Navy lays keel for newest submarine, USS Indiana

A welder carves the initials of ship's sponsor Diane Donald on a metal plate during the keel laying ceremony for the future Virginia-class attack submarine Indiana (SSN 789). (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Huntington Ingalls Industries by Ricky Thompson/Released)

A welder carves the initials of ship’s sponsor Diane Donald on a metal plate during the keel laying ceremony for the future Virginia-class attack submarine Indiana (SSN 789). (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Huntington Ingalls Industries by Ricky Thompson/Released)

The U.S. Navy held a keel laying ceremony for the Virginia-class submarine Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Indiana (SSN 789) at Huntington Ingalls Industries, Newport News Shipbuilding, May 16.

The initials of the submarine’s sponsor, Diane Donald, were welded onto a steel plate that will be permanently affixed to the submarine. Donald is the wife of retired Adm. Kirkland Donald and a long serving member of the Submarine Force spouse organization. She actively supported, organized and ran charity events and projects to raise funds for the Dolphin Scholarship Foundation and other worthy organizations.

“The Indiana keel laying is an important construction milestone for us and our shipbuilding partners,” said Rear Adm. David Johnson, program executive officer for Submarines. “This ceremony continues to demonstrate the collaboration between the Navy and our partners to ensure we are building a capable and affordable ship to defend our country.”

Keel laying used to signify the first wooden beam of a ship being laid. With modern shipbuilding it is signifies the first modules of the ship being placed together. In a ship’s life, laying the keel is the first stage followed by launching, commissioning and finally, decommissioning.

Indiana began construction in September 2012 and is on track to continue the Virginia class program’s trend of delivering submarines early to their contract delivery dates, within budget and ready for tasking by the fleet.

Indiana is the 16th submarine of the Virginia class and the sixth of the eight ship Block III construction contract. Virginia-class submarines are built under a unique teaming agreement between General Dynamics Electric Boat and Huntington Ingalls Industries-Newport News Shipbuilding. So far, 28 Virginia-class submarines have either been delivered, are in construction, or are under contract.

A poster of the Virginia Class submarine created by All Hands Navy Magazine.

A poster of the Virginia Class submarine created by All Hands Navy Magazine. Click to enlarge

Ships of the Virginia class embody the commitment by the Navy and industry to reduce costs without decreasing capabilities through a multi-year procurement strategy, continuous improvements in construction practices and cost-reduction design changes. These submarines excel in littoral and open-ocean environments and collect intelligence critical to irregular warfare efforts with advanced intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.

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