NORFOLK -- The Navy is scheduled to commission its 10th Virginia-class attack submarine Sept. 7, during a pierside ceremony at Naval Station Norfolk in Norfolk, Va. During a formal ceremony to be attended by several hundred dignitaries, families and crew members, Pre-Commissioning Unit Minnesota (SSN 783) will officially become USS Minnesota and join the Navy's active fleet.
Minnesota began construction in February 2008 and was built in Newport News, Va., under a teaming arrangement between General Dynamics Electric Boat and Newport News Shipbuilding, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries.
The building team delivered the ship 11 months ahead of schedule in June. It achieved the highest readiness score of any Virginia-class submarine to date during an inspection by the Navy's Board of Inspection and Survey. The leaders and Sailors already assigned to Minnesota have excelled, said Rear Adm. Ken Perry, commander, Submarine Group 2.
"Minnesota has done a superb job of readying the ship for service in the fleet as a commissioned warship," said Perry. "[Commanding Officer] Capt. John Fancher and his team have literally from stem to stern worked the combat systems, nuclear propulsion plant, logistics, and culinary service."
Perry is currently responsible for 25 Los Angeles-class and Virginia-class attack submarines in commission. Minnesota will be the 26th. "Administratively and operationally, the Minnesota is ready to join the fleet," Perry said. During Saturday's ceremony, the ship's sponsor Ellen Roughead, wife of former Chief of Naval Operations retired Adm. Gary Roughead, will take part in a time-honored tradition when crew is called upon to "man the ship." With the order, Minnesota's crew will run aboard the vessel and formally place the submarine in commission. "I think it will be one of those defining moments in our careers," said Senior Chief Machinist's Mate (SS/DV) Jody Reynolds who reported to Minnesota in 2011. "I remember when I showed up and the boat was an empty shell in a large building with pieces everywhere. I think there will be a lot of reflection on everything we've been through to get the boat to this point." The Virginia class is an improvement in capability for attack submarines. The fly-by-wire ship control system improves ship handling in shallow water. It also features a larger lock-in/lock-out chamber and a reconfigurable torpedo room that can better support Special Operations Forces and their equipment. "There's a very high demand signal on the attack submarine force from the combatant commanders. They require the key attributes of the attack submarines," said Perry. "They need that speed, they need the agility, they need the stealth, they need the endurance, and when necessary they need the firepower." Minnesota is 377 feet in length and has a beam of 34 feet. It displaces 7,800 tons and can operate at more than 25 knots submerged.
Its reactor plant is designed to last the entire planned 33-year life of the ship, which helps reduce lifecycle cost while increasing the time the ship is available to perform missions. The new submarine will be the Navy's third ship to bear the state of Minnesota's name. The first USS Minnesota, a sailing steam frigate, was commissioned in 1857 and served during the Civil War, remaining in service until her decommissioning in 1898. The second Minnesota was commissioned in 1907. On Dec. 16, 1907 she departed Hampton Roads as one of the 16 battleships of the Great White Fleet sent by then-President Theodore Roosevelt on a voyage around the world. She continued her service through World War I and was decommissioned in 1921. Saturday's commissioning ceremony is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. and will be viewable via live web stream at http://navylive.dodlive.mil.