The U.S. Navy commissioned its newest Virginia-class fast attack submarine, USS Colorado (SSN 788), during an 11 a.m. EDT ceremony Saturday, March 17, at Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, Connecticut.
The principal speaker was U.S. Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado. Annie Mabus, daughter of 75th Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, served as the ship’s sponsor. In a time-honored Navy tradition, she gave the order to “man our ship and bring her to life!”
“To the crew of USS Colorado, this is your day” said Mabus, addressing the crowd and ship’s company during the ceremony. “The commissioning crew truly does bring life to the boat. The pride I feel for the crew of this boat knows no bounds.”
“This is an amazing group of Sailors that are outfitted here. Every day we are doing something new for the first time. Just in the time that I’ve been here, I’ve watch the team transform into a high performance team that is able to operate the Navy’s newest and most capable war fighting ship at sea, in the harsh ocean environments, ready to carry out our mission,” said Cmdr. Reed Koepp II, Colorado’s commanding officer, as he underscored the boat’s most important asset: the crew.
“I have seen them achieve greatness in qualifications and I have seen them build to a level of experience and expertise, ready to start executing the nation’s missions and get through our initial tactical certifications and engineering readiness”, he added.
“USS Colorado is a true marvel of technology and innovation, and it shows the capability that our industrial partners bring to the fight,” said Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer said ahead of the commissioning. “Today’s world requires undersea platforms designed for dominance across a broad spectrum of regional and littoral missions, and I am confident Colorado will proudly serve in defense of our nation’s interests for decades to come.”
USS Colorado, which began construction in 2012, is the 15th Virginia-class fast attack submarine and the fifth Virginia-class Block III submarine. Colorado is the fourth U.S. Navy ship to be commissioned with a name honoring the state of Colorado.
The first Colorado was a three-masted steam screw frigate that participated in the Union Navy’s Gulf Blockading Squadron and fought in the Second Battle of Fort Fisher with then-Lt. George Dewey serving as her executive officer. In the early years of the 20th century, the second Colorado (ACR 7) was a Pennsylvania-class armored cruiser that escorted convoys of men and supplies to England during World War I. The third ship of her name, the lead ship of the Colorado class of battleships (BB 45), supported operations in the Pacific theater throughout World War II, surviving two kamikaze attacks and earning seven battle stars.
This next-generation attack submarine provides the Navy with the capabilities required to maintain the nation’s undersea superiority well into the 21st century. Block III Virginia-class submarines feature a redesigned bow, which replaces 12 individual launch tubes with two large-diameter Virginia Payload Tubes, each capable of launching six Tomahawk cruise missiles.
Virginia-class submarines are built to operate in the world’s littoral and deep waters while conducting anti-submarine warfare (ASW); anti-surface ship warfare (ASuW); strike warfare; special operation forces (SOF) support; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR); 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.
Colorado also has special features to support Special Forces, including a reconfigurable torpedo room which can accommodate a large number of personnel and all their equipment for prolonged deployments and future off-board payloads.
Also, in Virginia-class SSNs, traditional periscopes have been replaced by two photonics masts that host visible and infrared digital cameras atop telescoping arms, which are maneuvered by a Xbox controller. Through the extensive use of modular construction, open architecture, and commercial off-the-shelf components, the Virginia class is designed to remain at the cutting edge for its entire operational life through the rapid introduction of new systems and payloads.