In its first ceremony celebrating the U.S. Navy’s newest fast-attack submarine in front of a virtual audience, Huntington Ingalls Industries christened pre-commissioning unit Montana (SSN 794) at the company’s Newport News Shipbuilding division. Due to COVID-19 restrictions on the size of public gatherings, the christening ceremony was hosted virtually at Newport News’ Module Outfitting Facility. Montana will be a Virginia-class submarine of the United States Navy. She will honor the U.S. State of Montana. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced its name on 3 September 2015 at a ceremony hosted in Billings, Montana with U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-MT).
“Yes, we are disappointed we couldn’t host the normal pomp and circumstance today, and that our shipbuilders and their families couldn’t be here in person to witness history. But as shipbuilders, we know the show must go on,” said Jennifer Boykin, president of Newport News Shipbuilding. “Our work doesn’t stop for a pandemic, just as the Navy’s mission never ends. It is our honor, our duty and our calling to keep the wheels of shipbuilding turning, and in doing so, bring Montana one step closer to her ultimate mission of defending the United States of America. The work and craftsmanship of more than 10,000 shipbuilders from Newport News and its partner, General Dynamics Electric Boat who continue to assemble Monna.”
The virtual event included pre-taped segments where maid of honor Mariah Gladstone, of the Blackfeet Nation in Montana, recited a Native American blessing and members of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, of Flathead Indian Reservation, performed a traditional Native American honor song. Rep. Robert C. Scott, of Virginia; members of the Montana congressional delegation including Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines, as well as Rep. Greg Gianforte; and General Dynamics Electric Boat President Kevin Graney also offered pre-recorded remarks celebrating the ship’s milestone. Former Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, the ship’s sponsor, smashed a bottle of sparkling wine across the bow to mark the christening of the submarine that honors the state of Montana. Vice Adm. Richard P. Snyder, the Navy’s inspector general, also was in attendance.
In his keynote address, Acting Undersecretary of the Navy Gregory J. Slavonic said: “Montana will enhance our fleet with next generation stealth, surveillance and special warfare capabilities. This powerful platform is proof of an ironclad relationship between the Navy and industrial partners who form the backbone of our maritime strength. While this submarine has the capacity to project power on the surface and undersea, it’s important to recognize the people in every stage of bringing this ship to life because our people make a difference. Montana is proof of what teamwork of all the people – civilian, contractor and military – can accomplish together.”
PCU Montana is the second Navy warship bearing the state’s name. The first USS Montana (ACR-13) was an armored cruiser built at Newport News Shipbuilding and launched in 1906. During the ceremony, a replica of the bell that sailed on the first Montana was rung. The bell will be formally presented to the crew at the ship’s commissioning, and will be part of the submarine for its entire service life. Three of Montana’s crew members hail from the state of Montana. Construction of Montana began in 2015 under a teaming agreement with Electric Boat. The submarine achieved pressure hull complete earlier this year, and is about 85% complete. Montana is scheduled for delivery to the Navy in late 2021.
Huntington Ingalls Industries is America’s largest military shipbuilding company and a provider of professional services to partners in government and industry. For more than a century, HII’s Newport News and Ingalls shipbuilding divisions in Virginia and Mississippi have built more ships in more ship classes than any other U.S. naval shipbuilder. HII’s Technical Solutions division supports national security missions around the globe with unmanned systems, defense and federal solutions, and nuclear and environmental services. Headquartered in Newport News, Virginia, HII employs more than 42,000 people operating both domestically and internationally.