Montana is the fourth largest state in size, but the eighth least populous in the country. It is also quite a way from the sea, but now the future Virginia-class submarine USS Montana (SSN 794) will honor the Treasure State. This past weekend the U.S. Navy christened the fast-attack submarine at Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) Newport News Shipbuilding Division. Construction of the boat began in 2015, and the submarine will be delivered to the U.S. Navy late next year.
Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic the ceremony was held virtually.
“We are disappointed we could not host the normal pomp and circumstance today, and that our shipbuilders and their families couldn’t be here in person to witness history,” said Jennifer Boykin, Newport News Shipbuilding president, as reported by Naval Technology.
“But as shipbuilders, we know the show must go on,” she added. “Our work does not stop for a pandemic, just as the navy’s mission never ends. It is our honor, our duty and our calling to keep the wheels of shipbuilding turning, and in doing so, bring Montana one step closer to her ultimate mission of defending the United States of America.”
Three members of the crew of the new fast attack submarine hail from the state of Montana. During this past weekend’s ceremony, a replacement of the bell that sailed on the first USS Montana (ACR-13) was rung. It was formally presented to the crew and will be part of the submarine for its entire service life.
The Virginia-class was designed to operate in the world’s littoral and deep waters. It is a flexible, multi-mission platform that can carry out anti-submarine, anti-surface, strike and irregular warfare, as well as operate in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. It can be used to deliver special operations forces support and also participate in mine warfare roles.
The United States Navy has been procuring the class since fiscal year 1998 and the lead-boat entered service in October 2004. It was developed to be less expensive and better optimized for post-Cold War submarine operations than the Seawolf-class design, and is replacing the older Los Angeles-class.
Honoring the Big Sky Country
The submarine, which is being assembled by more than 10,000 shipbuilders from Newport News and its partner, General Dynamics Electric Boat, is the second U.S. Navy vessel to bear the state’s name.
During the Second World War, the U.S. Navy planned for the largest, best-protected and most heavily armed U.S. battleships with the Montana-class. The warships were to be the only class to rival the Imperial Japanese Navy’s Yamato-class battleship in terms of tonnage, but wartime priorities had the project cancelled.
Another previous battleship was also to be named for the 41st state to enter the union, but the South Dakota-class warship was cancelled after the keel was laid down. To date only the Tennessee-class cruiser carried the name USS Montana (ACR-13). She escorted convoys during the First World War but was eventually renamed and reclassified as the USS Missoula (CA-13) in the reserve fleet.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.