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Keel Laid for Newest Virginia-class Submarine

Navy Newsstand

Story Number: NNS040524-17

Release Date: 5/24/2004 4:18:00 PM

By Chief Journalist (SW/AW) Mark O. Piggott, Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet Public Affairs

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (NNS) -- The keel was laid and authenticated for the newest Virginia-class submarine, North Carolina (SSN 777), May 22, at Northrop Grumman Newport News shipyard.

Linda Bowman, wife of Adm. Frank L. "Skip" Bowman, director, Naval Nuclear Reactors, is the boat's sponsor. Her initials were welded onto a metal plate that will be affixed in the submarine's auxiliary machinery room (AMR).

"I leave not only my initials here, but along with my heart, a lifetime full of wonderful Navy memories," Linda said. "For the submarine North Carolina, my hope is that she will sail in peace to keep us free. My assurance is that she will always be ready to defend that freedom whenever necessary."

The submarine will be the fourth ship of the U.S. Navy to bear the name North Carolina. The first North Carolina was a 74-gun ship-of-the-line that served from 1820 to 1836. The second North Carolina (ACR 12) was a Tennessee-class armored cruiser that was also built at the Newport News shipyard and served from 1908 to 1921. The third North Carolina (BB 55) was the first of the Navy's modern battleships, serving from 1940 to 1947, earning 12 battle stars for service during World War II. The battleship now serves in Wilmington, N.C., as a memorial for all North Carolinians killed in World War II.

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina was the guest speaker at the keel laying and authentication ceremony. She thanked the shipbuilders for their efforts in the global war on terrorism by helping to maintain our fleet readiness.

"The first of those North Carolina ships to be built in Newport News had its keel laid over 100 years ago in 1905, and it was constructed in just a year and a half," Dole said. "This submarine will be completed in 2007."

"I look forward to the day this North Carolina namesake sets out on its course to protect our country. To all of you who are a part of the massive effort to finish its construction, thank you for your commitment to the United States of America and our armed forces."

The Virginia class will provide the Navy with the capabilities it requires to maintain the nation's undersea supremacy well into the 21st century. This next-generation attack submarine will have improved stealth and sophisticated surveillance capabilities, and special warfare enhancements that will enable it to meet the Navy's multi-mission requirements.

"A keel is defined as 'the backbone of a vessel' from which rises the frames or ribs, the stern and the sternpost," said Tom Schievelbein, president, Northrop Grumman Newport News. "Yet I would argue that the backbone of a ship is made from much more than just steel.

"It's also a reflection of the men and women who build the ship and the officers and crew who will sail her," he continued. "The North Carolina, when delivered to the U.S. Navy, will help preserve democracy and protect freedom. These are higher purposes, indeed."

North Carolina is the fourth submarine of the Virginia class and is scheduled for christening in 2006 and commissioning in 2007.

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