USS Virginia Commissioning Ushers in a New Era of Undersea Warfare

Officers and crew assigned to Virginia stand at attention during its commissioning. She is the first nuclear-powered fast attack Virginia-class submarine and the ninth U.S. naval vessel to be named for the “Old Dominion.”

The first nuclear-powered Virginia-class fast attack submarine, USS Virginia (SSN-774), was commissioned Saturday, 23 October, at Norfolk Naval Station. Virginia is the ninth U.S. naval vessel to be named for the “Old Dominion.”

Commander, Naval Submarine Forces, VADM Charles L. Munns, gave the order to commission the ship.

“CAPT Kern, you and your men have much to be proud of, but also more work to do,” Munns said. “You must steer Virginia around this dangerous and uncertain world. Guard her stealth, use her endurance, exploit her sensors, and make ready her firepower. I expect you to dominate any assignment from open ocean to the contested littorals.”
 
Commissioning Speakers
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Chief of Naval Operations
ADM Vern Clark
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Senator John Warner of Virginia
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Virginia Governor Mark Warner
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Mrs. Lynda Johnson Robb
the daughter of former President Lyndon Johnson and the sponsor of Virginia
 

The Virginia-class submarine is the Navy’s first delivered major combatant designed with the post-Cold War security environment in mind. She embodies the warfighting and operational capabilities required to dominate the littorals while maintaining undersea superiority in the open ocean.

Virginia Governor Mark Warner is proud to have the lead ship of the class named for the Commonwealth of Virginia.

“Virginia’s support of the United States Navy goes back to the founding of our country when the first USS Virginia was commissioned in 1777,” Governor Warner said. “Virginia values its long-standing relationship with the Navy and is proud so many vessels call the Commonwealth home.

“With new tools like the USS Virginia and other Virginia-class fast attack submarines, this nation will continue to have the best equipped and best trained military in the world,” he concluded.

Under an innovative agreement, General Dynamics Electric Boat is producing the Virginia-class submarines as part of a team effort with Northrop Grumman Newport News. Virginia has improved stealth, sophisticated surveillance capabilities, and special warfare enhancements that enable her to meet the Navy’s multi-mission requirements. With a modular design, the Virginia-class will be able to accommodate technology upgrades

(right) Several Navy and civilian dignitaries spoke during the commissioning ceremony for Virginia, which will be homeported in Groton, Connecticut.

(below) Virginia’s crew brings her to life as they sprint onboard during her commissioning at Naval Station Norfolk, Virginia on 23 October, 2004.

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throughout the life of the class.

Chief of Naval Operations, ADM Vern Clark, noted that the submarine and the men who sail on her, will take the battle to the enemy with stealth, endurance, and agility.

“We need this submarine and its capabilities at sea,” ADM Clark said. “Virginia is designed to confront and defeat 21st century enemies.

“She will bring her greatest capability, her stealth, into the warfighting calculus, in a way that will tremendously complicate life for our future and potential enemies and greatly enhance our own warfighting capabilities.”

Virginia is 377 feet in length, has a waterline beam of 34 feet, a navigational draft of 32 feet, and displaces approximately 7,800 tons submerged. She can dive to depths greater than 800 feet, and can sustain speeds of more than 25 knots when submerged.

According to Virginia’s Commanding Officer, CAPT David C. Kern, his proudest moment was a foggy day in Groton, Connecticut, when he first took Virginia to sea.

“We cannot ever blink, we cannot ever flinch,we cannot yield, we must remain strong and lead the world, and this ship will very definitely play a role in that war on terror.”

“The fog was thick as I stood on the sail of Virginia, returning from our first underway,” Kern explained. “Her engines pulsing with power, her crew operating the boat for the first time. On that day, I was filled with pride for the accomplishments of this crew.

“We had taken the world’s most complex and innovative submarine to sea, delivered within months of a date set nearly ten years earlier,” he added, “initiating the most successful set of sea trials ever accomplished by the lead ship of a submarine class.”

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A Sailor raises the original Navy Jack as Virginia is placed in commission.

Virginia can attack targets ashore with highly accurate Tomahawk cruise missiles and conduct covert long-term surveillance of land areas, littoral waters, and other sea forces. Virginia also has superior anti-submarine and anti-ship warfare capabilities, is able to provide special forces delivery and support, and can conduct mine delivery and minefield mapping.

U.S. Senator John Warner of Virginia, the principal speaker at the commissioning ceremony, spoke of the responsibility of the men who will serve onboard Virginia.

“It will not be the steel and the technology that’s been put together so magnificently by these two yards,” Senator Warner said. “You, the crew, will decide the record".

“By giving you this trust,” he continued, “it shows our deep respect for the training that you have had and the capabilities you will perform magnificently.”

Virginia will be homeported in Groton, Connecticut. Ten of a projected 30 Virginia-class submarines are under contract to be built by General Dynamics Electric Boat and Northrop Grumman Newport News. PCU Texas (SSN-775), PCU Hawaii (SSN-776), PCU North Carolina (SSN-777), PCU New Hampshire (SSN-778), and PCU New Mexico (SSN-779) are currently under construction and scheduled to join the fleet over the next three years.

“This nation is a leader in the world, and the entire world looks to us to lead in the cause of freedom,” Senator Warner added. “We cannot ever blink, we cannot ever flinch, we cannot yield, we must remain strong and lead the world, and this ship will very definitely play a role in that war on terror.”

(below) The crew of Virginia man the ship during her commissioning ceremony. Virginia is the Navy’s first major combatant designed for the post-Cold War security environment to join the fleet.
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Cover of Undersea Warfare Magazine Winter 2005