Seventeenth Virginia-class submarine entering service this week

The US Navy is scheduled to commission fast attack submarine USS South Dakota (SSN 790) in a ceremony at Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, Connecticut, on Saturday, February 2.

The principal speaker will be US Senator Mike Rounds of South Dakota.

The submarine’s sponsor is Mrs. Deanie Dempsey, wife of the 18th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey. She will give the order to “man our ship and bring her to life!” in a time-honored Navy tradition.

“USS South Dakota enters service during a period of dynamic security challenges,” said Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. “I am confident USS South Dakota and its crew will ensure our Navy and nation remain safe and strong, and proudly serve our nation’s interest for decades to come.”

USS South Dakota, a Virginia-class submarine designated SSN 790, is the third ship to bear the state’s name. The first South Dakota was an armored cruiser commissioned Jan. 27, 1908. The ship served in a convoy escort role during World War I before being renamed Huron June 7, 1920. She was decommissioned following seven years of service in the Pacific June 17, 1927. The second ship was a battleship commissioned March 20, 1942. She saw service in a number of important World War II battles including Santa Cruz, Guadalcanal, Philippine Sea, and Okinawa, earning thirteen battle stars over the course of the war. South Dakota was present at Tokyo Bay when the Japanese surrendered and was later placed out of commission Jan. 31, 1947.

USS South Dakota is the 17th Virginia-class attack submarine and the seventh Virginia-class Block III submarine.

The submarine is a part of the Virginia-class’ third, or Block III, contract, in which the Navy redesigned approximately 20 percent of the ship to reduce acquisition costs. South Dakota features a redesigned bow, which replaces 12 individual Vertical Launch System (VLS) tubes with two large-diameter Virginia Payload Tubes (VPTs) each capable of launching six Tomahawk cruise missiles.

SSN-790 was built at General Dynamics Electric Boat in Groton, Connecticut. It displaces 7,800-tons and measures 377 feet in length. It is designed with a reactor plant that will not require refueling during the planned life of the boat, reducing lifecycle costs while increasing underway time.

South Dakota also has special features to support special forces, including a reconfigurable torpedo room which can accommodate a large number of personnel and all their equipment for prolonged deployments and future off-board payloads. Also, in Virginia-class SSNs, traditional periscopes have been replaced by two photonics masts that host visible and infrared digital cameras atop telescoping arms, which are maneuvered by a video game controller.


Photo: South Dakota (SSN 790) transits the Thames River at Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, Connecticut. Photo: US Navy