Builder's Ship Model, Cruiser USS Virginia (CGN-38)
Currently in the museum's storage room is this builder's model of the nuclear-powered cruiser USS Virginia (CGN-38). The Navy's Ship Research and Development Center (now known as the Carderock Division of the Naval Surface Warfare Center) built the model in the 1970s and has been on loan to the museum since 1984. Although typical builder's models are purposely built with few details, this model shows a close representation to the actual ship launched. The ship's missile and gun batteries are accurate, as are much of the electronics.
The most intriguing aspect of the model is the inclusion of a SH-60 Seahawk helicopter on the fantail of the ship. At the time, the Navy looked at the SH-60 to replace the SH-3 as its LAMPS platform. Though the aircraft would not see operational service until 1983, it would seem someone decided the best way to publicize the new helicopter was on the Navy's newest surface warship.
USS Virginia (CGN-38) prepares to deploy for the Indian
Ocean from Naval Station Norfolk in response to the
Virginia was the lead ship in a series of nuclear powered warships. She was the result of over twenty years (starting in the late 1950s) worth of discussion among Navy leadership on what kind of nuclear-powered surface ship the Fleet should acquire. Many were in favor of giving the surface fleet some type of nuclear powered ship, both to serve as an escort to the new nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and as the ultimate anti-submarine warfare platform to counter new Soviet nuclear submarines.
Four ships, Long Beach (CGN-8), Truxtun (CGN-35, ex-DLGN-35), California (CGN-36), and South Carolina (CGN-37), were commissioned between 1959 and 1972. Naval leadership was never completely satisfied with these ships and wanted their nuclear surface ships to be more capable.
In the mid-1970s, the concept of a "strike cruiser" finally began to take hold. The concept called for a nuclear-powered cruiser capable of all aspects of naval warfare. Strike cruisers needed to be prepared for offensive missile strikes as well as anti-submarine warfare and anti-aircraft operations. This became the Virginia-class of warships. The ship was capable of operating both independently and with a carrier task force, giving the Navy more flexibility in time of war. In all, Newport News built four Virginia-class cruisers.