Huntington Ingalls Industries’ (HII) Newport News Shipbuilding division has achieved a major construction milestone; 'pressure hull complete' status, by joining all of the hull sections of the US Navy's Virginia-class submarine Indiana (SSN 789) into a single, watertight unit.

HII said that pressure hull complete is the last major milestone before the submarine is christened.

Indiana (SSN 789) will be the 16th Virginia-class vessel. Its construction was initiated in September 2012 under a teaming agreement between Newport News and General Dynamics Electric Boat.

"The countless hours of hard work the shipbuilders have put into constructing and perfecting this boat is apparent."

The vessel is now 82% complete and is scheduled to be delivered to the US Navy at the end of 2017.

Indiana sponsor Diane Donald said: “The countless hours of hard work the shipbuilders have put into constructing and perfecting this boat is apparent, as Indiana has now taken on the shape of a submarine.

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“As Indiana moves closer to joining the navy’s fleet next year, I look forward to continuing to share this journey with her shipbuilders and crew members.”

The 377ft-long submarine can operate at a depth of more than 800ft, at maximum speeds of 25k. It can also run for 33 years without being refuelled.

The Virginia-class submarines are designed to engage in anti-submarine, anti-surface ship, strike, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations, as well as special operation forces and irregular and mine warfare.

Indiana is being built as part of a Block III contract, while the Block IV Virginia-class submarines will be delivered two-per-year, beginning in 2018.

Image: Indiana reaches pressure hull complete. Photo: courtesy of Chris Oxley.