|Arthur Dominic Villasanta |||Aug 28, 2016 09:44 PM EDT|
(Photo : US Navy) US First Lady Michelle Obama breaks a bottle of champagne on the sail of the USS Illinois during the boat's christening in Oct. 2015
The USS Illinois (SSN 786), a Virginia-class attack submarine sponsored by U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama, has been delivered to the Navy and will officially join the fleet in a ceremony on Oct 29.
Mrs. Obama christened the boat on Oct.10, 2015 at General Dynamics Electric Boat Shipyard in Groton, Connecticut.
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The sub, the newest in its class, will likely join the United States Pacific Fleet based in Hawaii in light of that command's pressing need for submarines. Its first commanding officer is Commander Jess Porter.
Mrs. Obama hails from Illinois and grew up in the South Side of Chicago, the most populous city in the state. She and her husband first met in Chicago.
General Dynamics Electric Boat, the boat's builder, delivered the submarine after nearly five and a half years of construction.
The $2.7 billion submarine is the 13th member of the Virginia class. The sub, which is the third in the Block III series, features a redesigned bow with two large tubes to launch Tomahawk missiles instead of 12 smaller tubes. The larger tubes give the Navy the flexibility to launch future weapons and unmanned vehicles.
Mrs. Obama called the submarine a "technological wonder" during the sub's christening.
"It is full of technologies like a photonics mast, full of high-resolution and infrared cameras," she said. "It has the most advanced stealth, sonar and communications systems and enough high-definition screens to put Best Buy out of business."
The Navy has 13 active Virginia boats. The Navy has ordered 15 more Virginia-class submarines and 10 of those are under construction. The last of the 15 is set for delivery in 2023 as the 28th member of the class.
The soon to be built 10 Block V subs, the next generation to the Block IV now in service, will be armed with the Virginia Payload Modules that will more than triple the offensive strike capability of the submarines.
Capt. Michael Stevens, the Navy's Virginia-class program manager, said the Virginia-class are needed to replace those built during the Cold War and are retiring.
"Every submarine counts," he said. "Every submarine is needed out there."
Cmdr. Porter described the Illinois as a "stealthy weapon" that can influence adversaries in a way that makes the U.S. more secure. He said the crew of about 130 men will take the submarine to sea for additional testing to prove its capabilities.
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