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What is a Seawolf Class Submarine?

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  • Written By: Michael Anissimov
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  • Last Modified Date: 07 September 2016
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A Seawolf class submarine is a class of attack submarine whose construction was ordered in 1989, near the end of the Cold War. The Seawolf class submarine was the intended successor to the Los Angeles class, of which 23 had been built, and still remains the backbone of America's nuclear-powered fast attack submarines. Because the Cold War ended as the Seawolf class submarine series was being built, the number of units was scaled back from the intended 29 to 12, and then just three. The three existing Seawolf class submarines today are the USS Seawolf, USS Connecticut, and the USS Jimmy Carter. Instead of making more Seawolf submarines, the US military decided to build 35 Virginia class submarines, which are slightly smaller and cheaper.

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Like all military submarines, a Seawolf class submarine is extremely expensive -- going at about $2.8 billion a unit. This class of submarine has been described as "the fastest, quietest, most heavily armed undersea vessel in the world." The first top-to-bottom redesign of US submarines since the 1960s, Seawolf class submarines have a length of 107 m (353 ft) (except the USS Jimmy Carter with a length of 138 m (453 ft)), displacement of 9,138 tons, width of 12 m (40 ft), and a submerged speed of about 30 knots (34 mph). Like all nuclear-powered subs, Seawolf class subs have a tremendous range, limited only by food supplies and the sanity of the crew. Speaking of the crew, Seawolf subs hold 140, including 12 officers and 128 enlisted soldiers.

As mentioned before, Seawolf class submarines are the most heavily armed submarines that have ever been built. Unlike their ballistic-missile launching cousins, Seawolf subs are designed to attack surface ships and other submarines. They have eight torpedo tubes, carrying hundreds of torpedoes, and 50 Tomahawk cruise missiles, which can be used to hit targets on land as well as at sea. The Seawolf subs are distinguished by being more difficult to detect moving at high speed that a Los Angeles class sub sitting still. Defense writer Robert Karniol wrote that the USS Jimmy Carter, a Seawolf class sub, is "Washington's premier spy submarine."

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