Navy's new Virginia-class sub dubbed the Illinois

The U.S. Navy christened its newest Virginia-class attack submarine as the Illinois (SSN 786) in a ceremony at General Dynamics Electric Boat in Groton, Connecticut on Saturday. 

First Lady Michelle Obama, the ship’s sponsor, officially christened the submarine Illinois. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus delivered the new sub’s welcome address.

"As we christen the future USS Illinois, we celebrate the work of the thousands of exceptionally skilled shipbuilders who have been a part of making this submarine one of the most advanced ships in the world," Mabus said. "The production of submarines like the Illinois is not only an example of how we have reversed the decline in shipbuilding but also a representation of the strong partnership our Navy and Marine Corps have with the shipbuilding industry and the American people."

The Illinois is the 13th Virginia-class nuclear submarine and the third Virginia-class Block III submarine. The ship will start sailing next year.

Virginia-class submarines weigh 7,800 tons and are 377 feet long. The Illinois will have a 34-foot beam and can operate at more than 25 knots submerged. The Virginia-class submarine is built with a nuclear reactor plant that will not require refueling during the planned life of the ship. That reduces the lifecycle costs while increasing underway time.

The next-generation Virginia-class attack submarines provide the Navy with the capabilities required to maintain the nation's undersea supremacy well into the 21st century. They feature improved stealth capabilities, sophisticated surveillance equipment and special warfare enhancements that will enable them to meet the Navy's multi-mission requirements.

The Illinois is only the second U.S. Navy ship to be commissioned with the name. The previous Illinois was a battleship built in 1897. It was the lead ship of a class of three major battleships. She served through the end of World War II as a Midshipmen's training school.

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