NORFOLK, Va. — A proud day for the Navy and Hampton Roads shipbuilders is at hand this weekend.
The nation's newest nuclear-powered attack submarine will be commissioned at Naval Station Norfolk and will officially join the fleet.
When she is commissioned on Saturday, USS Montana will become the Navy's 21st Virginia Class submarine. The plan is to build 66 of them, between now and the year 2043.
The 7,800-ton vessels are built for undersea supremacy.
"And we do all kinds of missions, from submarine warfare, to surface warfare, to strike warfare. You name it, we can do it," said the Montana's commanding officer, CDR Jon Quimby.
Chief of the Boat Chief Timothy Baldwin said the Montana's capabilities are important. However, he said, "What's even more awesome is the crew that operates them. So, without the crew to operate it, it's honestly just a hunk of metal."
The Virginia Class subs are built in a cooperative teaming arrangement between Huntington Ingalls Industries Newport News Shipbuilding and General Dynamics Electric Boat in Groton, Connecticut.
At $2.8 billion apiece, they aren't cheap. But backers say they are well worth it.
"Those give us an incredible undersea over-match against our adversaries," said Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Virginia, 1st District). "Listen, I think it's one of, if not the most important program we have in the United States military."
The Navy is currently building two Virginia Class subs per year.
Wittman, who serves as the ranking member on the House Armed Services Seapower and Project Forces Subcommittee, hopes to see that number jump to three in the near future, as the older Los Angeles Class submarines are phased out.
Following Saturday's commissioning ceremony, "The Vigilantes of the Deep," as the Montana's 132-member crew call themselves, will return to Newport News Shipbuilding for the sub's post-shakedown availability.
It's projected the Montana will undergo up to 15 deployments during its expected 33-year service life.