The US Navy's Virginia-class submarine John Warner (SSN 785) has been launched into the James River, marking the start of the final outfitting, testing and crew certification phase of construction at the Huntington Ingalls Industries' (HII) Newport News Shipbuilding unit.
Being carried out in preparation of sea trials next year, the six-month phase is aimed at testing the remaining systems and enhancing the reliability of the training for the crew certification programme.
John Warner submarine prospective commanding officer commander Dan Caldwell said: "Having the submarine in the water allows us to test the remaining systems and improves the fidelity of the training that we are doing in preparation for crew certification.
"The ship's launching is an important milestone that puts us one step closer to our ultimate goal of taking this ship out to sea."
The 12th submarine of the Virginia-class and the sixth being delivered to the navy, John Warner is built to comply with the requirements of the navy in a post-Cold War period. It has sophisticated technologies to bolster firepower, manoeuvrability and stealth.
With a displacement of 7,800t, hull length of 377ft and a diameter of 34ft, the Virginia-class submarines can cruise at a maximum speed of over 25k and have the capability to dive to more than 800ft deep and stay submerged for nearly three months at a time.
Newport News submarines and fleet support vice-president Jim Hughes said: "The John Warner team has made tremendous progress over the last year.
"To see the submarine afloat in the James River just days after the christening is testament to the dedication and hard work of both the shipbuilders here at Newport News, as well as those at our partner yard, Electric Boat."
John Warner, which is scheduled to be delivered to the US Navy next year, can be equipped with Mark 48 advanced capability torpedoes, Tomahawk land-attack missiles and unmanned underwater vehicles. It can also be used for the latest mission requirements such as anti-submarine, surface-ship warfare and special operations support.
Image: The John Warner submarine during its final outfitting, testing and crew certification phase at Newport News Shipbuilding's submarine pier. Photo: courtesy of Ricky Thompson / HII.