NORFOLK, Va.: Commander, Operational Test and Evaluation Force (COTF) deemed the U.S. Navy’s newest class of submarines, the Virginia Class (SSN 774), “operationally effective” and “operationally suitable,” the highest possible ranking, June 23.
COTF, the Navy’s independent operational test agency, made the findings after completion of a year-long Initial Operational Test and Evaluation (IOT&E) period.
COTF evaluated the Virginia-class warfighting 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. This comprehensive evaluation included operations with a U.S. Navy carrier strike group in a major naval exercise, simulated combat operations against surface ships and submarines, the launch of Tomahawk cruise missiles, and the execution of a naval special warfare mission using special operation forces.
IOT&E completed in March 2009 and utilized the first five submarines of the class, USS Virginia (SSN 774), USS Texas (SSN 775), USS Hawaii (SSN 776), USS North Carolina (SSN 777), and USS New Hampshire (SSN 778).
“COTF’s findings validate what we have known for some time about the Virginia class – that they are ready to become the backbone of the U.S. submarine force,” said Vice Adm. John J. Donnelly, commander, Submarine Force. “Virginia and Hawaii have conducted successful deployments prior to their post-shakedown availability (PSA) and New Hampshire is currently deployed. These are the first U.S. submarines to deploy prior to their PSAs, so we had confidence that these ships could operate as advertised, and now we have independent verification.”
In its June 2009 IOT&E report, COTF went on to recommend full fleet introduction for the class and commented that “the Virginia-class submarine demonstrated major improvements in littoral environment capabilities” as compared to previous classes of submarine.
Currently, New Hampshire is conducting a deployment prior to its PSA. Additionally, Hawaii is underway to its new homeport in Pearl Harbor, making it the first Virginia to permanently leave Groton, Conn. Texas will follow Hawaii to Pearl Harbor in the fall. Lastly, Virginia is currently working up to its first six-month deployment, which will begin this fall.