USS Virginia (SSN 774) conducted the strike portion of its class’ Operational Evaluation (OPEVAL) by launching three Tomahawk Cruise Missiles. Virginia fired two Block III Tomahawks – one from a vertical launch tube and another from a torpedo tube – and one Block IV Tomahawk from a vertical tube between August 28 and 29 in the Gulf of Mexico.
These launches mark the first time that a Virginia Class submarine has launched Tomahawk missiles. The Commander, Test and Evaluation Force, which oversaw this testing, will release findings this fall.
“Completing the strike portion of OPEVAL is an important step in proving the class’ design,” said Rear Adm. (sel) David Johnson, Virginia Class Program Manager. “We have been touting the Virginia Class as a multi-purpose warship and now we are demonstrating its capabilities,” Johnson continued.
Capt. Rick McQueen, NAVAIR’s Tomahawk Program Manager, noted that the three missile launches were, “the culmination of years of joint effort between NAVAIR and NAVSEA developers and engineers.”
McQueen also said that, “Virginia Class submarines provide a brand new flexible, stealthy platform for employment of the Tomahawk Weapons System while the Tomahawk provides the platform with a long range, accurate, and flexible strike capability to support the Navy’s warfighting roles.”
The Tomahawk Weapons System Test Team conducts the program’s missile tests.
“The team has completed an extremely challenging and successful year. Our team has dealt with the detailed planning, execution, and reporting on eleven of these test events over the last six months, culminating in these flights from the brand new Virginia class submarine,” said Mark Lower, PMA-2805/Tomahawk System Test Lead. “This feat is even more impressive in light of the additional capabilities we are testing with each Tactical Tomahawk mission.”
Lower said the team has demonstrated the ability to flex to alternate pre-planned targets, has transmitted re-target routes to missiles in flight, and sent real-time update coordinates for direct attack of new aim points.
“We are extremely proud of the contribution we have made to the development of this weapons system and the capabilities it provides to our country in these difficult times,” he said.
The Submarine Force has experienced an influx of capability in the past 15 months, according to Rear Adm. William Hilarides, Program Executive Officer, Submarines. “We will keep pushing the boundaries to deliver the capability to the hands of the warfighter,” Hilarides concluded.
The Virginia Class is currently executing OPEVAL testing that is designed to evaluate the submarine’s war fighting capabilities in operationally realistic and demanding scenarios across its seven mission areas – Anti-Submarine; Anti-Surface Ship; Strike; Naval Special Warfare; Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance; Battle Group Support; and Mine Warfare. The OPEVAL testing, conducted by the Commander, Operational Test and Evaluation Force, continues through the fall of 2008.