The US Navy is set to commission its newest Virginia-class fast-attack submarine, USS South Dakota (SSN 790), at Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, Connecticut.
South Dakota is sponsored by Deanie Dempsey, wife of retired joint chiefs of staff chairman army general Martin Dempsey. The vessel will become the 17th Virginia-class submarine to join the fleet.
The ship can be deployed in both coastal and deep-ocean environments, and will offer capabilities, including anti-submarine and anti-surface ship warfare, special operation forces (SOF) support; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; and anti-mine missions.
South Dakota is a part of the Virginia-class’ Block III contract. Under this, the navy replaced the vessel’s air-backed sonar sphere with a water-backed large aperture bow (LAB) array. Overall, around 20% of the boat has been redesigned to trim acquisition costs.
Powered by a nuclear reactor, the submarine will feature two Virginia payload tubes (VPT). Each will have a capacity to hold six vertical launch Tomahawk missiles that can strike land-based targets at a distance of up to 1,240 miles.
The ship has a projected lifespan of up to 33 years and has been designed to include a reconfigurable torpedo room to support SOF. It can accommodate associated equipment for prolonged deployments and future off-board payloads.
Additionally, two photonics masts have been incorporated in Virginia-class SSNs to replace traditional periscopes. The masts host visible and infrared digital cameras on top of telescoping arms.
Upon commissioning, USS South Dakota will become the third US Navy ship and first submarine to bear the name.