The start of construction on the US Navy’s newest Virginia-class attack submarine, Massachusetts (SSN 798), was officially marked by a ‘keel authentication ceremony’.

Huntington Ingalls Industries’ (HII) Newport News Shipbuilding division held the event virtually due to the restrictions related to the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Newport News Shipbuilding president Jennifer Boykin said: “This construction milestone is typically a small ceremony with shipbuilders and the submarine’s crew in attendance.

“Given the current Covid-19 environment and the precautions it requires, today’s event is smaller than usual in scope, but not in importance.”

SSN 798 is the 25th ‘Virginia-class’ fast attack submarine being built by the company as part of the teaming agreement with General Dynamics Electric Boat (GDEB).

Construction of the Massachusetts submarine started in March 2017 and is currently almost 50% complete.

The US Navy is expected to receive the boat in 2023.

SSN 798 pre-commissioning unit commanding officer commander Erik Lundberg said: “One of the privileges in establishing a command from the very beginning is developing a relationship with the boat’s namesake state — a relationship inherited from our forebears and one that will last the life of the ship and beyond.

“Our mission is clear — deliver the most advanced, most capable warship to the Navy and our nation with an equally advanced and capable crew to bring her to life.”

In August, HII reported revenues of $2.02bn in the second quarter of this year.

In February, the company signed an agreement to acquire underwater technology company Hydroid from Kongsberg Maritime in a $350m deal.