Submarine New Mexico Set for Va. Commissioning

March 26, 2010

The proud shipbuilders and the crew of the New Mexico on Thursday showed off the Navy's newest nuclear-powered submarine, as the sleek, black vessel was readied for its commissioning.

The Navy will commission the Virginia-class attack submarine on Saturday at Naval Station Norfolk, the world's largest naval base. The $2.7 billion ship was built at nearby Northrop Grumman shipyard in Newport News in partnership with General Dynamics Electric Boat.

Two days before the ship's sponsor cries "bring her to life," sending its 134-member crew scrambling to the ship, pier 14 at shipyard was abuzz with activities. Workers checked the sound system on a podium wrapped in red, white and blue bunting and a steady stream of sailors and visitors squeezed into the submarine's three decks.

The ship is a modern shipbuilding marvel: the periscope famously portrayed in World War II movies has been replaced with cameras that deliver images in color, black and white and infrared to banks of big screens onboard.

The 7,800-ton ship can dive to depths greater than 800 feet, operate at speeds topping 25 knots and remain submerged for three months.

The New Mexico underwent a series of sea trials and other tests, sometime cramming 200 sailors, Navy brass and shipbuilders within its tight quarters.

"Oh, it performed wonderfully, wonderfully," said Cmdr. Mark A Prokopius, a Seven Hills, Ohio, native and the New Mexico's prospective commanding officer. "We had great sea trials."

The New Mexico ultimately will be home-ported in Groton, Conn.

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