NEWPORT NEWS, Va. – Senior Navy leaders, members of Congress, and shipbuilders gathered at Newport News Shipyard (NNSY) today to attend a keel-laying ceremony for the future Virginia-class submarine USS Arkansas (SSN 800), Nov. 19.
SSN 800 will be the fifth naval vessel to bear the name Arkansas. The original Arkansas was a Civil War-era screw steamer. In 1902 an Arkansas-class monitor, one of the last monitors in the U.S. Navy, was commissioned with the same name. The third Arkansas, a Wyoming-class battleship, was commissioned in 1912. The fourth, which saw service from 1980 until 1998, was a Virginia-class nuclear-powered guided missile cruiser.
“Today is a momentous occasion. Not just for the shipbuilders who will pour their considerable skills into building this submarine, but also for the Sailors who will deploy aboard Arkansas and patrol the ocean’s depths in service of our nation and our way of life,” said Rear Adm. Jon Rucker, Program Executive Office, Attack Submarines. “Virginia-class submarines, such as Arkansas, and their dedicated crews will ensure our Navy remains ready to deter maritime aggression, maintain freedom of the seas, and defend our country and allies well into the future.”
The submarine’s sponsors are the six women of the Little Rock Nine – Dr. Melba Pattillo Beals, Elizabeth Eckford, Gloria Ray Karlmark, Carlotta Walls Lanier, Minnijean Brown Trickey, and Thelma Mothershed Wair. In a 1954 landmark decision, the Supreme Court ruled racial segregation of schools as unconstitutional. Three years later, nine African-American children were the first people of color to attend Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, a previously all-white campus. President Dwight D. Eisenhower would eventually federalize the Arkansas National Guard to protect the students during their integration. The Little Rock Nine, as they came to be known, have spent their lives advocating for quality education.
Per Navy tradition, shipbuilders welded the six women’s initials onto steel plates that will be affixed to the ship. The men of the group – Ernest G. Green, Dr. Terrence J. Roberts, and the late Jefferson Thomas – were also honored during the ceremony.
“With advances in sound silencing, acoustic sensors, and weapons delivery systems, Arkansas will traverse the world’s oceans and seas as an Apex Predator,” said Vice. Adm. Bill Houston, Commander, Naval Submarine Forces. “Representing our asymmetric advantage in the undersea domain, Arkansas will have no equal.”
Arkansas will be the 27th Virginia-class submarine. Boats in this class are the most advanced attack submarines in the world, with superior stealth, firepower and maneuverability than previous classes. They can hit shore-based targets with highly accurate Tomahawk cruise missiles and are capable of long-term, stealth surveillance of sea forces, littoral waters or ground targets. Their design also provides for Special Forces delivery and support, mine delivery and minefield mapping, and anti-submarine and anti-ship warfare.
For more information about the Virginia-class attack submarine, visit http://www.navy.mil/local/virginiaclass/