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General Dynamics Electric Boat lays keel for US Navy’s 24th Virginia-class submarine


General Dynamics Electric Boat (GDEB) held a keel-laying ceremony for future USS Iowa (SSN 797), the 24th unit in the US Navy’s Virginia-class of nuclear-powered attack submarines. The ceremony took place at General Dynamics Electric Boat Quonset Point facility on August 20, 2019.


GDEB lays keel for US Navys 24th Virginia class submarine 925 001 Ceremony for the Virginia-class attack submarine USS (Picture source: U.S. Navy)


The keel laying of a ship is a time-honored tradition. In the days of wooden ships, the start of construction was marked by the laying of the first timber – the backbone of the vessel. Today, this celebration is modified to reflect current manufacturing methods as well as the cylindrical shape of modern submarines. Shipbuilders and sailors refer to the bottom centerline of the submarine as the keel.

The newest Iowa is being built under a teaming agreement between General Dynamics Electric Boat (GDEB) and Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Newport News Shipbuilding division wherein both companies build certain portions of each submarine and then alternate deliveries. Iowa is also the fourth US Navy ship to bear the name. The last ship to bear the name was the lead ship of Iowa-class battleships which saw action in World War II, the Korean and Vietnam Wars and the Gulf War.

SSN 797 belongs to the Block IV submarines which incorporate improvements that allow them to spend less time undergoing maintenance. They are scheduled to undergo three major maintenance overhauls during their lifetime, compared to their predecessors’ four, enabling them to perform an additional deployment. The submarines are built under a $17.8 billion contract awarded in April 2014 with General Dynamic Electric Boat as the prime contractor.

There are currently eight Virginia-class submarines in various stages of construction at Quonset Point and one Columbia-class hull. Over the next few years, the site will grow considerably, adding an additional 13-acres of hull outfitting space for Virginia and Columbia class submarines.