Columbia-Class: The Most 'Stealth' U.S. Navy Submarine Ever?
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The very first nuclear-armed Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine will hit the vast ocean in 2031, marking an entrepreneurial start to a new era of underwater strategic deterrence.
The move will bring new levels of navigation, command and control, weapon and calming technologies to underwater warfare as the Columbia class may be the most stealthy submarine ever. The concept is clear and well-known: patrol submarine-fired Trident II D5 nuclear missiles in strike positions on the vast ocean to ensure a catastrophic second strike in the event of a nuclear attack on the U.S. mainland.
Early construction, science and technology efforts, prototyping, and advanced electronics for the submarines have been underway for several years, and now the Navy is taking a new, vigorous step to accelerate the arrival of the new platforms. The Navy has awarded General Dynamics Electric Boat a Columbia-class submarine construction contract, potentially for up to $ 10 billion, to build the first two of twelve planned boats.
Immediate work, as stated in the DoD announcement, includes work on the UK strategic weapon support system kit, as well as "ongoing design completion, engineering work and design support efforts". The deal is also said to help strengthen the industrial base, the contract announcement says.
The contract will support ongoing tube and hull forging to prepare the submarine's rocket tubes for integration into the boat and will significantly speed up ongoing work on Colombia's state-of-the-art electric propulsion system.
In today's Ohio-class submarines, a reactor plant generates heat that generates steam, naval officials said. The steam then turns turbines that generate electricity and propels the ship through "reduction gears" that can convert the high-speed energy of a turbine into the shaft speeds required to move a boat propeller.
"The electric propulsion system is expected to be quieter (i.e. stealthier) than a mechanical propulsion system," said a Congressional Research Service report earlier this year on Columbia-class submarines.
The Columbia-class submarines are designed for a length of 50 meters and house 16 Trident II D5 rockets, which are fired from forty-four-foot rocket tubes. You will be using a quiet X-shaped rear configuration. The X-shaped stern restores the maneuverability of submarines. When submarine designs shifted from using a propeller to using a propulsor to improve noise, the submarines lost surface maneuverability, naval officials said.
Marine developers explain that electric propulsion technology still relies on a nuclear reactor to generate heat and steam to power turbines. However, the electricity generated is transferred to an electric motor rather than so-called reduction gears to turn the boat's propellers.
Using an electric motor also has other benefits, according to an MIT article that was written years ago when the electric propulsion for the submarine propulsion was evaluated.
The use of an electric motor optimizes the use of the installed reactor power more efficiently compared to submarines with mechanical drive and provides more on-board power for other purposes, according to an article entitled "Evaluation and comparison of electric drive motors for submarines". The author Joel Harbor says that submarines with a mechanical drive use 80 percent of the total reactor power exclusively for the drive.
“In a submarine with an electric drive, the installed reactor power of the submarine is first converted into electrical energy and then delivered to an electric drive motor. The electrical potential now available, which is not used for the drive, could easily be used for other purposes, ”he writes.
The Navy plans to ultimately build twelve Columbia-class submarines.
Kris Osborn is the defense editor for national interests. Osborn previously worked at the Pentagon as a highly qualified expert in the army's deputy secretary for acquisition, logistics and technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist on national television channels. He has been a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel and The History Channel. He also has a master's degree in comparative literature from Columbia University.
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