The lead ship of the class, USS SEAWOLF (SSN-21), was commissioned in July 1997, representing the culmination of 15 years of effort to field the first new top-to-bottom U.S. attack submarine designed since the early 1970s. The SEAWOLF program was projected to be the most extensive submarine building program ever undertaken with as many as 29 submarines planned. Because of the high cost of the SEAWOLF-class ($3.5 billion for SSN-21), as well as the end of the Cold War, the Defense Department proposed building a lower-cost follow-on class of SSNs, the New Attack Submarine (NSSN) -named the VIRGINIA-class in 1998 by former Secretary of the Navy John H. Dalton, making JIMMY CARTER the last of the SEAWOLF-class.
Construction of SEAWOLF-class submarines have relied on a new welding material to join the steel into plates, hull subsections and large cylindrical sections. JIMMY CARTER's hull is made entirely of high-pressure HY-100 steel previous submarine classes utilizing HY-80 steel. HY-100 steel was first used in Navy's deep-diving SEA CLIFF and TURTLE, which were capable of reaching depths in excess of 10,000 feet. JIMMY CARTER will also feature a strengthened sail, designed to permit operations under the polar ice cap. Like her sister ships, SEAWOLF and CONNECTICUT (SSN-22), JIMMY CARTER's organic warfighting capability and advanced combat system, this submarine will have the highest tactical speed of any U.S. submarine. Much of the design effort has been focused on noise reduction. The ship's propulsion system makes it ten times more quiet over its full range of operating speeds than the LOS ANGELES-I688 class submarines. According to EB officials, this class of submarine is "less detectable at high speed than a LOS ANGELES-class SSN sitting at the pier." The ship's speed, according to the Navy, is "in excess of 25 knots submerged," but Jane's Fighting Ships lists the speed at "35 dived." Her power plant incorporates an S6W reactor supporting one shaft at 52,000 shp with a pumpjet propulsion. Overall, JIMMY CARTER's propulsion system will represent a 75-percent improvement over the I688's making it one of the fastest submarines in the fleet today.
JIMMY CARTER will also be special-warfare-capable as well as Arctic-capable, and will be able to dive to in excess of 800 feet, and will carry, among other weapons, a varying mix of Mark-48 anti-submarine torpedoes, Harpoon surface-to-surface missiles, Tomahawk anti-ship and land-attack missiles, and mines. It sports an eight-tube, double deck torpedo room to simultaneously engage multiple threats. With twice as many torpedo tubes and a 30% increase in weapons magazine size over the LOS ANGELES-class submarines, JIMMY CARTER will be capable of establishing and maintaining battlespace dominance. Among the broad spectrum of missions likely to be assigned to JIMMY CARTER, according to the Navy, are anti-submarine and anti-surface ship warfare, surveillance and intelligence collection, mine warfare, special warfare, and covert cruise missile attacks (such as those launched against Iraq during the Gulf War). But, as the last and most advanced ship of the SEAWOLF-class, JIMMY CARTER has also been chosen to serve as a test bed for studying the evolution of submarine missions in the 21st century. JIMMY CARTER will support classified research, development, test, and evaluation (RDT&E) efforts for naval special warfare missions, tactical undersea surveillance, and undersea warfare concepts.
The Congress has approved funding to provide JIMMY CARTER with additional volume and functionality to support new multi-mission opportunities. The planned alterations include lengthening the hull section behind the sail and inserting an Ocean Interface section that will support this new Multi-Mission Project by opening larger payload apertures to the sea. The Ocean Interface hull insert is unique, with a horizontal "hourglass" configuration that necks the pressure hull down to a "wasp waist," so that when the section is faired over, significant external volume will be available outside the pressure hull, but still within the skin of the ship. This will allow more flexibility in designing and adding systems and storage, while maintaining a smooth hydrodynamic hull shape with minimal impact on the ship's draft. While these changes will have no direct impact on the ship's organic warfighting capability, they will, however, give the submarine an enhanced payload capability with a more modular architecture.
JIMMY CARTER will also be able to support future concepts of offensive and defensive mine warfare in her ability to launch and recover a wide range of tethered and autonomous vehicles and sensors of varying sizes and shapes. The Ocean Interface, with its associated electronics and cargo space, will provide the ship enough weight and volume reserve to support a variety of defensive Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs) and sensors as well. The Ocean Interface will also improve the submarine's ability to provide tactical surveillance by the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and large off-board arrays, conceivably providing JIMMY CARTER with the capability to house and launch UAVs directly from the submarine, facilitated by improved submarine communication capabilities onboard. The reconfigurable electronics space will accommodate the additional installed electronics necessary to support auxiliary vehicles, sensor processing and analysis electronics, and a variety of remote environmental sensors.
Despite her modification to conduct classified RDT&E, JIMMY CARTER will retain all her organic warfighting capability. She will be able to support the fleet commander as an attack submarine in conducting undersea warfare, surveillance and reconnaissance, convert special operations, mine warfare, and strike operations, just as her two sister ships do. However, unlike her sister ships SEAWOLF and CONNECTICUT, JIMMY CARTER will be available to test future concepts for weapons, countermeasures, and non-traditional payloads - tasking that is currently divided among several submarines. In addition to these robust capabilities, JIMMY CARTER will also be capable of supporting Special Operations Forces with provision for operating the Dry Deck Shelter (DDS) and Advanced SEAL Delivery System (ASDS). The DDS is an air-transportable device that piggy-backs on the submarine and can be used to store and launch a swimmer delivery vehicle and combat swimmers. The ship will also incorporate a new, specially designed combat swimmer silo or internal lock-out chamber that will deploy up to eight combat swimmers and their equipment at one time. Thus, JIMMY CARTER's inherent stealth will enable surreptitious insertion of combat swimmers into previously denied areas.
Moreover, one of the ship's most important functions will be to support research and development for future Naval Special Warfare (NSW) undersea mobility requirements, tactics, techniques, and procedures. JIMMY CARTER had already been programmed to support NSW, but the additional volume and length of the Ocean Interface provides even greater potential to develop new roles for submarines in special operations. The Ocean Interface will provide a hangar capability for locking-in and locking-out future generations of SEAL delivery vehicles, and her reconfigurable cargo area can accommodate dry stowage and access for maintenance. Other internal volume will be available as command and control space for mission planning and monitoring, plus dedicated berthing space for up to fifty SEAL Team members. The extra external volume created by the design allows for stowage of Special Operations Forces supplies like the Combat Raiding Craft, fuel, munitions or delivery vehicles. JIMMY CARTER's launching was originally scheduled for December 2000. The required modifications has delayed her launching and scheduled delivery by approximately 32 months, until February 2005, when the ship will be commissioned.
General Characteristics, Seawolf Class
USS JIMMY CARTER (SSN-23)
Builder: General Dynamics Electric Boat Division
Power Plant: S6W Reactor
Length: Extended (353 ft.)
Draft: 35 feet
Beam: 40 feet
Speed: Official: 25+ knots (Jane's Fighting Ships: 35 knots submerged speed)
Operating Depth: Official: Greater than 800 feet (Jane's Fighting Ships: 2000 feet)
Armament: Eight 660-mm torpedo tubes; 50 Tomahawk cruise missiles, Harpoon anti-ship missiles or Mark 48 ADCAP torpedoes or up to 100 mines (or any combination thereof).
Crew: 12 Officers; 121 Enlisted