Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Newport News Shipbuilding division has started construction on the US Navy’s Virginia-class Washington submarine (SSN 787).
The keel laying of the submarine, which will be the 14th Virginia-class vessel and the seventh to be delivered by Newport News, follows the commissioning process of USS North Dakota (SSN 784) last month.
US Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said: "The vessel whose keel we lay today will be the most advanced ship in the world; its technology unmatched.
"Their dedication, their expertise [and] their incredibly hard work will fashion from steel and wire and electronics the premier platform that will be the Washington.
"We build the best warships in the world."
Built by General Dynamics (GD) Electric Boat, the next-generation vessels will allow the navy to maintain the nation’s undersea supremacy.
The 377ft-long submarine is capable of diving to more than 800ft and can cruise at maximum speeds of 25k when submerged. It can also operate for 33 years without being refuelled.
The vessel incorporates new Virginia payload tubes that are aimed at lowering expenses while improving missile-firing payload capabilities.
Virginia-class submarines are capable of executing anti-submarine, anti-surface ship, strike, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations, in addition to special operation forces and irregular and mine warfare.
They can also carry Mark 48 advanced-capability torpedoes, Tomahawk land-attack missiles and unmanned underwater vehicles.
The vessels, which are being built as part of the recently awarded block IV contract, will be delivered two-per-year from 2018.
Image: The keel-laying ceremony for the Washington (SSN 787). Photo: courtesy of Huntington Ingalls Industries, Inc.