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The Journal Gazette

  • Courtesy Huntington Ingalls Industries A welder carves the initials of ship’s sponsor Diane Donald on a metal plate during the keel-laying ceremony for the future USS Indiana.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016 6:15 am

Keel-laying ceremony held for USS Indiana

Niki Kelly The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – The third ship to be named after Indiana – a nuclear-powered submarine – hit a construction milestone last week with a keel-laying ceremony in Virginia.

That marks the ceremonial start of construction on the Virginia-class submarine, designated Indiana SSN 789.

“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.”

Work on the Indiana began in September 2012, and its contracted delivery date is February 2018. The cost is about $2.56 billion.

But Colleen E. O’Rourke, spokeswoman for the Naval Sea Systems Command, said an earlier delivery date is projected. The ship’s christening is tentatively planned for the fall of 2016.

It will be commissioned by the U.S. Navy sometime after that, making it officially the USS Indiana.

The submarine will weigh 7,800 tons, which is equivalent to the weight of about 4,457 cars. Its length will span 377 feet, longer than a football field. It will be able to operate at more than 25 knots submerged, about 28 miles per hour.

A U.S. Navy news release said the future USS Indiana will have the capability to attack targets ashore with highly accurate Tomahawk cruise missiles and conduct covert long-term surveillance of land area, littoral waters – areas close to coasts – or other sea-based forces. Other missions may include anti-submarine and anti-ship warfare, mine delivery and minefield mapping. It is also designed for special forces delivery and support.

The submarine is being built by Huntington Ingalls Industries-Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport News, Virginia.

Indiana officials were invited to the May 16 ceremony but did not attend. Bridget Cleveland, spokeswoman for Gov. Mike Pence, said he was on the flight back from his jobs and economic development mission in China that day.

Christie Miller, spokeswoman for Huntington Ingalls Industries, said the bigger ceremony is the christening. 

“That indicates the end of construction and is when we break the champagne bottle over it,” she said.

Until then, technically, the ship is referred to as PCU Indiana – or preconditioning unit.

Miller said the christening ceremony will not be the day it is turned over to the Navy because usually, testing still needs to be completed.

One of the previous ships named Indiana, a battleship (BB 58), earned nine battle stars for World War II service that included downing several enemy aircraft during the Battle of the Philippine Sea in 1944. 

In 2012, five submarines were named for states: Indiana, Illinois, South Dakota, Washington and Colorado.

A Huntington Ingalls release said the new submarine is named for the residents of the state of Indiana and their support of the U.S. military. Seventy-five Medal of Honor recipients are accredited to Indiana, spanning the Civil War through the Vietnam War.

Although not on the coast, Indiana is also home to the Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane Division in southern Indiana, the third-largest naval installation in the world. It is the Navy’s premier engineering, acquisition and sustainment organization.

nkelly@jg.net