US Navy to christen newest attack submarine USS Washington

The U.S. Navy is set to christen its newest Virginia-class attack submarine USS Washington (SSN 787), Saturday, March 5, at Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport News, Virginia.

The future Washington is the 14th Virginia-class nuclear submarine and the fourth Virginia-class Block III submarine. The ship began construction in 2011 and will commission in 2017.

The future Washington will be 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.

Elisabeth Mabus is the ship’s sponsor. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus will deliver the principal address.

“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.

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. 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.

Virginia-class submarines weigh 7,800 tons and are 377 feet in length, have a 34 foot beam, and can operate at more than 25 knots submerged. According to the Navy, they are built with a reactor plant that will not require refueling during the planned life of the ship – reducing lifecycle costs while increasing underway time.