The newest Virginia-class attack submarine, USS South Dakota (SSN 790), will be commissioned at Groton, Connecticut, Feb. 2, 2019. It will be the 17th Virginia-class attack submarine to join the fleet.
As the most modern and sophisticated attack submarine in the world, the submarine can operate in both littoral and deep ocean environments and presents combatant commanders with a broad and unique range of operational capabilities. South Dakota is a flexible, multi-mission platform designed to carry out the seven core competencies of the submarine force: anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, delivery of Special Operations Forces (SOF), strike warfare, irregular warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and mine warfare.
South Dakota is a part of the Virginia-class’ third, or Block III, contract, in which the Navy redesigned approximately 20 percent of the ship to reduce acquisition costs. South Dakota features a redesigned bow, which replaces 12 individual Vertical Launch System (VLS) tubes with two large-diameter Virginia Payload Tubes (VPTs) each capable of launching six Tomahawk cruise missiles, among other design changes that reduced the submarines’ acquisition cost while maintaining their outstanding warfighting capabilities.
South Dakota also has special features to support Special Forces, including a reconfigurable torpedo room which can accommodate a large number of personnel and all their equipment for prolonged deployments and future off-board payloads. Also, in Virginia-class SSNs, traditional periscopes have been replaced by two photonics masts that host visible and infrared digital cameras atop telescoping arms, which are maneuvered by a video game controller. Through the extensive use of modular construction, open architecture and commercial off-the-shelf components, the Virginia class is designed to remain at the cutting edge for its entire operational life through the rapid introduction of new systems and payloads.
SSN-790, which was built at General Dynamics Electric Boat in Groton, Connecticut, will be 7,800-tons and 377 feet in length, have a beam of 34 feet and operate at more than 25 knots submerged. It is designed with a reactor plant that will not require refueling during the planned life of the boat, reducing lifecycle costs while increasing underway time.
Deanie Dempsey, wife of former Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman and retired Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, is the ship’s sponsor. She spent several decades of service in support of the Army, before becoming a champion for all of the services in her role as the chairman’s spouse. In that capacity, she has engaged in countless activities in support of military families, coached and mentored military spouses of all services, participated in dozens of private and charitable organizations, traveled the world representing the United States military, hosted visits to the United States by the spouses of foreign military leaders, and coordinated the family support activities of the White House and Department of Defense.
The submarine South Dakota will be the fourth planned, and third commissioned U.S. Navy vessel to bear the South Dakota name.
The first USS South Dakota (ACR9/CA 9) was a Pennsylvania-class armored cruiser that launched in 1904. Assigned to the Armored Cruiser Squadron, Pacific Fleet, South Dakota cruised off the west coast of the United States through August 1908. It was then sent on a cruise to Samoa and later operated in Central and South American waters. The armored cruiser returned home in 1912 and was placed in reserve at Puget Sound Navy Yard.