Attack Submarine

Huntington Ingalls Industries’ (HII) Newport News Shipbuilding division hosted a keel authentication ceremony on December 11, 2020 for Virginia-class attack submarine USS Massachusetts (SSN-798). Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event was held virtually, without an audience.

USS Massachusetts (SSN-798)
The initials of Virginia-class submarine USS Massachusetts (SSN-798) Sheryl Sandberg were displayed at the ship’s keel authentication ceremony. Sandberg (center left) delivered pre-recorded remarks during the event, which marks the ceremonial start of construction. Present was Newport News Shipbuilding President Jennifer Boykin (left); Commander Erik Lundberg, commanding officer of the pre-commissioning unit (center) and welder Ronnie Payne (Photo by Ashley Cowan/HII)

«This construction milestone is typically a small ceremony with shipbuilders and the submarine’s crew in attendance», said Jennifer Boykin, president of Newport News Shipbuilding. «Given the current COVID-19 environment and the precautions it requires, today’s event is smaller than usual in scope, but not in importance».

«Today’s event is a significant milestone in the life of the boat because it is the official construction kickoff, but it also marks the beginning of an important partnership between our shipbuilders who will build this mighty war vessel and the sailors who will bring her to life», Boykin added.

Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, is the ship’s sponsor. In a pre-recorded video message, Sandberg etched her initials onto a metal plate, signifying the keel of SSN-798 as being «truly and fairly laid».

Ronnie Payne, a master shipbuilder who has worked on every Virginia-class submarine built at Newport News, then traced Sandberg’s initials with a welding torch at the company’s Supplemental Module Outfitting Facility. The metal plate will remain affixed to the ship throughout its life.

«This year has been difficult for so many, and I am extra grateful for moments like this one when we can celebrate such an important milestone together», Sandberg said. «I have a deep respect for the shipbuilders who will bring this vessel to life. I am so grateful for the opportunity to build a lifelong bond with this boat and its crew in my role as the sponsor».

USS Massachusetts (SSN-798) is the 25th Virginia-class fast attack submarine being built under the teaming agreement with General Dynamics Electric Boat. Construction began in March 2017 and is approximately 50% complete. The boat is scheduled for delivery to the Navy in 2023.

«One of the privileges in establishing a command from the very beginning is developing a relationship with the boat’s namesake state – a relationship inherited from our forebears and one that will last the life of the ship and beyond», said Commander Erik Lundberg, commanding officer of the pre-commissioning unit. «Our mission is clear – deliver the most advanced, most capable warship to the Navy and our nation with an equally advanced and capable crew to bring her to life. The crew of Massachusetts stands ready».

The keel authentication ceremony
Master Shipbuilder Ronnie Payne (far right) welds Ship Sponsor Sheryl Sandberg’s initials into a steel plate during the keel authentication ceremony for Virginia-class submarine USS Massachusetts (SSN-798). The plate will be permanently affixed to the submarine, symbolizing Sandberg’s lifelong relationship with the shipbuilders and crew. Also pictured were Newport News Shipbuilding President Jennifer Boykin (left) and Commander Erik Lundberg, commanding officer of the pre-commissioning unit (Photo by Matt Hildreth/HII)


General Characteristics

Builder General Dynamics Electric Boat Division and Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc. – Newport News Shipbuilding
Date Deployed October 3, 2004
Propulsion One GE PWR S9G* nuclear reactor, two turbines, one shaft; 40,000 hp/30 MW
Length 377 feet/114.8 m
Beam 33 feet/10.0584 m
Hull Diameter 34 feet/10.3632 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 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


Nuclear Submarine Lineup


Block IV

Ship Yard Christening Commissioned Homeport
SSN-792 Vermont EB 10-20-18 04-18-20 Groton, Connecticut
SSN-793 Oregon EB 10-05-19
SSN-794 Montana NNS Under Construction
SSN-795 Hyman G. Rickover EB Under Construction
SSN-796 New Jersey NNS Under Construction
SSN-797 Iowa EB Under Construction
SSN-798 Massachusetts NNS Under Construction
SSN-799 Idaho EB Under Construction
SSN-800 Arkansas NNS Under Construction
SSN-801 Utah EB Under Construction


Huntington Ingalls Industries Authenticates Keel of Virginia-Class Attack Submarine USS Massachusetts (SSN-798)