GROTON, Conn. (NNS) -- The first group of Sailors reported to the Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Illinois (SSN 786), a fast attack submarine currently under construction in Groton, Conn.
The commanding officer's arrival June 17 marked a major milestone in the construction phase of the submarine and sets the crew training phase in motion. The ship's sponsor is First Lady Michelle Obama.
Approximately 35 Sailors or one-fourth of the total crew have reported to Illinois over the past few weeks, including Commanding Officer Cmdr. Jess Porter; Engineering Officer Lt. Anthony Wilson; and Master Chief Machinist's Mate (SS) Steve Houk, the engineering department master chief.
"This is my first opportunity to be in command of a boat," said Porter. "It's a fantastic opportunity to be able to set the boat up well for its operational life in building the initial culture on board the submarine. Setting the initial culture is really what sets the boat up for a fantastic operational career."
Illinois is the 13th Virginia-class attack submarine and is under construction at General Dynamics Electric Boat (GDEB) and Huntington Ingalls Industries - Newport News Shipbuilding (HII-NNS).
Porter further reflected on the challenges he and the crew face with a unit under construction compared to an operational boat.
"On a PCU you have a whole bunch of new guys all at once coming to learn a new boat, where on an operational boat you have about one-third new crew members each year." Porter said. "That's the biggest challenge for me is to get those guys up on the step and ready to go to sea to fully operate the warship."
Illinois will be the second U.S. Navy vessel named after the 21st state and is the third Block III Virginia-class submarine.
Illinois is being built under a teaming arrangement between General Dynamics Electric Boat and Newport News Shipbuilding, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries, in Newport News, Va.
Upon completion, the submarine will displace 7,800 tons of water at a length of 377 feet and a beam of 34 feet. It will be able to dive to depths greater than 800 feet and operate at speeds in excess of 25 knots while submerged.
Initial construction on the submarine began in March 2011 and it is contracted to be delivered in August 2016.
Virginia-class submarines are designed to dominate the world's littoral and deep waters while conducting anti-submarine, anti-surface ship, strike, irregular and mine warfare missions. They also support special operation forces in addition to covert intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance.
For more news from Commander Submarine Group 2, visit www.navy.mil/local/Subgru2/.