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The other big change you can see in the above diagram is switching from an air-backed sonar sphere to a water-backed Large Aperture Bow (LAB) array. Eliminating the hundreds of SUBSAFE penetrations that help maintain required pressure in the air-backed sonar sphere.
The LAB Array has 2 primary components: the passive array, which will provide improved performance, and a medium-frequency active array. It utilizes transducers from the SSN-21 Seawolf Class that are that are designed to last the life of the hull. This is rather par for the course, as the Virginia Class’ was created in the 1990s to incorporate key elements of the $4 billion Seawolf Class submarine technologies into a cheaper boat.
The most impressive success was the “bow bundle”. Designers are dramatically simplifying the bow, working to replace the traditional sonar sphere with a hydrophone array and change the configuration for the Tomahawk cruise missile launchers mounted behind the sphere. Instead of 12 individual tubes, the design would include two six-missile magazines. Not only will it save more than $40 million per ship, it will increase the payload flexibility of the Virginia class.
The new missile tubes are based on the 7-foot diameter D-5 Trident ballistic missile tubes, with changes similar to those done in the four Ohio-class SSGN submarine conversions. The tubes, which will be newly manufactured and somewhat shorter than the Ohio tubes, each carry a Multiple All-Up-Round Canister (MAC) with six Tomahawks. Since the connectors and dimensions are the same as the Ohio SSGN tubes, new payloads designed for those ships will be compatible with the Block III and later Virginias. The new tubes nearly double the amount of payload space compared with the former VLS installation, going from 1,200 cubic feet to 2,300.
The new Large Aperture Bow (LAB) sonar array substitutes the sonar sphere active/passive transducers with a listening-only hydrophone system. Replacement of the water-backed LAB array for the air-backed sonar sphere will save about $11 million per sub. The LAB array features two primary components: the passive array - using hydrophone technology from the Seawolf SSN 21-class submarines - and a medium-frequency active array.
The Triomphant class (of which Le Terrible is the final boat) has 4 21-inch (533-mm) tubes. I couldn't locate anything on whether the tubes are parallel or canted, but I don't see the advantage of parallel tubes with modern torpedoes or missiles anyway as long as the cant isn't too severe.
What gets interesting is when you factor in the R&D going on into what happens when you pull out a six shooter and drop in, say a SEAL team's gear, or a large UUV. Perhaps leave the six shooter in and load 3 Tomahawks, 1 Harpoon and 2 small UUVs for mine hunting. The flexibility and future upgradability is a huge bonus. Factor in that the R&D money spent on SSGN payloads can now be shared with Virginias and you have not only a very capable fast attack boat, but a very robust sub force.