The US Navy has held a keel-laying ceremony for its 30th Virginia-class nuclear-powered attack submarine in a ceremony at General Dynamics Electric Boat’s Quonset Point Facility.
The December 7 event marked the next milestone in the construction of future Virginia-class submarine USS Arizona (SSN 803), the first US naval vessel to bear the name Arizona since battleship USS Arizona (BB 39) was sunk during the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
After being struck with several bombs, Arizona burned for two days and more than 1100 of her crew were lost. The lives lost during the attack are now permanently memorialized by the USS Arizona Memorial, erected over her sunken hull in the berth she has occupied since that historic day.
“The boats in this class are the most advanced attack submarines ever designed. Their stealth, firepower, and maneuverability are superior to every other attack submarine force in the world. Additionally, Arizona will be the first of the Virginia-class equipped with the Virginia Payload Module, enabling the submarine to deliver an even wider variety of capabilities,” said Rear Adm. Jonathan Rucker, Program Executive Office, Attack Submarines. “Building, operating and maintaining Arizona and other Virginia-class subs is crucial to ensuring the Navy’s ability to project power in an ever-shifting global threat environment, and to maintaining peace and the free operation of our sea lanes.”
The ship’s sponsor, Nikki Stratton, is the granddaughter of Donald Stratton, who was serving as a Seaman First Class aboard Arizona during the 1941 attack. Badly burned, he was discharged in 1942, but successfully reenlisted in 1944 and returned to the Western Pacific serving aboard destroyer USS Stack (DD-406) to fight in New Guinea, the Philippines and the Battle of Okinawa. Stratton spent the remainder of his life helping honor those who gave their lives during the attack on Pearl Harbor and other battles. He died at the age of 97, in February 2020.
Per Navy tradition, the ship’s sponsor’s initials were welded onto a steel plate to be permanently mounted in a place of honor on the completed vessel.
The keel-laying ceremony for Arizona comes after the service authenticated the keel for future USS Arkansas (SSN 800) at HII’s Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS) yard last month.
Future USS Arizona will be Block V Virginia-class submarine featuring the Virginia Payload Module (VPM), an 84-foot section that provides more than three times the missile strike capacity of the current Virginia-class submarines. The four large-diameter, vertical payload tubes will enable the submarine to deliver a variety of capabilities, including weapons, unmanned undersea vehicles, and other undersea payloads.
General Dynamics Electric Boat is building Arizona as part of a $22.2 billion contract for the construction of 9 new Virginia-class submarines from December 2019.