Staff Writer (Updated: 5/21/2015):
USS Virginia was ordered on September 30th, 1998, her keel laid down by General Dynamics Electric Boat and Dry Dock Company on September 2nd, 1999. She was officially launched on August 16th, 2003 and formally commissioned on October 23rd, 2004. She makes her homeport from Groton, Connecticut and fights under the moto of "Sic Semper Tyrannis" which, when translated, becomes "Thus Always To Tyrants". The boat's badge consists of an approaching USS Virginia with figurehead of George Washington, the state of Virginia included in the upper left region. Nine stars represent nine previous vessels that have carried the "Virginia" name (SSN-774 being the tenth). The USS Virginia is the lead ship of her class ("Virginia-class") representing eighteen total boats (some still under construction or on order as of 2013). As an homage to the commissioning of the USS Holland (SS-1) - the first commissioned USN submarine in 1900 - the USS Virginia was taken into USN custody on October 12th, 2004, this after five years of construction at a cost of $2 billion USD.
The USS Virginia exhibits a displacement of 7,800 tons with a running length of 377 feet, beam (width) of 34 feet and draft (height) of 32 feet. Compared to the ongoing Seawolf class of boats, the Virginia and her sisters are both longer and lighter overall designs. She is crewed by 15 officers and 117 enlisted personnel (132-134 in all). Power is served through an S9G series ("S" = Submarine, "9" = 9th Generation, "G" = General Electric) nuclear reactor which provides essentially unlimited range. In ideal conditions, the Virginia can reach 25 knots. Armament is by way of 12 x Vertical Launch Systems (VLSs) primarily for Tomahawk cruise missiles used against land-based targets. This is supported by 4 x 21" (530mm) torpedo tubes for standard anti-ship/anti-submarine actions. The boat can also dispense naval mines as needed. The hull of the Virginia (and her class) features a pressure chamber for deployment of special forces personnel. A SEAL Team minisub can be carried along the dorsal spine aft of the sail. The digital nature of Virginia's design allows her to be instantly integrated into joint task force missions and surface battle groups of the fleet.
Outwardly, the USS Virginia utilizes the well-accepted tubular shape common with all modern submarines. The tower is set well forward and is home to digital multi-purpose masts as well as communications and navigation while available night vision and infrared cameras broaden tactical flexibility. A sonar array is located along the front facing of the sail. In the bow of the hull is a spherical sonar installation with extended range capabilities. The installation is protected by sound reduction surfaces aft which keep the boat's own noises from interfering with searches and tracking. The boat can tow an array to cover the vulnerable rear of the vessel and additional arrays are set along the hull sides to complete coverage. The VLS tubes are located forward of the sail and aft of the sonar sphere in the bow. Torpedo tubes are mounted to the sides of the vessel near the sail with the torpedo room just aft. The vessel's command center is located under and aft of the sail. Its hull placement allows for more equipment to be fitted (as opposed to a more traditional placement in the tower, which limits internal space). Crew quarters are located near amidships and come complete with a mess hall, showers and berths (119 bunk beds with additional space in the torpedo room if required). The nuclear reactor is set aft of the crew quarters with a control room aft of the reactor room itself. The engine room (holding the machinery, electrical services and desalinization system) takes up much of the aft portion of the vessel. Ballast tanks are located near the bow and at the stern. Primary dive planes are set about the bow sides in the usual way. Directional control at the stern is by way of a dorsal and ventral rudder and two horizontal stern planes. A propulsor duct shrouds the propeller from detection and possible damage.
Since commissioned in 2004, the USS Virginia has become a prominent player in ongoing US military actions concerning Afghanistan and Iraq. Early deployments have seen her make ports of call in Spain, Greece, the UAE, Turkey and elsewhere. She completed her first deployment in November of 2005 and underwent a major overhaul throughout 2011 into 2012. She maintains an active status in the US Navy fleet as of 2013.