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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Portsmouth Naval Shipyard gears up to work on first Virginia class sub

USS Virginia, meet the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.
The submarine will move into the shipyard Oct. 1, 2010. It's crew will call the Seacoast home until April 2012, while the vessel undergoes a full maintenance overhaul.
"The Virginia-class submarines are the future of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, and the arrival of the lead boat in the class next fall will usher in a new era for the shipyard team," said a joint statement by U.S. Sens. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and Susan Collins. R-Maine. "The USS Virginia is the most modern and innovative underwater warship on patrol today. It is only fitting that the Navy will rely on the nation's most capable submarine workforce for this inaugural extended maintenance period. The Navy knows which team to trust to do it right, and which team will set the standard for others to follow."
Virginia's current homeport is Groton, Conn., from which the ship deploys to missions across the globe. It's manned by 155 officers and crew, and is said by the senators to be set to have a direct economic impact of approximately $10.5 million on the York County-Portsmouth region.
Danna Eddy, deputy public affairs officer at the shipyard, wrote in an e-mail to the Herald that shipyard staff is "excited" about the arrival, and ongoing training of the work force and upgrades to existing facilities and equipment will ensure all will be ready by fall 2010. When asked if the sub's stay of roughly 18 months represented Naval support for the facility, Eddy wrote that the Navy's goal was to seek efficient workloads across all four naval shipyards in the United States as the Virginia class maintenance workload continues to grow.
"Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is a vital element of the Navy's submarine maintenance industrial base," Eddy wrote.
Paul O'Connor, president of the Metal Trades Council at the shipyard, said the submarine's arrival is an exciting opportunity for the shipyard, which he said will be performing the "full range" of maintenance on the sub. He noted that the U.S. Navy will be phasing out the Los Angeles class of submarines — which the local shipyard currently overhauls — over the next decade or so, leaving yards that can and have worked on Virginia class submarines with an advantage.
"We're excited about getting this new class of submarine at the shipyard," O'Connor said "That's our future workload."
O'Connor said he could not say what type of maintenance the shipyard would be performing, but said yard workers are preparing to utilize a new, modern and sophisticated machine to perform the work. The yard is also working on a new, approximately $22 million dry dock funded by a federal bill. O'Connor said the dock will not be complete when the Virginia arrives, but will be key for future work on that class of submarine.
"We're heading in the right direction," he said.
According to the Web site of the Federation of American Scientists, the Virginia class is larger than the Los Angeles class and is capable of deploying unmanned underwater vehicles. The Virginia is the first of its class and was originally commissioned in 2004, and the Navy hopes to have a force of at least 18 Virginia class subs by 2015 (seacoastonline).