A Navy official last week outlined the new features in the upcoming Block VI Virginia-class attack submarines, which will help serve as the backbone of the following next-generation vessels.

Block VI submarines will continue the trend of delivering increasingly capable and lethal platforms from block to block, Rear Adm. David Goggins, program executive officer for submarines, said during the annual virtual Naval Submarine League symposium on Nov. 18.

A mockup of the Block V Virginia-class attack submarine with the Virginia Payload Module in use. (Image: General Dynamics Electric Boat)

The Navy plans to procure these submarines from fiscal years 2024 to 2028.

The service is focused on “building upon the acoustic superiority advancements of 790 [USS South Dakota, SSN-790]. The key thing here is to really enable that organic subsea, seabed warfare capability for the first time,” Goggins said.

Goggins said the key things the Navy is looking at in this block of vessels is to improve stealth, enhanced sonar performance for a greater tactical advantage like using a bow conformal array, and enhancing the ability of the ship to sense and interact with more of the water column and seafloor.

“The key thing is the capabilities chosen for Block VI will also have the dual purpose of improving the [Virginia-class submarine] performance and also proving out technologies that will serve as the backbone for our future SSN(X) design,” he continued.

Goggins said the Navy will evaluate the maturity and feasibility of these capabilities over the next year, followed by a downselect the next year.

“That really allows us to mature the technology, develop the required design paperwork in support of the Block VI contract which will be fiscal years ‘24 through ‘28.”