In one of the least surprising results ever, the Virginia-class submarine program got the "highest possible ranking" from the Navy's "independent" Operational Test and Evaluation "Force" (COMOPTEVFOR) this month. What interested me in this Navy announcement of the success was some information on what some of the Virginia-class boats are doing now:
"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."So what would have happened had COTF not recommended "full fleet introduction" of the Navy's largest shipbuilding program? I'm guessing "a plague of locusts o'er the land".
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.