Video: USS Virginia joins the fleet

The U.S Navy’s Virginia-class attack submarine USS Illinois (SSN 786) was commissioned during an October 29 ceremony at Submarine Base New London in Groton, Connecticut.

The submarine is the first Navy vessel named for the state since the battleship Illinois (BB 7) was commissioned in 1901.

The first USS Illinois was a battleship and was part of President Theodore Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet that circumnavigated the world in 1907, introducing America as a global power.

Illinois is the third Block III submarine of the Virginia-class.

The Virginia class has been improved to enhance littoral operations. The class has special features to support special operation forces, including a reconfigurable torpedo room that can accommodate a large number of special operation forces and all of their equipment for prolonged deployments and future off-board payloads. The class also has a large lock-in/lock-out chamber for divers.

Traditional periscopes have been replaced by two photonics masts that host visible and infrared digital cameras atop telescoping arms. The Block III submarines have replaced the 12 individual Vertical Launch System (VLS) tubes with two 87-inch Virginia Payload Tubes (VPTs), each capable of launching six Tomahawk cruise missiles.

According to the U.S. Navy, the VPTs simplify construction, reduce acquisition costs and provide for more payload flexibility than the smaller VLS tubes due to their added volume.

SSN-786 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 while displacing approximately 7,800 tons submerged. It will operate for more than 30 years without ever refueling.