U.S. Navy Accepts Delivery of 17th Virginia-Class Nuclear Attack Submarine, Future USS South Dakota (SSN 790)

The U.S. Navy accepted delivery of the 17th Virginia-class nuclear-powered fast attack submarine, the future USS South Dakota (SSN 790), from General Dynamics Electric Boat (GDEB) on Sept. 24.

The submarine’s sponsor is Deanie Dempsey, wife of former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman and retired Army Gen. Martin Dempsey. The ship is scheduled for commissioning in early 2019.

“Delivering South Dakota is a significant achievement that represents the hard work and excellent performance of our shipbuilders, helps the Navy meet its shipbuilding goals and contributes to the nation’s defense,” said Electric Boat President Jeffrey S. Geiger. He also recognized the contributions of the Navy and the supplier base.

South Dakota is the seventh of the eight-ship Virginia-class Block III submarine group. Block III submarines feature a redesigned bow with enhanced payload capabilities, replacing 12 individual vertical launch tubes with two large-diameter Virginia Payload Tubes, each capable of launching six Tomahawk cruise missiles. This, among other design changes, reduced the submarines’ acquisition cost while maintaining their outstanding warfighting capabilities.

“South Dakota’s delivery is an important milestone,” said Capt. Chris Hanson, Virginia Class Program manager. “It marks the penultimate Block III delivery and will be a vital asset in the hands of the fleet.”

The contract to build South Dakota was awarded to Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) in partnership with General Dynamics Electric Boat (GDEB) division on 22 December 2008. The ship began construction in 2013 and the keel laying ceremony took place on 4 April 2016. Her christening ceremony took place on 14 October 2017 in Groton, Connecticut.

The submarine will be the third U.S. Navy ship to be commissioned with the name South Dakota. The first South Dakota (ACR 9) was a Pennsylvania-class armored cruiser. The ship served in the Pacific until the American entry into World War I, where it patrolled the South Atlantic operating from Brazil, and escorted troop transports destined for Europe.

During World War II, the second South Dakota (BB 57) was commissioned as the lead ship in its class. The four ships of the South Dakota class are considered the most efficient battleships built under the limitations of the Washington Naval treaty. South Dakota served in the Pacific and Atlantic as a carrier escort and patrolled the North Atlantic with the British navy. During the ship’s second tour in the Pacific, it helped to cripple the Japanese navy during the Battle of the Philippine Sea before helping to bombard shore defenses at Okinawa and preparing for an eventual invasion of the Japanese home islands.

Virginia-class submarines displace 7,835 tons, with a hull length of 377 feet and a diameter of 34 feet. They are capable of speeds in excess of 25 knots and can dive to a depth greater than 800 feet, while carrying Mark 48 advanced capability torpedoes and Tomahawk cruise missiles.

Virginia-class submarines are built to operate in the world’s littoral and deep waters while conducting anti-submarine warfare; anti-surface ship warfare; strike warfare; special operations forces support; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; irregular warfare and mine warfare missions.

Their inherent stealth, endurance, mobility and firepower directly enable them to support five of the six maritime strategy core capabilities – sea control, power projection, forward presence, maritime security and deterrence.

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