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US Navy commissions 21st Virginia submarine, christens 4th expeditionary sea base

USS Montana commissioning
Photo: US Navy

The US Navy is commissioning its 21st Virginia-class submarine USS Montana (SSN 794) in a ceremony on June 25 at Naval Station Norfolk.

The submarine’s sponsor is Sally Jewell, former Secretary of the United States Department of Interior, who christened Montana at Newport News Shipbuilding on Sept. 12, 2020. Mrs. Jewell will give the order to “man our ship and bring her to life.”

USS Montana (SSN 794) honors the Treasure State and will be the second commissioned warship bearing the name. The first USS Montana (ACR-13), an armored cruiser, was also built at Newport News Shipbuilding and commissioned in July 1908. ACR-13 served in the Atlantic and Mediterranean, landed Marines during unrest in Haiti in 1914, and escorted convoys during World War I. The Navy decommissioned the first USS Montana in 1921, and two other vessels named after the state never saw commissioned service.

The submarine entered service after being handed over by HII in March this year.

Montana is the third Block IV Virginia-class submarine to enter service, designed to carry out the core missions of the submarine force: anti-submarine warfare; anti-surface warfare; delivery of special operations forces; strike warfare; irregular warfare; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; and mine warfare. These capabilities allow the submarine force to operate anywhere, at any time, and contribute to regional stability and the preservation of future peace.

Block IV boats will require three major maintenance periods instead of their predecessors’ four, putting in an extra deployment during their service life. Block I-III boats conduct 14 deployments, while the Block IV design changes are set to increase deployments to 15.

USS John L. Canley (ESB 6) christening

In a separate ceremony on the same day, the service will christen its newest expeditionary sea base, the future USS John L. Canley (ESB 6).

The christening will take place at the General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (GD-NASSCO) shipyard in San Diego.

The principal speaker is Lt. Gen. Michael Langley, commanding general, Fleet Marine Force, Atlantic, and commander, Marine Forces Command and Marine Forces Northern Command.

In a time-honored Navy tradition, the ship’s sponsor, Patricia Sargent, daughter of Sgt. Maj. Canley, will christen the ship by breaking a bottle of sparkling wine across the bow.

The ship is named for Medal of Honor recipient, retired Sgt. Maj. John L. Canley. Canley, who served in the Marine Corps for 28 years, was awarded the nation’s highest honor 50 years after his actions while serving as Company Gunnery Sergeant, Company A, First Battalion, First Marine Division in the Republic of Vietnam during the Battle of Hue City. Initially awarded the Navy Cross for his actions, his award was upgraded to the Medal of Honor in 2018. Canley passed away on May 11, 2022.

The ESB were initially envisioned as support ships, bearing the USNS designation and having a mixed civilian and US Navy crew. The navy changed its mind with the commissioning of USS Lewis B. Puller (formerly USNS Lewis B. Puller) in order to be able to conduct military operations directly from the ship in line with international laws of armed conflict.

GD-NASSCO has delivered three other ESBs and is currently working on future USS Robert E. Simanek (ESB 7), the fifth ship in the class, alongside USS John L. Canley (ESB 6).