HII lays keel for US Navy’s 21st Virginia-class submarine Montana (SSN 794)

L-R: Cmdr. Mike Delaney, commanding officer of the PCU Montana; Mariah Gladstone, a member of the Blackfeet Nation; former Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, the ship’s sponsor, NNS president Jennifer Boykin and Jacob McNulty. Photo: Matt Hildreth/HII

Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Newport News Shipbuilding on May 16 hosted a keel authentication ceremony for the US Navy’s 21st Virginia-class submarine, Montana (SSN 794).

In keeping with a US Navy tradition, former Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, the ship’s sponsor, chalked her initials onto a steel plate. Mariah Gladstone, a member of the Blackfeet Nation in Montana, performed a Native American blessing.

Jacob McNulty, a welder at Newport News who was born in Montana, traced Jewell’s inscription on the plate, which signified that the keel of Montana is “truly and fairly laid.” The steel plate will be permanently affixed to the submarine.

“The keel laying marks the first milestone for the crew in the construction process of Montana,” said Cmdr. Mike Delaney, commanding officer of the pre-commissioning unit. “We are excited to begin this journey and bring the Montana to life over the next few years.”

Construction of Montana began in May 2015. The boat is approximately 46 percent complete and is expected to be delivered in late 2020.

Montana will be the third of overall ten Block IV Virginia-class submarines which incorporate improvements that allow them to spend less time undergoing maintenance. Block IV boats are scheduled to undergo three major maintenance during their lifetime, compared to their predecessors’ four, enabling them to perform an additional deployment. The submarines are built under $17.8 billion contract awarded in April 2014 with General Dynamic Electric Boat as prime contractor.

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