Keel authenticated for Virginia-class submarine Massachusetts at Newport News Shipbuilding

Newport News

Massachusetts keel ceremony

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — The keel of the new Virginia-class fast-attack submarine Massachusetts was authenticated Friday at Newport News Shipbuilding.

The authentication marks a milestone in the construction of the project, which is the 25th Virginia-class submarine built for the U.S. Navy.

“Today’s event is a significant milestone in the life of the boat because it is the official construction kickoff, but it also marks the beginning of an important partnership between our shipbuilders who will build this mighty war vessel and the sailors who will bring her to life,” said NNS President Jennifer Boykin.

Friday’s ceremony was virtual and without any attendees because of the coronavirus pandemic, Huntington Ingalls Industries wrote in a news release.

“This construction milestone is typically a small ceremony with shipbuilders and the submarine’s crew in attendance,” said Boykin. “Given the current COVID-19 environment and the precautions it requires, today’s event is smaller than usual in scope, but not in importance.”

The ship’s sponsor is Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook. Sandberg etched her initials onto a metal plate in a pre-recorded video message, signifying the keel of SSN 798 as being “truly and fairly laid.”

NNS Master Shipbuilder Ronnie Payne — who has worked on every Virginia-class submarine built in Newport News — then etched Sandberg’s initials into a piece of metal at the Supplemental Module Outfitting Facility. That piece of metal will be attached to the ship for its lifespan.

“This year has been difficult for so many, and I am extra grateful for moments like this one when we can celebrate such an important milestone together,” Sandberg said. “I have a deep respect for the shipbuilders who will bring this vessel to life. I am so grateful for the opportunity to build a lifelong bond with this boat and its crew in my role as the sponsor.”

Construction on the Massachusetts began in March 2017.

It’s about 50% complete and is expected to be delivered to the Navy in 2023.

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