The Navy’s next-generation nuclear submarine may have an electric drive and new reactor plant that allow it to patrol the seas with near-silent stealth for half a century, according to emerging details about the secretive program.
The electric drive would replace a direct mechanical connection between the nuclear-powered steam turbines and the submarine’s propellers. In the new configuration, the nuclear power source will run electric motors that propel the ship.
“Electric drives could prove to be much quieter than the current direct-drive method,” the U.S. Naval Institute explained in a brief detailing the new design. The institute is an independent, non-profit forum on national defense.
The military tried electric drives in the 1960s and ’70s, but found them to be too slow and maintenance needy. Technological advancements over the past few decades could provide the hassle-free speed required.
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