NAVSEA Wire Service 99-25 (September 9, 1999)

SEP09-01. Keel laid for first Virginia Class nuclear attack submarine.
By NAVSEA Public Affairs

          A keel-laying ceremony for the future USS Virginia (SSN 774) was hosted on Sep. 2 by General Dynamics Electric Boat Division at their Quonset Point Facility in North Kingstown, R.I. The Virginia is the lead ship in the Navy’s new attack submarine class.

          Virginia Senator John Warner (R-VA) , chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, inscribed his initials on the keel of the submarine and served as the event’s principal speaker.

          "Virginia will represent the most flexible and technologically advanced submarine that we or anyone else in the world has ever put to sea," said Sen. Warner. "I applaud the superb efforts made by all of the individuals in both our defense industry and Department of Defense organizations who have contributed to the genesis and reality of this awesome warship. She is an example of success that sets the standard for our future development and procurement programs. Virginia will represent the most flexible and technologically advanced submarine that we, or anyone else in the world, has ever put to sea!"

          SSN 774 is the lead ship of the Virginia class with a total of 30 ships planned. Last year, Electric Boat along with Newport News Shipbuilding (of Newport News, Va.) began working on a $4.2 billion contract to build the first four ships of the class. Virginia class submarines have been designed to affordably maintain the U. S. Navy’s undersea superiority well into the 21st century.

          "Today marks an important beginning for tomorrow with Virginia - a new submarine class with new technologies to meet the challenges of a new millennium," remarked Adm. Frank L. Bowman, director of Naval Nuclear Propulsion. "In either the open ocean or coastal environment, U.S. nuclear submarines will be instrumental in establishing control of the joint battle space and in determining the successful outcomes of our military operations."

          In his remarks, Bowman advanced the case for building more submarines.

          "In recent years, our warfighting commanders in chief have consistently stated that they need a force structure of about 70 nuclear attack submarines to meet their mission requirements," Bowman said. "Today, we’re down to 57 attack submarines, and many of our national and military leaders are feeling the pinch. There’s a widening realization that we need to have more attack submarines, and the Virginia class is key to preserving and restoring our submarine force levels - with the right submarines to operate in the 21st century."

          This need for more submarines was endorsed by both Senator Charles S. Robb (D-VA) and Senator Warner during the Virginia keel laying ceremony.

          The Navy’s next-generation attack submarine, Virginia will have improved stealth features, sophisticated surveillance capabilities and special warfare enhancements which will enable it to meet the Navy’s multi-mission requirements. Virginia will be able to attack targets ashore with highly accurate Tomahawk cruise missiles and conduct covert long-term surveillance of land areas, littoral waters and other sea forces. Other missions Virginia will conduct include anti-submarine and anti-ship warfare, special forces delivery and support, and mine delivery and minefield mapping. With enhanced communications connectivity, Virginia will also provide important battle group and joint task force support, with full integration into carrier battle group operations.

          The Virginia class of attack submarines surpass the performance of any current or projected threat submarine, ensuring undersea dominance for the United States well into the next century. This is the sixth ship of the U.S. Navy to carry the name Virginia which started with the original USS Virginia in 1777.