723) Guam

USS Helena (SSN 725) Norfolk, Virginia

USS Newport News (SSN 750) Portsmouth, New Hampshire

USS San Juan (SSN 751) Groton, Connecticut

USS Pasadena (SSN 752) Norfolk, Virginia

USS Albany (SSN 753) Norfolk, Virginia

USS Topeka (SSN 754) Guam

USS Scranton (SSN 756) San Diego, California

USS Alexandria (SSN 757) San Diego, California

USS Asheville (SSN 758) Guam

USS Jefferson City (SSN 759) Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

USS Annapolis (SSN 760) San Diego, California

USS Springfield (SSN 761) Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

USS Columbus (SSN 762) Newport News, Virginia

USS Santa Fe (SSN 763) Portsmouth, New Hampshire

USS Boise (SSN 764) Norfolk, Virginia

USS Montpelier (SSN 765) Groton, Connecticut

USS Charlotte (SSN 766) Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

USS Hampton (SSN 767) San Diego, California

USS Hartford (SSN 768) Groton, Connecticut

USS Toledo (SSN 769) Portsmouth, Virginia

USS Tucson (SSN 770) Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

USS Columbia (SSN 771) Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

USS Greeneville (SSN 772) Portsmouth, New Hampshire

USS Cheyenne (SSN 773) Portsmouth, New Hampshire

PUGET SOUND, Wash. (Sept. 11, 2017) The Seawolf-class fast-attack submarine USS Jimmy Carter (SSN 23) transits the Hood Canal as the boat returns home to Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor. Jimmy Carter is the last and most advanced of the Seawolf-class attack submarines, which are all homeported at Naval Base Kitsap. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Cmdr. Michael Smith/Released)

General Characteristics, Seawolf Class

The Seawolf class was originally intended to include about 30 boats, but Seawolf-class procurement was stopped after three boats as a result of the end of the Cold War and associated changes in military requirements and defense spending levels. The three Seawolf-class submarines are the Seawolf (SSN-21), the Connecticut (SSN-22), and the Jimmy Carter (SSN[1]23). SSN-21 and SSN-22 were procured in FY1989 and FY1991 and entered service in 1997 and 1998, respectively. SSN-23 was originally procured in FY1992. Its procurement was suspended in 1992 and then reinstated in FY1996. It entered service in 2005. Seawolf-class submarines are larger than Los Angeles-class boats or previous U.S. Navy SSNs.13 They are equipped with eight 30-inch-diameter torpedo tubes and can carry a total of 50 torpedoes or cruise missiles. SSN-23 was built to a lengthened configuration compared to the other two ships in the class.

Builder: General Dynamics Electric Boat Division.

Date Deployed: USS Seawolf commissioned July 19, 1997

Propulsion: One nuclear reactor, one shaft

Length: SSNs 21 and 22: 353 feet (107.6 meters); SSN 23: 453 feet (138.07 meters)

Beam: 40 feet (12.2 meters)

Displacement: SSNs 21 and 22: 9,138 tons (9,284 metric tons) submerged; SSN 23 12,158 tons (12,353 metric tons) submerged

Speed: 25+ knots (28+ miles per hour, 46.3+ kph)

Crew: 140: 14 officers; 126 enlisted

Armament: Tomahawk missiles, MK48 torpedoes, eight torpedo tubes


USS Seawolf (SSN 21) Bremerton, Washington

USS Connecticut (SSN 22) Bremerton, Washington

USS Jimmy Carter (SSN 23) Bangor, Washington

Groton, Conn. (July 30, 2004) – The nationÕs newest and most advanced nuclear-powered attack submarine and the lead ship of its class, PCU Virginia (SSN 774) returns to the General Dynamics Electric Boat shipyard following the successful completion of its first voyage in open seas called “alpha” sea trials. Virginia is the NavyÕs only major combatant ready to join the fleet that was designed with the post-Cold War security environment in mind and embodies the war fighting and operational capabilities required to dominate the littorals while maintaining undersea dominance in the open ocean. Virginia and the rest of the ships of its class are designed specifically to incorporate emergent technologies that will provide new capabilities to meet new threats. Virginia will be delivered to the U.S. Navy this fall. U.S. Navy photo by General Dynamics Electric Boat (RELEASED)

General Characteristics, Virginia Class

The Navy has been procuring Virginia-class SSNs (see Figure 1) since FY1998; the first entered service in October 2004. The Virginia-class design was developed to be less expensive and better optimized for post-Cold War submarine missions than the Seawolf-class design. The baseline Virginia-class design is slightly larger than the Los Angeles-class design but incorporates newer technologies, including technologies used in the Seawolf-class design.

Builder: General Dynamics Electric Boat Division and Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc. – Newport News Shipbuilding

Date Deployed: USS Virginia commissioned Oct. 3, 2004

Propulsion: One nuclear reactor, one shaft

Length: 377 feet (114.8 meters); 461 feet (140.5 meters) with VPM

Beam: 34 feet (10.36 meters)

Displacement: Approximately 7,800 tons (7,925 metric tons) submerged; 10,200 tons (10,363.7 metric tons) with VPM

Speed: 25+ knots (28+ miles per hour, 46.3+ kph)

Crew: 132: 15 officers; 117 enlisted

Armament: Tomahawk missiles, twelve VLS tubes (SSNs 774-783) or two VPTs (SSNs 784 and beyond, and four additional payload tubes (SSNs 803 and beyond); Mk 48 ADCAP torpedoes, four torpedo tubes


USS Virginia (SSN 774) Portsmouth, New Hampshire

USS Texas (SSN 775) Portsmouth, New Hampshire

USS Hawaii (SSN 776) Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

USS North Carolina (SSN 777) Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

USS New Hampshire (SSN 778) Norfolk, Virginia

USS New Mexico (SSN 779) Norfolk, Virginia

USS Missouri (SSN 780) Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

USS California (SSN 781) Groton, Connecticut

USS Mississippi (SSN 782) Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

USS Minnesota (SSN 783) Groton, Connecticut

USS North Dakota (SSN 784) Groton, Connecticut

USS John Warner (SSN 785) Norfolk, Virginia

USS Illinois (SSN 786) Pearl Harbor, Hawaii

USS Washington (SSN 787) Norfolk, Virginia

USS Colorado (SSN 788) Groton, Connecticut

USS Indiana (SSN 789) Groton, Connecticut

USS South Dakota (SSN 790) Groton, Connecticut

USS Delaware (SSN 791) Groton, Connecticut

USS Vermont (SSN 792) Groton, Connecticut

Oregon (SSN 793) – Christened Oct. 5, 2019

Montana (SSN 794) – Christened Sept. 12, 2020

Hyman G. Rickover (SSN 795) – Christened July 31, 2021

New Jersey (SSN 796) – Keel laid March 25, 2019

Iowa (SSN 797) – Keel laid Aug. 20, 2019

Massachusetts (SSN 798) – Keel laid Dec. 11, 2020

Idaho (SSN 799) – Keel laid Aug. 24, 2020

Arkansas (SSN 800) – Construction began March 2018

Utah (SSN 801) – Keel laid Sept. 1, 2021

Oklahoma (SSN 802) – Construction began Sept. 2019

Arizona (SSN 803) – Construction began March 2020

Barb (SSN 804) – Construction began Sept. 2020

Tang (SSN 805) – Construction began July 2021

Wahoo (SSN 805) – Future build

Silversides (SSN 807) – Future build

2 thoughts on “2022 Fast Attack Submarine Report – Defending Freedom from Beneath the Waves

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s