Unbuilt US Navy next generation spy submarine
An unlabeled photograph halfway through an essay on the US Navy submarine force hints at a previously unreported submarine design optimized for Seabed Warfare. This article reveals more about the design.
In the article published in 2000, Rear Admiral Malcolm Fages outlines the history of submarine warfare and makes a case for the continued importance of submarines as the ‘the capital ships of our great navy’. The futuristic submarine concepts used to illustrate the piece are not discussed in the text.
One of them is of particular note however:
Recently the model in the above photograph was rescued from the garbage by Intellipus, an Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) focused Twitter user. Intellipus realized the significance of the model and it has since been connected to the above US Navy article. Even though it is twenty years old, the design is both futuristic and grounded in reality at the same time.
It dates from a time when the US Navy was conducting thought exercises on future submarine technologies with two multi-discipline teams, 'forward pass' and 'team 2020'. Electric Boat was on both teams. The focus included integration with unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs).
The submarine is shown launching torpedoes and cruise missiles from depth, while also deploying unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) to lay and maintain underwater sensors:
Based on the scale of the torpedo, the boat is ~80 meters (262 ft) long. Instead of a regular torpedo room, three triple-tube torpedo launchers are positioned along each side, flush with the outer ‘double hull’. These pop-out to fire, as shown on the model. Twelve individual vertical launch tubes for cruise missiles are positioned in the bow.
It is tempting to suggest that the double-hull and blended sail could be influenced by Russian submarine designs, but it seems more likely that if there was any foreign influence, however small, it came from the Swedish UBåt-2000 Flundran design from about the same time. This also featured a squashed double-hull, blended sail, highly integrated unmanned vehicles and X-planes.
Interestingly the design dates from around the time when the last Seawolf Class submarine, USS Jimmy Carter, was being laid down to replace the aging USS Parche. These special mission submarines perform covert operations on the sea floor. It is just possible that this design was intended as an alternative to the USS Jimmy Carter modification.
The USS Jimmy Carter is a regular attack submarine with an extended hull to accommodate unmanned underwater vehicles and other specialist equipment. The result is a very large and very long submarine which is less suited to littoral waters.
The external carriage of all weapons shows growing confidence in the reliability of the weapons. Previous generations of torpedoes required regular crew maintenance during long voyages whereas future torpedoes might come in sealed tubes ready to fire, and not require maintained during the mission.
The design also features a fully integrated pump jet buried within the double-hull structure. This innovative arrangement may hint at future developments.
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