New USS Washington to be commissioned Saturday

An undated photo of the future USS Washington (SSN 787). The Navy accepted delivery of the 14th submarine of the Virginia-class on May 26.(Photo: U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Huntington Ingalls Industries by Matt Hildreth)
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The USS Washington, the third U.S. Navy vessel and first submarine to be named after Washington state, will be commissioned Saturday in Norfolk, Virginia.

It is the Navy's 14th Virginia-class nuclear-powered fast attack submarine and will be one of most technologically advanced boats in the fleet.

"I am touched that the Navy has chosen this submarine to honor our state," said Alan Beam, a retired Navy captain who is president of the Bremerton Olympic Peninsula Council of the United States Navy League and communications director for the USS Washington Commissioning Committee. "Washington state has a distinguished history in support and defense of our country."

The USS Washington Commissioning Committee will host a live streaming of the commissioning ceremony at McClouds Grill House at 8 a.m. It will also be streamed at http://navylive.dodlive.mil/.

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Everett-based Scuttlebutt Brewing Company released a limited edition stout in honor of the Washington's commissioning, which will be served at McClouds during the ceremony's live stream.

The Blackfish Stout is described as "a beer as black as the depths in which (the sub) will operate, complex in structure and resolute in purpose, strong, proud and brave like those who will serve aboard her."

Beam, who served as the third commanding officer of the USS Bremerton, will  attend the sub's commissioning. He looks "forward to the opportunity to see our newest and best."

"It is an opportunity to meet the crew and tell them how much the state appreciates their labor in our behalf," Beam said. "It is a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the newest and best technology that the country has to offer."

The Washington was built by Huntington Ingalls Industries Newport News Shipbuilding and General Dynamics’ Electric Boat Division in Newport News, Virginia, at a cost of $2.6 billion. The sub displaces 7,800 tons, is 377 feet in length and can accommodate 15 officers and 117 enlisted sailors. 

It is capable of a submerged speed of 25 knots, can dive in excess of 800 feet and can stay underwater for up to three months at a time. 

The sub is the fourth of eight Block-III contract Virginia-class subs that have a partially redesigned bow from prior Virginia-class subs, including two new large-diameter payload tubes that can launch six Tomahawk land-attack missiles each. 

The sub has been assigned to Submarine Squadron Six and will be based in Norfolk for the next few years during sea trials.

The legacy of the USS Washington

Although nine Navy ships have been named Washington, the first six were named in honor of President George Washington. The submarine's two Washington state namesake predecessors both had wartime service careers, according to records from the Naval History and Heritage Command

The first USS Washington, a Tennessee-class armored cruiser, was commissioned in 1906. During its first year of service, the Washington served as an escort to the USS Louisiana as it carried President Theodore Roosevelt to inspect work on the Panama Canal. 

In 1916, the Washington was renamed the USS Seattle so the name could be bestowed upon a new battleship. The Seattle served as an escort during World War I and brought troops back home from France at the end of the war. The Seattle was sent to the Puget Sound Navy Yard for an overhaul in 1919. After 40 years of on-and-off service, the ship was decommissioned and scrapped in 1946.

In 1919, the Navy began construction on the Colorado-class battleship that was supposed to be the second Naval ship named after the state of Washington. However, construction on the ship stopped following the signing of the Washington Naval Treaty for the Limitation of Naval Armaments in 1922. The treaty capped the number of battleships, battlecruisers and aircraft carriers signatory states could build with the intent to prevent an arms race after the of the end of World War I.

Two years after the U.S. signed the treaty, the almost 80 percent completed battleship was hauled out to sea and sunk by the battleships USS Texas and the USS New York during in a training exercise. 

The second USS Washington (BB-56) was a North Carolina-class battleship that served from 1941 to 1961. The ship earned 13 battle stars during World War II operations in both the Atlantic and the Pacific theaters.

In one notable instance, the Washington engaged and sunk the Japanese battleship Kirishima during the Battle of Guadalcanal in 1942 in the first head-to-head confrontation between battleships in the Pacific theater, according to the Naval History and Heritage Command.

Later in the war, the Washington provided shelling support for the battles for Peleliu in 1944, Iwo Jima in 1945 and Okinawa in 1945, among many others. 

The Washington returned stateside to the Puget Sound Navy Yard in 1944 for repair work after a collision with the USS Indiana during the invasion of the Marshall Islands in 1944.

At the end of the war, the Washington brought American service members home. The ship was mothballed in 1947 and was scrapped in 1961.