By Kevin Copeland, Commander, Submarine Force Atlantic Public Affairs
NEW LONDON, Conn. (NNS) -- The USS North Dakota (SSN 784) returned to its homeport at U.S. Naval Submarine Base, New London, Conn., July 20 after conducting groundbreaking operations in the Mediterranean Sea.
Under the command of Capt. Douglas Gordon, the ship finished its first-ever mission by deploying and retrieving unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) from the ship's dry deck shelter (DDS) in an operational environment. The six-week mission was conducted prior to completing the ship's post shakedown availability (PSA), joining a small group of Virginia-class submarines to accomplish the feat. Others have been the USS Virginia (SSN 774), USS Hawaii (SSN 776) and USS New Hampshire (SSN 778).
"The crew was very excited to be chosen to take the ship forward and conduct operations in support of fleet and combatant commanders' operational objectives," said Gordon. "It was a rare opportunity for the crew to be able to deploy prior to executing its post shakedown availability. Many crew members had never deployed before and were able to experience first-hand the hard work and effort required in preparing a ship for deployed operations. They trained hard and expertly executed our mission. I could not be more proud of their performance and the professionalism that they exhibited during our operations."
Capt. Jim Waters, commander, Submarine Squadron 4 and the submarine's immediate superior in the chain of command, expanded on the captain's comment.
"The timing within USS North Dakota's schedule, along with its highly-trained and certified crew, made it the optimal choice to conduct this mission," said Waters. "The mission completed by North Dakota also demonstrated the promising and emerging technology of UUVs within the Submarine Force."
North Dakota is the 11th Virginia-class attack submarine to join the fleet, and the first of eight Block III Virginia-class submarines to be built. The Block III submarines are built with new Virginia Payload Tubes designed to lower costs and increase missile-firing payload possibilities.
The 10 current Virginia-class submarines have 12 individual 21-inch diameter vertical launch tubes able to fire Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAMS). The Block III submarines being built will have two-larger 87-inch diameter tubes able to house six TLAMS each.
As the most modern and sophisticated attack submarine in the world, the submarine can operate in both littoral and deep ocean environments and presents combatant commanders with a broad and unique range of operational capabilities. North Dakota is a flexible, multi-mission platform designed to carry out the seven core competencies of the submarine force: anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, delivery of special operations forces, strike warfare, irregular warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and mine warfare.
The submarine is 377 feet long, has a 34-foot beam, and will be able to dive to depths greater than 800 feet and operate at speeds in excess of 25 knots submerged. It will operate for 33 years without ever refueling.
Construction on North Dakota began March 2009; the submarine's keel was authenticated during a ceremony on May 11, 2012; and the submarine was christened during a ceremony Nov. 2, 2013.
North Dakota is the second Navy ship, and first submarine, to be named in honor of the people of "The Peace Garden State." The other ship was the Delaware-class battleship BB-29, which was commissioned April 11, 1910 and decommissioned Nov. 22, 1923.