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SSN 779 New Mexico

On December 06, 2004, the Secretary of the Navy announced that the Virginia class SSN-779 submarine would be named in honor of the State of New Mexico. One previous ship was named in honor of the 47th State of the Union. The battleship New Mexico (1918-1946), earned six battle stars for World War II service, which included providing shore bombardment support for landings in the Gilbert and Marshall Islands, and at Guam, Tinian, Saipan, the Philippines and Okinawa.

As the Navy's next-generation attack submarine, the Virginia class will provide the U.S. Navy with the capabilities it requires to maintain the nation's undersea supremacy well into the 21st century. New Mexico will have improved stealthiness, sophisticated surveillance capabilities and Special Warfare enhancements which will enable it to meet the Navy's multimission requirements.

Virginia class submarines are able to attack targets ashore with highly accurate Tomahawk cruise missiles and conduct covert long-term surveillance of land areas, littoral waters or other sea-based forces. Other missions include anti-submarine and anti-ship warfare; special forces delivery and support; and mine delivery and minefield mapping. With enhanced communications connectivity, the submarine also will provide important battle group and joint task force support, with full integration into carrier battle group operations.

New Mexico was built by both Northrop Grumman in Newport News, Virginia, and General Dynamics Electric Boat's Quonset Point Facility in Rhode Island. Assembly took place inside NGNN's 10-story Module Outfitting Facility (MOF) with NEW MEXICO's bow pointed towards the James River near the mouth of Chesapeake Bay. In the MOF, hull sections are end-loaded with system modules which are powered up and tested before hull sections are welded together.

Hull section 1B arrived at Newport News from General Dynamics Electric Boat via Sea-Shuttle in 2006. This section later received the sail. Visible topside are housing supports for a portion of the towed sonar array which runs along the starboard deck. Also visible is the access hatch to the bridge. Section 1B was welded to 1A (bow section) in June 2006. Sections 8 and 9 were welded together in February 2007 and the main propulsion unit was end-loaded in Section 8/9 in August 2007. Then in October, Section 8/9 was moved astern of Section 6/7 and welded, completing the aft one-third of the hull, and beating the schedule by nearly two months. The remaining one-third, the so-called super-module or Section 2B/5, is all that was needed to complete NEW MEXICO's pressure hull. NEW MEXICO 's so-called super-module, or hull section 2B/5, arrived at Newport News from General Dynamics Electric Boat via Sea-Shuttle in March 2008. This long straight mid-section of the hull was all that was needed to complete NEW MEXICO's pressure hull. Section 2B/5 houses the berthing compartments, galley, wardroom, control room, torpedo room, SEAL lockout trunk and auxiliary machinery spaces.

By March 2008 USS NEW MEXICO was approximately two-thirds complete. The aft section was complete except for the shaft and propeller. The shaft tube had been hydrostatically tested. The reactor core was loaded. The forward section was coming along nicely with insertion of the torpedo room module in 2A. The control room module (CCSM) was inserted in 2A in this month. The 2B/5 module, the last big hull section, arrived by Sea Shuttle this month. The crew for PCU New Mexico numbered 80 and was fast-approaching the full complement of 130. Some forward crew members were training at sea aboard USS OKLAHOMA CITY (SSN-723). The crew was standing watches aft but forward crews would not stand watch until the sub was in the water (January 2009).

The Christening was scheduled for January 2009 and delivery to the Navy in August 2009. Commissioning would be 3 or 4 months after that. New Mexico's keel was "laid" April 12, 2008. A structural keel is a large beam about which the hull of a ship is built. The keel runs down the middle of the ship, from the bow to the stern , and serves as the foundation or spine of the structure, providing the major source of structural strength of the hull. The keel is generally the first part of a ship's hull to be constructed, and laying the keel is a momentous event in a ship's construction. Accordingly, the keel-laying is a long-recognized naval tradition of laying down the backbone and critical strength member of a ship, thus marking the beginning of construction. Unlike other ships, submarines have no keels, but, for the ceremony's sake, it is still called a keel-laying.

A key part of the keel-laying ceremony is the authentication, that is, the inscription of the authenticator's initials on the keel, followed by workmen moving the keel into position on the shipway , and the announcement that "the keel has been truly and fairly laid." For submarines, authentication usually takes place on one of the early sections of the hull. The authenticator is the ship's sponsor who chalks her initials onto a steel plate. This inscription is then made permanent by a welder, as the sponsor declares the keel to be "true and authentic". The plate is later affixed to the interior surface of the hull.

Ms. Cynthia "Cindy" Giambastaini, the submarine's sponsor, wife of Admiral Edmund P. Giambastiani, Vice Chariman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, took part in the ceremony at Northrop Grumman Newport News Shipyard in Newport News, Virginia. Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) hosted a keel authentication ceremony for the Virginia-class submarine New Mexico (SSN 779) at the company's Shipbuilding sector in Newport News, Va. Giambastiani authenticated New Mexico's bow unit by chalking her initials onto a metal plate. Her initials were then welded onto the plate by Newport News welder Kim Kerins. The plate will be permanently affixed to the submarine prior to its delivery to the Navy.

In May 2008 workers completed the final hull welds on the New Mexico. The process, called "pressure hull complete," meant the submarine's four hull sections have been joined together to form a single, air-tight unit. As part of the Pressure Hull Complete event there was a special banner signing by yardworkers and the crew.

The Christening Ceremony for Submarine New Mexico took place December 13, 2008. Because the ceremony was performed inside the shipyard's Module Outfitting Facility attendance was quite limited.

New Mexico will be delivered to the Navy in October 2009, six months ahead of the initial delivery date. Commissioning is the act or ceremony of placing a ship in active service but is usually used for the placing of a warship in active duty with its country's military forces. The shipyard will deliver NEW MEXICO several weeks before the commissioning at the end of all sea trials and other construction testing. The shipyard is making such great progress on NEW MEXICO that the construction schedule has been accelerated six months. She will be delivered to the Navy in October 2009 instead of the originally scheduled April 2010.

It is anticipated that NEW MEXICO commissioning will be held in late October 2009 at the Norfolk Naval Base in Virginia. As the host state, New Mexico has many responsibilities in making sure the commissioning is a world-class event. While the Navy supplies the submarine, crew, and pier, the rest is up to the state's Commissioning Committee. The USS New Mexico Commissioning Committee is part of the Navy League's New Mexico Council. It is this committee that led the five year statewide grassroots initiative to have the sixth Virginia-class submarine named NEW MEXICO. It has been involved in construction milestone ceremonies and crew support activities for the past four years. The events that the Commissioning Committee is responsible for include a crew party, a luncheon for the Ship's Sponsor, the CO's Reception & Dinner, a breakfast for the platform briefing, and a post-commissioning reception. The expense for these events must be borne by the Commissioning Committee.

The fast-attack sub cost an estimated $2.36 billion, according to the Navy's 2009 budget, about 4.6 percent higher than its original contract.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:01:20 ZULU