DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, October 9, 2015 — The Navy will christen its newest Virginia-class attack submarine -- Illinois -- Oct. 10, during an 11 a.m. EDT ceremony at General Dynamics Electric Boat in Groton, Connecticut, according to a Defense Department news release issued today.
First Lady Michelle Obama, the submarine’s sponsor, will officially christen the Illinois, the release said.
Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus will deliver the principal address at the event, according to the release.
"As we christen the future USS Illinois, we celebrate the work of the thousands of exceptionally skilled shipbuilders who have been a part of making this submarine one of the most advanced ships in the world," Mabus said in the release. "The production of submarines like the Illinois is not only an example of how we have reversed the decline in shipbuilding but also a representation of the strong partnership our Navy and Marine Corps have with the shipbuilding industry and the American people."
The future USS Illinois, which will commission in 2016, is the 13th Virginia-class nuclear submarine and the third Virginia-class Block III submarine, according to the release.
Virginia-class submarines weigh 7,800 tons and are 377 feet in length, have a 34 foot beam, and can operate at more than 25 knots submerged, the release said. They are built with a reactor plant that will not require refueling during the planned life of the ship -- reducing lifecycle costs while increasing underway time, according to the release.
These next-generation attack submarines provide the Navy with the capabilities required to maintain the nation's undersea supremacy well into the 21st century, the release said. They have improved stealth, sophisticated surveillance capabilities, the release said, and special warfare enhancements that will enable them to meet the Navy's multi-mission requirements.
Block III and later Virginias have a redesigned bow which feature a water-backed Large Aperture Bow sonar array and two large diameter payload tubes, each capable of launching six Tomahawk cruise missiles, according to the release. The two payload tubes replace 12 individual Vertical Launch System tubes utilized on earlier submarines, the release said. The new-design payload tubes simplify construction, reduce acquisition costs, and provide for more payload flexibility than the smaller VLS tubes due to their increased volume, according to the release.
The Illinois will have the capability to attack targets ashore with highly accurate Tomahawk cruise missiles and conduct covert long-term surveillance of land areas, littoral waters, or other sea-based forces, the release said, and other missions include anti-submarine and anti-ship warfare, Special Forces delivery and support, and mine delivery and minefield mapping.
So far, 28 Virginia-class submarines have either been delivered, are in construction, or are under contract, according to the release.
The future Illinois is only the second U.S. Navy ship to be commissioned with the name, the release said. The previous Illinois, a battleship, was built at Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, laid down in 1897, and was the lead ship of a class of three 11,565-ton battleships, the release said. In December 1907, the release said, Illinois steamed out of Hampton Roads, Virginia, to begin a voyage with the "Great White Fleet."
In January 1941, she was renamed Prairie State and served through World War II as a midshipmen's training school, the release said.