Special to the Atlantic News
Atlantic News, Friday, June 27, 2006
[The following article is courtesy of Atlantic News]
[Atlantic News Photo by John Narewski]
SEACOAST -- It's official! New Hampshire is now more than just a state -- it's a submarine.
Following the christening of the Navy's newest submarine last weekend, what will eventually become the USS New Hampshire is undergoing final preparations for what will be an October gala at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard when the submarine is commissioned this fall.
And it all began right here in the Seacoast.
In early 2004, third grade students at Garrison Elementary School in Dover wrote to United States Senator John Sununu and other members of the State's Congressional Delegation asking that one of the three new Virginia Class submarines be named for the State of New Hampshire.
Sununu wrote to then-Secretary of the Navy Gordon England on the students' behalf. In August of 2004, Sununu joined Secretary England at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard as he announced that SSN-778 would be named for New Hampshire.
In 2007, Sununu and Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) wrote to US Naval Commander Bruce Derenski urging him to hold the commissioning ceremony of the USS New Hampshire at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. In March of 2008, Secretary of the Navy Donald Winter approved their request. The commissioning ceremony will take place at the Shipyard on October 25, 2008.
The original USS New Hampshire was built at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and commissioned in 1864 in time for Civil War duty off the coast of South Carolina. She was decommissioned in 1892. The second USS New Hampshire was commissioned in 1908 and served as a convoy escort vessel in World War I.
On Saturday, June 21, the newest USS New Hampshire (currently designated a 'pre-commissioning unit" by the US Navy) was christened in a grand ceremony at the General Dynamic Electric Boat Shipyard in Groton, Connecticut, where it is undergoing the final phase of construction.
"This christening marks the third time the State of New Hampshire has lent its name to an American warship since the founding of the US Navy. Third graders at Garrison Elementary School in Dover began the effort to name a modern naval vessel after our State in 2003, after learning that the last USS New Hampshire had been decommissioned in 1921," Sen. Sununu said. "I was pleased to work with the other members of the Congressional Delegation to bring the children's request to the attention of the US Navy."
"Five years later, the students' hard work and perseverance has paid off, as today's christening marks the end of the construction phase of the fast-attack submarine," he added. "Meanwhile, Granite Staters can look forward to viewing our new namesake ship this October, when the commissioning of the New Hampshire takes place at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. I look forward to joining the hardworking men and women of the Shipyard and Seacoast residents for the celebration."
The Virginia-class submarines are the latest generation of attack submarines, capable of launching Tomahawk cruise missiles, torpedoes, and autonomous undersea vehicles from anywhere in the world. The New Hampshire is the newest of this class, and it is equipped with cutting edge sonar systems and specialized accommodations for SEALs teams, the Navy's elite special operations component.
Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH) and Congressman Joe Courtney (D-CT) spoke at the ceremony. Cheryl McGuinness of Portsmouth christened the submarine. Her husband Tom was a pilot on American Airlines Flight 11, which crashed into the World Trade Center during the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
In addition to hosting the formal commissioning ceremony, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is also scheduled to perform the first maintenance work on USS New Hampshire in 2014, but will accept the first in class, SSN-774 USS Virginia, in October 2010, at a new waterfront support facility to be built with funding secured in part by Shea-Porter.
In October, the Navy is expected to officially declare the New Hampshire operational at its commissioning ceremony at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, when it will officially earn the designation of United States Ship (USS).
Saturday's christening ceremony continued a long Navy tradition stemming from the 1797 christening of USS Constitution in Boston. The event marks the formal transfer of the vessel to the Navy from Electric Boat and Northrop Grumman Ship Systems.