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GROTON, Connecticut – The Navy commissioned the fast-attack submarine USS Oregon (SSN 793) in a traditional ceremony held Saturday, May 28, at Naval Submarine Base New London.
“Oregonians are deeply honored that the 20th Virginia-class submarine will bear the name of our state,” said Gov. Kate Brown of Oregon, the ceremony’s keynote speaker.
The Memorial Day Weekend event for USS Oregon – the second of the Block IV Virginia-class subs – represented the first in-person submarine commissioning ceremony since the commissioning of the USS South Dakota (SSN 790) on Feb. 2, 2019.
“This is the first in-person commissioning ceremony of a submarine in more than three years, and that’s a long time to delay celebrations like this one,” Tommy Ross, performing the duties of Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition, told the assembled audience Saturday, adding: “As we honor the fallen this Memorial Day Weekend, I’d also like to remember the many service members who made the ultimate sacrifice to keep this great nation free.”
Because of restrictions on large gatherings in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 commissionings of USS Vermont (SSN 792) and USS Delaware (SSN 791) were completed administratively, with ceremonies held at later dates in 2021 and 2022 to celebrate the milestones retroactively.
SSN 793 is the third U.S. Navy ship launched to bear the name Oregon, but first in more than a century. The first, named after the Oregon Territory before Oregon became a state, was a brigantine in service from 1841-1845. The second was an Indiana-class battleship commissioned in 1896 and ultimately decommissioned for the final time in 1919.
“As we commission Oregon today, the torch is passed from our storied naval history to the present,” said Ross. “First a brig bearing the name Oregon served as an exploration vessel in the mid-19th century, and later as an Indiana-class battleship, Oregon served in the Spanish-American War and helped destroy (famed Spanish Adm. Pascual Cervera y Topete’s) fleet. Today, Oregon breaks her flag again and returns to sea, reborn as an extraordinarily capable fast-attack submarine.”
USS Oregon is 377 feet long, has a 34-foot beam and is able to dive to depths greater than 800 feet and operate at speeds in excess of 25 knots. She has a crew of nearly 140 Navy personnel.
“The passion, grit and enthusiasm of Oregon’s crew has carried the ship to sea and were vital to the completion of construction and testing,” said Cmdr. Lacy Lodmell, commanding officer of USS Oregon. “I have been deeply honored to see you grow into a team that is ready to undertake any mission we are assigned. This is without a doubt the finest crew I have ever had the pleasure to serve with.”
The submarine Oregon was previously christened in a traditional ceremony at General Dynamics Corp.’s Electric Boat shipyard in Groton, Connecticut, on Oct. 5, 2019.
Dana L. Richardson, the wife of former Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson, is the ship sponsor. During Saturday’s commissioning event, Dana Richardson gave the crew the traditional order to “man our ship and bring her to life,” after which Oregon’s Sailors ceremonially ran aboard the submarine.
Fast-attack submarines are multi-mission platforms enabling five of the six Navy maritime strategy core capabilities – sea control, power projection, forward presence, maritime security and deterrence. They are designed to excel in anti-submarine warfare, anti-ship warfare, strike warfare, special operations, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, irregular warfare and mine warfare. Fast-attack submarines project power ashore with special operations forces and Tomahawk cruise missiles in the prevention or preparation of regional crises.
“Oregon and the other Virginia-class submarines will not only sustain, but exploit our edge in undersea warfare,” said Adm. Frank Caldwell, director of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, at the Saturday ceremony. “Soon Oregon will employ her stealth, her flexibility, her superior firepower and her endurance to travel silently throughout the world’s oceans undetected, collecting intelligence, preparing for battle and – if necessary – striking from the deep swiftly without warning to answer the nation’s call.”
Block IV Virginia-class submarines incorporate design changes focused on reduced total ownership cost. By making these smaller-scale design changes to increase the component-level lifecycle of the submarine, the Navy will increase the periodicity between depot maintenance availabilities and increase the number of deployments.
Blocks I-III Virginia-class submarines are planned to undergo four depot maintenance availabilities and conduct 14 deployments. Block IV design changes are intended to reduce planned availabilities by one to three, and increase deployments to 15.
Other speakers at the commissioning ceremony included Kevin Graney, president of General Dynamics Corp.’s Electric Boat shipyard, as well as U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney of Connecticut. The master of ceremonies was Lt. Cmdr. Collin Hedges, executive officer of the USS Oregon.