NORTH KINGSTON, R.I. (NNS) -- The U.S. Navy held a keel-laying ceremony for Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Illinois (SSN 786) at General Dynamics Electric Boat, June 2.
The initials of the submarine's sponsor, First Lady Michelle Obama, were welded onto a steel plate that will be permanently affixed to the submarine's hull. Obama is a Chicago native and long-time supporter of military service members and their families. Her husband, President Barack Obama, is a former state and U.S. Senator for Illinois.
"The Navy and the submarine force are honored to have the First Lady serve as the sponsor for the future USS Illinois," said Capt. David Goggins, Virginia-class program manager. "The event marks the first major construction milestone for the submarine and helps forge a special bond between Mrs. Obama, her submarine and her crew that will last for years to come."
Illinois began construction in March 2011 and is on track to continue the Virginia-class program's trend of delivering submarines early to their contract delivery dates.
"Illinois' keel laying is a special day for our Navy, the state of Illinois and our shipbuilding partners," said Rear Adm. David Johnson, program executive officer for submarines. "Building Illinois is a team effort and the skill and commitment of the entire shipbuilding team is evident in the first-time quality and operational successes of these front-line platforms."
Illinois is the second Navy ship to be named after the 21st state. It is the 13th submarine of the Virginia class and the third of the Block III construction contract. Virginia-class submarines are built under a unique construction contract between General Dynamics Electric Boat and Huntington Ingalls Industries-Newport News Shipbuilding.
In addition to Illinois' keel laying, other Virginia-class milestones in 2014 include PCU John Warner's (SSN 785) christening, slated for later this summer, and PCU North Dakota's (SSN 784) commissioning and PCU Washington's (SSN 787) keel laying, both expected to occur this fall.
Virginia-class submarines are built to dominate the world's littoral and deep waters while conducting anti-submarine warfare; anti-surface ship warfare; strike warfare; special operation forces support; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; irregular warfare; and mine warfare missions. Their inherent stealth, endurance, mobility, and firepower directly enable them to support five of the six maritime strategy core capabilities - sea control, power projection, forward presence, maritime security, and deterrence.
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