Among the Greats: SSN
Built from 1989 to 2005, the three Seawolf class subs were designed as the ultimate hunter-killer submarine capable of outperforming the Soviet Akula class submarine. Because of the rediculously high cost (each a quarter of the Navy's yearly budget) as well as the fall of the Soviet Union, the 29 planned submarines were capped at 3. Because of how much effort was put into the class, even today the Seawolf class is considered among the best SSN's in the world. As mentioned, they were very expensive, with each sub costing between $3-3.5 billion USD, making them the most expensive SSN in the world, and second most expensive sub in the world next to the French Triomphant SSBN.
There are many features on the Seawolf that make them so important. First, they have 8 torpedo tubes, double the amount of most US subs. They are made of HY-100 steel, allowing for depths of 2,000 feet. To put that in perspective, the Los Angeles class could only dive 650 feet. The subs employed pumpjets instead of standard propellers, allowing them to much faster and quieter than the LA's. In fact, the Seawolf class is 70 times quieter at 20 knots than an original LA class moored at dock and 10 times quieter than an Improved LA class at 5 knots.
As mentioned, there were only three boats built, the Seawolf, Connecticut, and Jimmy Carter. The Jimmy Carter is 100 feet longer than the other two for a Multi-Mission Platform (MMP) that has a variety of uses such as carrying an ROV, deploying SEALs, and tapping into communication wire. This also makes it the largest SSN in the world.
While seen to many as a failure, it can be argued that the Seawolf class played an integral part in setting the level for future SSNs. The Virginia class uses many of the parts tested on the Seawolfs, including the advanced propulsion system and sonar. It is unfortunate that more were never built but they would probably be wasted as there are no current enemies of the US that would require the Seawolf to be used against them.
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