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US Navy lays keel for first Columbia-class SSBN

USS District of Columbia (SSBN 826)
Artist's rendering of a Columbia-class submarine

The US Navy is hosting a keel-laying ceremony for its first Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) at the General Dynamics Electric Boat yard in Quonset Point, Rhode Island.

A live-stream of the ceremony is being shared by the company and can be viewed here. The ship’s sponsors are District of Columbia Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser.

Prior to the keel-laying event, the Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Carlos Del Toro revealed that the lead boat of the Columbia-class will actually be named USS District of Columbia (SSBN 826).

The service said the decision to name SSBN 826 was to alleviate any name conflicts with the already-commissioned USS Columbia (SSN 771). §10 U.S.C. 8662(a) states that not more than one vessel of the navy may have the same name.

The Columbia program was named in 2016 with the lead ship of the next generation of US Navy nuclear-powered SSBNs projected to enter service in 2027.

Should everything go according to plan, the first Columbia-class boat will be overlapping with the existing USS Columbia (SSN 771).

This is why SSBN 826 will be named after the nation’s capital while SSN 771 is named after cities in South Carolina, Missouri, and Illinois named Columbia, following the naval tradition of SSNs being named after US cities.

“The District of Columbia is rich with naval history. The Washington Navy Yard is our oldest shore facility. Marines like Montford Point Marine Herman Darden and Brigadier General Anthony Henderson and Sailors like Yeoman Charlotte Louise Berry Winters and Medal of Honor Recipient First Class Fireman John Rush were born and raised in D.C.,” said Del Toro. “This is why I prefer to call D.C. not just our nation’s capital, but instead, our naval capital. The naming of the USS District of Columbia honors this.”

The US Navy is buying twelve Columbia-class submarine to replace the existing Ohio-class nuclear ballistic submarine force. The first patrol of the lead ship, SSBN 826, is scheduled for fiscal year 2031.

At 560 feet (170 meters) long with a displacement of nearly 21,000 tons, the submarines of the Columbia class will be the largest ever built by the United States. They will have a life-of-ship fuel core that will power the submarine for its entire service life, eliminating the need for a mid-service refueling.

The District of Columbia is being built in a modular fashion at Quonset Point with the support of vendors and sub-contractors from around the country. Outfitted hull modules will be barged to the Electric Boat shipyard in Groton, Conn., where it will be assembled and tested prior to delivery to the navy.