The interior of a nuclear submarine scheduled to be built soon will be adorned with detail work and displays extolling Idaho’s history, natural wonders and military heroes.
The fast attack nuclear submarine will be the first ship named the USS Idaho in more than a century.
A keel laying ceremony for the vessel is scheduled for Monday in Quonset Point, Rhode Island, starting at 10:15 a.m. Because of the COVID-19 crisis, the ceremony will be live streamed online at gdeb.com/news/events/keel_laying, and in-person attendance will be limited. Former Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, who chairs an advisory board for the USS Idaho Commissioning Committee, will be the state’s representative at the ceremony.
“Idaho has a rich Naval history that spans the entire state from Camp Farragut in Northern Idaho to Naval Reactors Facility at the Idaho National Lab. In fact, much of the acoustic technology on the future USS Idaho was developed on Lake Pend Oreille at the Navy Research Facility in Bayview, Idaho,” Kempthorne said in a press release. “The vision of the Commissioning Committee is to bring together the people of Idaho and the officers and crew of the Idaho to create a bond that will last throughout the life of the ship and beyond.”
Kempthorne said the submarine will also honor men and women from Idaho who have served in the U.S. military.
Marty Sattison, a retired Navy captain who lives in Idaho Falls and serves as southeast regional chairman of the committee, explained the laying of the keel is a Navy tradition dating back to the days of wooden ships. The keel is a ship’s backbone.
“Today it’s all done for tradition. Submarines don’t really have keels. They’re built in modules welded together,” Sattison explained.
Sattison said the advisory board and board of directors will include former Navy admirals and other top officials with ties to Idaho.
“During construction, we’ll be promoting and getting people in the state of Idaho to know it’s happening and generating some pride in having that,” Sattison said. “We’ll be working with construction crews to personalize the ship to make it more Idaho-centric.”
For example, Sattison said the ship may include plaques featuring past Idaho Medal of Honor winners and displays on warriors from the state’s five Native American tribes. Idaho gems and Idaho travertine rock may be incorporated into the design and text inlaid into tables may reference Idaho history.
Activities will be planned surrounding the ship’s commissioning, and the committee will spearhead fundraising efforts to support them. The christening of the ship will be conducted by the ship’s sponsor, Teresa Stackley, who is the wife of former Acting Navy Secretary Sean Stackley.
Sattison said ships in a given class are typically named according to a common theme. The USS Idaho will be the 26th ship of the Virginia class of fast attack nuclear submarines — most of the previous submarines in the class were also named after states. The current class replaces submarines in the Los Angeles class, which included mostly vessels named after cities. The Los Angeles class represented the state-of-the-art in the 1980s and 1990s.
According to the Navy press release, each new ship in the Virginia class advances the state-of-the-art with each succeeding ship, and “submarine Idaho’s adaptability will make it highly responsive to evolving mission requirements.”
Sattison explained the submarines are nuclear powered and never require refueling throughout their anticipated 30 years of service. They cost approximately $2.44 billion each to build. Submarines in the class will be equipped with torpedoes and cruise missiles.
Richard Colburn, a Parma native who retired as a Navy captain and chairs the committee, said the submarine will fill a variety of roles for the nation’s defense.
“One thing about submarines is that they’re very very versatile in that they can operate independently or they can operate in concern with other Navy assets,” Colburn said.
Colburn said the USS Idaho will be assigned a port in about a year.
It will be the fifth U.S. ship in history to be called the USS Idaho. The last time a ship was commissioned as USS Idaho was in 1919. The USS Idaho BB42 was a battleship that saw service in World War II and had a central role in the Battle of Iwo Jima.