The USS Colorado, America’s newest nuclear attack submarine, was commissioned into service in Groton, Connecticut on Saturday. As the fifteenth Virginia Class attack submarine to enter into active service, the Colorado represents the very latest in submersible combat technology leveraged by the United States Navy. The Colorado itself, in fact, was touted at its launch as “the most modern and sophisticated attack submarine in the world.”
This is an amazing group of Sailors that are outfitted here. Every day we are doing something new for the first time,” said Cmdr. Reed Koepp II, the Colorado’s commanding officer. “Just in the time that I’ve been here, I’ve watch the team transform into a high performance team that is able to operate the Navy’s newest and most capable war fighting ship at sea, in the harsh ocean environments, ready to carry out our mission.”
The Colorado is part of the Navy’s third block (or Block III) Virginia class submarine acquisition program, with roughly 20 percent of the vessel redesigned since the last Block II Virginia class sub, the USS Minnesota, took to the waves in 2013. The redesign was intended not only to introduce the latest in warfare technology, but also reduce the construction cost of each submarine, as a total of 48 are expected to be produced.
Among the cost saving measures employed in the Colorado’s construction was the replacement of the 12 individual Vertical Launch System (VLS) tubes employed on Block I and II Virginia class subs with two large-diameter Virginia Payload Tubes (VPTs). Each of these VPTs is capable of launching six Tomahawk cruise missiles, but costs significantly less to produce.
Our submarines are in high demand today and the expectations for Colorado are a mile high,” said Director of Naval Reactors, Adm. J. Franklin Caldwell, Jr. as he addressing the attendees.
“In her lifetime, Colorado will travel thousands of miles undetected to protect our nation and our interests around the globe. We cannot begin to imagine all the missions that she will do and all of the places she will sail, but we do know that Colorado’s stealth, her endurance, her combat power, and her speed will ensure that our Navy remains in control of the undersea domain.”
At 377 feet long and about 7,800 tons when submerged, the USS Colorado was designed to be a submarine killer, but it can also conduct surface combat operations, deploy special operations troops, and of course, launch a bevy of cruise missiles at targets more than a thousand miles away.
However, what may stand out the most about the Colorado is its use of a Microsoft X-Box controller to manage the vessel’s photonics masts (which have replaced periscopes on modern submarines). While the use of off-the-shelf technology does add to the overall cost saving associated with the Colorado’s construction, the use of the video game controller has also been touted for being much easier to train on and use that the control mechanisms found in the Block I and II subs.
Compared to prior generations of submarines, Colorado is bigger, faster and overall much more capable, and should serve as a compelling deterrent to our adversaries,” said U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, a Connecticut Democrat who will welcome the audience at Saturday’s ceremony.
With Russia placing an added emphasis on submarine warfare in recent months, including the unveiling of a submersible drone carrying a massive 100 megaton nuclear payload called the “Status 6” and new claims that Russian attack subs successfully closed to within miles of American military installations on the mainland’s coast without detection, the Colorado, like the rest of the Virginia Class submarines, will have their work cut out for them in the years to come.
Image courtesy of the U.S. Navy