The U.S. Navy commissioned its latest Virginia-class nuclear submarine and "most lethal warship", the USS John Warner (SSN 785) at a naval base in Norfolk, Virginia over the weekend. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert delivered the keynote address at the commissioning ceremony, asserting the necessity of maintaining undersea dominance.
"Frankly, we are challenged in space, we are challenged in cyber, we are challenged in the air, and we are challenged on the surface," he said. "We are not currently challenged in the undersea. We own the undersea domain. We must keep that situation as we go into the future."
The Virginia-class submarines are being built in block increments, with Block I and Block II already delivered to the U.S. Navy. However, the USS John Warner, which is 114.8 meters (376.6 feet) long, 7,925-tons and costs about $2.5 billion, is in a league of its own.
For starters, it is the second of eight Block III Virgina-class submarines built with the new Virginia Payload Modules (VPM) - larger tubes that increase the ship's missile-firing payload possibilities, according to The Diplomat.
Furthermore, as the U.S. Navy website explains, the first 10 Block I and Block II Virginia-class submarines have 12 individual 21-inch diameter vertical launch tubes able to fire Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAMS). The Block III submarines are built with two-larger 87-inch diameter tubes able to house six TLAMS each.
The John Warner is armed with 12 Tomahawk cruise missiles that are launched from two huge bays at the front of the boat, as well as MK48 torpedoes that are fired from four tubes, two on each side of the ship, according to CNN.
The firepower is designed so the Warner can do specific things the mission might call for, such as launching UUVs (unmanned undersea vehicles), or carrying a team of Navy SEALS and getting them to the starting location of their mission without going to the surface.
It is "the most high-tech... the most lethal warship pound for pound that we have in our inventory," according to Admiral Greenert.
The sub even features it's own nuclear power plant, drinking water and a machine that produces air by seperating oxygen from the hydrogen in water, according to WTKR. Meaning, that it could theoretically stay on patrol for decades, only resurfacing when the crew needs to resupply.
So what weakness does this technological marvel have?
As it turns out the crew numbered at 135 or so, only has one washer and dryer to share among them, and it's allegedly not much bigger than "your mother's Maytags".
"So you hope that doesn't break," Cmdr. Daniel Caldwell, a 22-year Navy veteran and the first captain of the USS John Warner, said.