Keel for Indiana

The keel of the 16th Virginia-class attack submarine, named after the 16th largest state, was laid May 16 at Newport News Shipyard. She is the third ship to bear the name Indiana, and will be the first in almost 70 years to sail under the national colors with that name. It is said in the Navy Times that the ship’s sponsor, Diane Donald, the wife of retired Admiral Kirk Donald, a former director of Naval Nuclear Propulsion, declared the keel «to be truly and fairly laid». Diane Donald authenticated the keel with her initials, which were welded onto a metal plate and permanently affixed to the ship.

Heather Johnson, a 37-year-old mother of four, has the honor of being the first female welder at Newport News Shipbuilding to weld the sponsor's initials on a Virginia-class submarine (Photo by John Whalen/HII)
Heather Johnson, a 37-year-old mother of four, has the honor of being the first female welder at Newport News Shipbuilding to weld the sponsor’s initials on a Virginia-class submarine (Photo by John Whalen/HII)

Construction on Indiana, the sixth of eight Block III variants, started in September 2012. The state is known as «the crossroads of America», and its namesake honors that motto well. She carries millions of parts from 5,000 suppliers located in all 50 states. Assembling these parts is what Jim Hughes, vice president for Submarines and Fleet Support, called «one of the biggest orchestras in the world». The symphony carefully played by 4,000 shipbuilders will now unite hull sections into a 377-foot/114.8 m military masterpiece that will crescendo with its 2017 commissioning, then slip into three decades of silent service.

Her missions will be many and multifaceted. The Virginia class has a large lock-in/lock-out chamber, and a reconfigurable torpedo room to accommodate more snake eaters. She will carry roughly three dozen Tomahawk cruise missiles. Traditional periscopes have been replaced by photonics masts with high-resolution cameras and infrared sensors. A fly-by-wire ship control system provides unmatched operation in shallow littoral areas.

A shipbuilder on a lift works on the stern unit of Indiana (SSN-789) at Newport News Shipbuilding in 2013 (Photo by Ricky Thompson/HII)
A shipbuilder on a lift works on the stern unit of Indiana (SSN-789) at Newport News Shipbuilding in 2013 (Photo by Ricky Thompson/HII)

While the Virginia class boasts these and other upgrades in weaponry and other tactical equipment, its biggest edge is in acoustics, said Commander Jesse Zimbauer, the ship’s skipper. Among its many advances, the Block III variant vastly improved passive detection by replacing the traditional sonar sphere with the Large Aperture Bow array. «We are building the future with this submarine», said Jesse Zimbauer, who «jumped on the opportunity» to be part of the pre-commissioning unit.

A keel laying is the symbolic beginning of building a ship, originating from the large structural beam, or keel, that serves as the foundation or spine of the ship’s hull. Although modular construction techniques mean that the ship is no longer built from the bottom up, the keel laying is still celebrated as a momentous event in the ship’s construction. During the keel laying ceremony, the ship’s sponsor authenticates the keel by chalking her initials onto a metal plate. The initials are then welded onto a plate that is permanently affixed to the ship.

Diane Donald, the Indiana's sponsor, looks over her initials on a steel plate held by welder Heather Johnson of Newport News Shipbuilding
Diane Donald, the Indiana’s sponsor, looks over her initials on a steel plate held by welder Heather Johnson of Newport News Shipbuilding

 

INDIANA (SSN-789) FACTS

  • Navy names SSN-789 in honor of the state of Indiana: April 13, 2012
  • Construction start: September 2012
  • Keel Authentication Ceremony: May 16, 2015
  • Ship’s sponsor: Ms. Diane Donald, wife of retired Admiral Kirk Donald
  • Number of NNS shipbuilders who support Indiana construction: 4,000
  • Officers and Crew: Currently, 57; At delivery 135; Commanded by Jesse Zimbauer
  • Indiana is about 48 percent complete and is on track to complete in summer 2017
  • Indiana is the 16th ship of the Virginia class
A unit for the Virginia-class submarine South Dakota (SSN-790) under construction at Newport News Shipbuilding in 2014 (Photo by Chris Oxley)
A unit for the Virginia-class submarine South Dakota (SSN-790) under construction at Newport News Shipbuilding in 2014 (Photo by Chris Oxley)

 

General Characteristics

Builder General Dynamics Electric Boat Division and Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc. – Newport News Shipbuilding
Date Deployed October 3, 2004
Propulsion One S9G* nuclear reactor, one shaft
Length 377 feet/114.8 m
Beam 33 feet/10.0584 m
Hull Diameter 34 feet/10.5156 m
Displacement Approximately 7,800 tons/7,925 metric tons submerged
Speed 25+ knots/28+ mph/46.3+ km/h
Diving Depth 800+ feet/244+ m
Crew 132: 15 officers; 117 enlisted
Armament: Tomahawk missiles 12 individual VLS (Vertical Launch System) tubes or two 87-in/2.2 m Virginia Payload Tubes (VPTs), each capable of launching 6 Tomahawk cruise missiles
Armament: MK-48 ADCAP (Advanced Capability) Mod 7 heavyweight torpedoes 4 torpedo tubes
Weapons MK-60 CAPTOR (Encapsulated Torpedo) mines, advanced mobile mines and UUVs (Unmanned Underwater Vehicles)

* – Knolls Atomic Power Laboratories

A panorama of the shipyard shows the bow unit of Illinois (SSN-786) being moved to the sea shuttle (right) June 24, 2014. Illinois is being delivered to the Navy by General Dynamics Electric Boat (Photo by Chris Oxley/HII)
A panorama of the shipyard shows the bow unit of Illinois (SSN-786) being moved to the sea shuttle (right) June 24, 2014. Illinois is being delivered to the Navy by General Dynamics Electric Boat (Photo by Chris Oxley/HII)

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