The US Navy has commissioned its first of eight Block III Virginia-class submarines, USS North Dakota (SSN 784), at the Naval Submarine Base New London, US.
Built by General Dynamics (GD) Electric Boat, the next-generation vessels will allow the navy to maintain the nation's undersea dominance well into the 21st century.
The 377ft-long submarine integrates new Virginia payload tubes, which are intended to trim down expenses while increasing missile-firing payload possibilities.
US Navy Submarine Forces commander vice-admiral Michael Connor said: "From the Arabian Sea to the Polar Ice cap, North Dakota will operate undetected in the harshest environments on the planet as her crew protects the freedom of the seas and the interests of the US.
"Leaders around the world continue to ask for more American submarine presence, because they realise that there are some very important things that must be done that only submarines can do.
"To the crew of North Dakota, you have done a fantastic job in bringing this ship to life. Now it's time to shift your focus to global operations and get ready to meet your new responsibilities on patrol far from home."
The vessel can dive to more than 800ft and can cruise at speeds of 25k while submerged. It also is capable of operating for 33 years without being refuelled.
Mainly aimed at dominating the world's littoral and deep waters, the Virginia-class submarines can conduct anti-submarine, anti-surface ship, strike, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations, as well as special operation forces and irregular and mine warfare.
To date, the navy has received 11 Virginia-class submarines, with construction on seven additional block III submarines underway.
A further ten vessels, which are currently being built as part of the recently awarded block IV contract, will be delivered two-per-year from 2018.
Image: US Navy chief of naval operations (CNO) admiral Jonathan Greenert during the commissioning of USS North Dakota. Photo: courtesy of the US Navy, photo by mass communication specialist 1st class William Larned.