NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — Huntington Ingalls christened its new Virginia-class submarine New Jersey (SSN 796) in Newport News on Saturday, and gave the media a special inside look beforehand.
With construction starting back in March of 2016, the New Jersey is the 23rd Virginia-class fast attack submarine.
Newport News Shipbuilding division achieved a milestone in its construction back in February when the company reached “pressure hull complete.” This means meaning that all of its hull sections were joined to form a single, watertight unit.
Now, just a handful of months later, we’re getting a close-up look at what this nuclear submarine looks like and some of what it’s capable of.
10 On Your Side was there at Huntington Ingalls Industries Newport News Shipbuilding’s event and spoke with some of the crew responsible for its construction.
“I’m from New Jersey,” said nuclear test engineer Nicholas Panagotopulos. “As a kid, I visited the battleship New Jersey a number of times and, you know, kind of got the light [in] my eyes to want to study marine engineering. I chose to study it in college and now I get to be a part of the new ‘New Jersey,’ which is a little bit special to me and proud moment for me as well.”
Panagotopulos says there are a few different things about this submarine that make it special, but mainly its power source.
“The difference here is a nuclear-powered submarine makes its own power underwater, continuously. So you don’t need to come up to the surface except for food really. These submarines can last really long time underwater and they can go pretty much go as long as they want to, which is a really, really long time,” he said.
People we heard from include members of New Jersey’s crew and Dr. Susan DiMarco, wife of former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson.
“It’s quite an honor to join a group of young men and women who are out there defending our country in ways that would scare most of us,” said DiMarco. “They’re going to the depths of the ocean, an unknown place. It’s a huge, huge honor to be included in that.”
Commanding Officer Carlos Otero said he’s proud of the work the shipyard has accomplished.
“The shipyard is a great partner,” said Otero. “They’re doing a fantastic job getting the boat built right the first time. They do the hard stuff right, they do the easy stuff quickly.”
Most of all, he and his sailors are excited to hit the waters once the submarine is complete.
“They are beside themselves. Sailors are meant to be on ships, and ships are meant to be out at sea. So the closer it gets actually getting there, the more excited the crew gets, the more hyped up everyone’s getting. It’s really unique and for most of our sailors it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” he said.
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