Submarine ready for its first splash
About 3,000 yard employees have worked on the vessel over the past six years, an effort that will culminate in a christening scheduled for April 21.
BY PETER DUJARDIN
April 5, 2007
NEWPORT NEWS -- The last-minute preparations are under way.
Northrop Grumman Newport News said this week that it would christen the North Carolina - the fourth submarine in the Virginia class of nuclear-powered submersibles - in a shipyard ceremony April 21.
The ship's sponsor will be Linda Anne Rich Bowman, wife of Frank L. "Skip" Bowman, a retired Navy admiral who was in charge of the Navy's nuclear reactor program. She'll be the one in charge of breaking of a bottle of American sparkling wine across the boat's bow.
The ceremony will be closed to the public.
The $2.3 billion sub is to be rolled outside Friday on a set of rail cars from a modular outfitting site where the sub has been built.
It will sit at an area along the James River for the ceremony, and in coming weeks, it will be moved into a nearby dock that will be filled with water.
A christening, in shipbuilding terms, is a blessing and official naming of a ship. It's timed to "the launch," when the vessel floats in water for the first time.
Ships formerly slid into the water during the events, but they now are typically floated before or after the ceremony.
The event will be the second christening at the Newport News yard - after the recently delivered USS Texas - after a 10-year hiatus from its last sub delivery. About 3,000 shipyard employees have worked on the boat over the past six years.
The North Carolina - the fourth Navy vessel named after the Tar Heel State - has 114 crew members assigned to it now, out of an eventual crew of 134. It's scheduled to be delivered to the Navy in December, with some outfitting work left to do on the dock.
The boat was built jointly by Northrop Grumman Newport News and General Dynamics Electric Boat in Groton, Conn. - the shipyard's one-time competitor - over the past six years.
Under the Virginia-class teaming agreement designed to keep two shipyards in business, each yard specializes in parts of the subs - with each yard taking turns on installing the reactor spaces and final assembly.
Electric Boat specializes in control and engine rooms, for example, and Newport News specializes in living quarters, weapons rooms and machinery spaces.
Parts are shuttled between the yards by barge.