NORTH KINGSTON, R.I. – Senator Hoeven today joined US Navy officials and North Dakota residents to celebrate the keel laying of the USS North Dakota, a Virginia-class nuclear submarine currently under construction and named for the state.
The laying of the keel is an important milestone in the shipbuilding process, and a ceremony is historically held to mark the occasion. In keeping with Navy tradition, today’s ceremony invited the ship’s sponsor Katie Fowler, wife of Bismarck-native retired Vice Adm. Jeff Fowler, to have her initials welded into a section of the ship’s hull. The Fowlers are part of a larger group of North Dakotans, many of whom attended today’s ceremony, who comprise the USS North Dakota Committee. This Committee, led by its chairman Judge Robert Wefald, has long worked to name a ship to honor the service and sacrifice of North Dakota military servicemembers and veterans. In the summer of 2008, then governor Hoeven, the congressional delegation and members of the Committee met with Secretary of the Navy Donald C. Winter to secure the designation of a Virginia-class submarine as the USS North Dakota.
“This is a banner day for the State of North Dakota,” Hoeven said. “We are honored to have this new submarine named for our state. It will serve as a fitting and lasting tribute to the many North Dakotans who have so honorably served our country. We are also grateful to the many individuals who have worked so hard to make this project a reality. Their efforts will ensure that this submarine bearing our state name will play a proud role in the largest – and greatest – battle fleet in the world.”
Virginia-class submarines are next-generation nuclear attack submarines designed to excel in anti-submarine warfare; anti-ship warfare; strike warfare; special operations; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; irregular warfare; and mine warfare missions. The submarines incorporate latest technological advancements, including sophisticated surveillance capabilities and a built-in reactor plant that will fuel the submarine throughout the duration of its estimated 33-year service life expectancy.
The USS North Dakota is slated to be fully assembled in 2013 and commissioned in 2014. To date, this is the second ship named in honor of North Dakota. The first, the Delaware-class USS North Dakota, operated from 1910 to 1923.