Virginia-class submarine USS Washington enters service

Sailors bow their heads in prayer during the commissioning ceremony for the Virginia-class attack submarine USS Washington (SSN 787). Photo: US Navy

The US Navy has commissioned USS Washington (SSN 787) – its 14th Virginia-class submarine – in a ceremony on Saturday.

The commissioning ceremony took place on board Naval Station Norfolk.

Submarine’s sponsor Elisabeth Mabus, daughter of the 75th Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, gave the order to “man our ship and bring her to life” before the crew of about 130 men ran across the brow, onto the vessel.

Washington is the fourth of eight Block III Virginia-class submarines to be built. The Block III submarines are built with new Virginia Payload Tubes designed to lower costs and increase missile-firing payload possibilities. The first 10 Block I and Block II Virginia class submarines have 12 individual 21-inch diameter vertical launch tubes able to fire Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAMS). The Block III submarines are built with two-larger 87-inch diameter tubes able to house six TLAMS each.

Construction on Washington began September 2011; the submarine’s keel was authenticated during a ceremony on Nov. 22, 2014; and the submarine was christened during a ceremony March 5, 2016.

USS Washington commanding officer, Cmdr. Gabriel Cavazos, highlighted the Washington’s capability to dominate the undersea domain and enable military success in any engagement.

“As I have told the crew on many occasions, they are the most important component of the ship. They give the ship its personality and warfighting spirit. Without the crew, Washington would not be the warfighting platform she was built to be; however, combine the two, and, together, we are the Blackfish,” said Cavazos.

“Thank you for being here to celebrate this momentous occasion with us,” said Cavazos.

Washington is the fourth U.S. Navy ship, and first submarine, to be named honoring the State of Washington. The previous three ships were an armored cruiser, (ACR 11), which served from 1905 to 1916, the battleship (BB 47) a Colorado-class battleship launched in 1921 and sunk as a gunnery target in 1924 after her construction was halted, and the battleship (BB 56) credited with sinking more enemy tonnage than any other U.S. Navy battleship during World War II, serving from 1941 to 1947.

The submarine is 377 feet long, has a 34-foot beam, and will be able to dive to depths greater than 800 feet and operate at speeds in excess of 25 knots submerged. It will operate for over 30 years without ever refueling.

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