Electric Boat held a keel laying ceremony for the 28th ship of the Virginia Block IV class, the submarine Utah (SSN 801), at Quonset Point. EB senior staff, including President Kevin Graney and Vice President for QP Operations Sean Davies, joined Navy leadership, EB employees, and members of the Utah commissioning committee to mark this important construction milestone. The battleship met its fate during the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 where it was moored as an anti-aircraft gunnery training ship. Utah will be the second Navy vessel named after the “Beehive State,” the first being a Florida-class battleship (BB-31) commissioned in 1911. BB-31 served during the Mexican Revolution, World War I, and provided a covering force for Allied convoys near Britain in 1918. Steven Tavares, an X-Ray welder in D921 was selected to weld the sponsor’s initials on the keel plate that will permanently be installed in the Utah. Tavares joined EB in 2013 as an entry level welder in D915 after working in the concrete/masonry industry for 11 years.
“The six torpedoes used on Utah could have potentially destroyed a third or fourth battleship, further crippling US naval power in the Pacific and changing the course of the war,” said Graney. “Today the hull of Utah remains at Pearl Harbor as a memorial to the 58 officers and crew who lost their lives that day. May the spirit of those brave souls guide the future crew of the second USS Utah, whose keel-laying today celebrates the ceremonial birth of the ship. In the days of wooden ships, the start of construction was marked by the laying of the first timber – the backbone of the vessel.” Graney explained how this tradition has been modified to reflect current manufacturing methods and the cylindrical shape of modern submarines, also noting that the bottom centerline of these ships is referred to as the keel.
Ship Sponsor, Ms. Kate Mabus, delivered her remarks and expressed her dedication to the future crew of the Utah. “This Utah will be a fitting tribute to those who served on the original USS Utah. I recognize the responsibility I have as sponsor to be a part of this submarines life. I am immensely excited to meet the sailors that will serve on the Utah, and the Captain who will command her. As a plank owner and honorary member of the first crew, I will be connected with the Utah for the decades she serves in the fleet. As we lay the keel today, I also want to celebrate the amazing ship builders here at Electric Boat as well as those at Huntington Ingalls in Newport News, Virginia who are building the other parts.” After verifying her initials on the plate that will be installed in the Utah for the entire service life of the boat, Ms. Mabus concluded the event with the declaration, “I declare this keel to be well and truly laid.”
The Virginia class, also known as the SSN-774 class, is a class of nuclear-powered cruise missile fast-attack submarines, in service in the United States Navy. Designed by General Dynamics’s Electric Boat (EB) and Huntington Ingalls Industries, the Virginia-class is the United States Navy’s latest submarine model, which incorporates the latest in stealth, intelligence gathering, and weapons systems technology. Virginia-class submarines are designed for a broad spectrum of open-ocean and littoral missions, including anti-submarine warfare and intelligence gathering operations. They are scheduled to replace older Los Angeles-class submarines, many of which have already been decommissioned. Block IV consists of 10 submarines. The main improvement over the Block III is the reduction of major maintenance periods from four to three, increasing each boat’s total lifetime deployments by one.