Submarine development continues despite the end of the Cold War. Emphasis has shifted from maximizing performance against Soviet submarines toward developing technologies for a variety of shallow-water missions in offshore waters. The Navy seeks to make much greater use of commercial technology to cope with rapid technological change, especially in electronics, and to keep costs down. An example is the Acoustic Rapid Commercial Off-the-Shelf technology insertion program for sonar. The program has multiplied current sonar performance and significantly reduced equipment costs; it has also made sonar equipment easier to update and cheaper to maintain.

USS Virginia (SSN-774)
Virginia is the lead boat in the next generation of submarines. She will be smaller, quieter, and cheaper to build and maintain than Seawolf-class submarines. Designed entirely on computers, Virginia's advanced integrated communication systems and sophisticated sensors will allow her to operate as effectively in coastal (littoral) regions as in the open ocean.

USS Seawolf (SSN-21)
USS Seawolf, first of a new class of American fast attack submarines, was commissioned in 1997. Originally intended as a 29-boat class, it will now number only 3 because of the end of the Cold War. Although far stealthier, faster, and more capable than her predecessors, she is also a good deal more costly.

Seawolf Sea Trials
USS Seawolf (SSN-21) underwent sea trials in 1996. Photo by Jim Brennan, courtesy Electric Boat Corporation

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