Nov. 22, 2014 at 4:00 p.m. EST
Washington (SSN 787), the 14th Virginia-class submarine, had its keel authenticated during a ceremony Saturday, Nov. 22, symbolizing the official beginning of construction. The traditional ceremony originates from the laying of the large structural beam (or keel) that serves as the foundation or spine of the ship’s hull.
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About the Keel Laying
A keel laying is the symbolic beginning of building the ship, originating from the large structural beam (or keel) that serves as the foundation or spine of the ship’s hull. Although modular construction techniques mean that the ship is no longer built from the bottom up, the keel laying is still celebrated as a momentous event in the ship’s construction.
During the keel laying ceremony, the ship’s sponsor authenticates the keel by chalking her initials onto a metal plate. The initials are then welded onto a plate that is permanently affixed to the ship.
About the Ship’s Sponsor
A ship’s sponsor, by tradition, is a female civilian who is chosen by the Secretary of the Navy to “sponsor” a ship. In the United States Navy, the sponsor is technically considered a permanent member of the ship’s crew and is expected to give a part of her personality to the ship, as well as advocate for its continued service and well-being. The sponsor of Virginia-class submarine Washington (SSN 787) is Elisabeth Mabus, daughter of Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus.
In 1853 as more and more people arrived in the northwest after travelling along the Oregon Trail, those settling north of the Columbia River were granted a new territory named for the nation’s first president. Washington Territory became the 42nd state in the U. S. on November 11, 1889.
Washington State ranks 13th in population among the 50 states and its geography ranges from the sea coast in the west to mountain ranges, volcanos, forests and a semi-arid basin in the east. Manufacturing, shipping, logging and agricultural businesses are prominent in the state.
The Puget Sound area contains the third largest U. S. Navy presence in the country. When commissioned, USS Washington(SSN 787) will be the third ship to bear the state name and honor the state’s citizens and strong legacy of service.
Photo: Naval Base Kitsap is the third-largest Navy base in the United States, serving as homeport for both surface ships and submarines. Photo by U.S. Navy
The 4,000 Newport News shipbuilders working on Washington (SSN 787) include engineers, riggers, welders, coatings specialists, electricians and many more job descriptions. Working in partnership with General Dynamics Electric Boat, NNS is responsible for building the ship’s bow and stern sections, as well as the Auxiliary Machinery Room (AMR) and the habitability and weapons modules.
There is no margin for error in building submarines. Each frame and compartment is assembled with the detailed care demanded by a vessel that will dive in excess of 800 feet. Even in a submarine’s many tight spaces, the shipbuilders work to the highest standard. The U.S. Navy depends on it.
The Virginia-class submarine program has been recognized as the top performing shipbuilding program in the Navy. The last submarine delivered by Newport News Shipbuilding, USS Minnesota (SSN 783), was delivered nearly 11 months ahead of schedule.
Virginia-class submarines have the capability to attack targets ashore with highly accurate Tomahawk cruise missiles and conduct covert long-term surveillance of land areas, littoral waters and other sea-based forces. Other missions include anti-submarine and anti-ship warfare; mine delivery and minefield mapping. It is also designed for Special Forces delivery and support. The 377-foot-long submarines are capable of submerged speeds of more than 25 knots and can stay submerged for up to three months at a time.
Newport News Shipbuilding is teamed with General Dynamics Electric Boat to build Virginia-class submarines. Components and parts for the submarines come from subcontractors across America. The team has been recognized as the best shipbuilding program in the Navy.