Newport News, Va. - The U.S. Navy christened its newest Virginia-class attack submarine in a ceremony on Saturday at Newport News Shipbuilding.
Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus delivered the principal address. His daughter, Elisabeth Mabus, is the ship's sponsor.
"The christening of the future USS Washington brings this technological marvel one step closer to joining the fleet where it will serve as a crucial piece of the finest expeditionary fighting force the world has ever known," said Secretary Mabus. "Submarines like the Washington, and all of our platforms, are essential to our sailors and Marines' ability to do their jobs. Our ships, and those who build them, enable our Navy and Marine Corps to maintain a global presence and protect America. This ceremony is a celebration of not only a submarine but also those who worked to build it - the backbone of our ability to protect our nation - our shipbuilders."
The Washington (SSG 787) is the 14th Virginia-class nuclear submarine and the fourth Virginia-class Block III submarine.
Keith White is a sheet metal craftsman who has worked on the submarine and sang the National Anthem during the Christening ceremony.
"We’re giving the Navy a great machine, a great operating machine to keep them safe and to keep us safe at home. Makes you feel good," White told NewsChannel 3's Todd Corillo.
Construction on the sub began in 2011 and it will be commissioned in 2017. It's the third U.S. Navy ship to be commissioned with a name honoring the State of Washington. The previous two ships were a World War II battleship (BB-56), decommissioned in 1947, and an armored cruiser (ACR-11) which served under the name from 1905 to 1916.
According to the Navy, Block III and later Virginia-class submarines have a redesigned bow which feature a water-backed Large Aperture Bow (LAB) sonar array and two large diameter Virginia Payload Tubes (VPTs), each capable of launching six Tomahawk cruise missiles. The two VPTs replace 12 individual Vertical Launch System (VLS) tubes utilized on earlier submarines. The VPTs simplify construction, reduce acquisition costs, and provide for more payload flexibility than the smaller VLS tubes due to their increased volume. The Washington will have the capability to attack targets ashore with highly accurate Tomahawk cruise missiles and conduct covert long-term surveillance of land areas, littoral waters, or other sea-based forces. Other missions include anti-submarine and anti-ship warfare; Special Forces delivery and support; and mine delivery and minefield mapping.
So far, 12 Virginia-class submarines have been delivered, 11 are in construction, and five are under contract.