THANKS TO THE efforts of Local 614 members (Groton, Conn.) the U.S. Navy christened its newest Virginia-class nuclear-powered attack submarine, the New Hampshire, on June 21, a date that coincided with the 220th anniversary of New Hampshire’s statehood.
The fifth Virginia class to be built, she was completed months ahead of schedule at General Dynamics Electric Boat in Groton, Conn.
The submarine was christened by Cheryl McGuinness, a resident of Portsmouth, N.H. Her husband, Tom, died on Sept. 11, 2001, in the attacks on the World Trade Center. He was a co-pilot of American Airlines Flight 11.
The christening marked the third time the U.S. Navy has named a ship after the state of New Hampshire. The newest New Hampshire is the first Virginia-class ship to be built in 72 months, down from 84. “That’s a savings of $8 million in man-hours alone,” reports Local 614 Bus. Mgr. Frank Ward.
The newest New Hampshire is also the first submarine of its class to be placed in the water at 99 percent completion. The 7,800-ton submarine was built under a teaming arrangement between General Dynamics Electric Boat and Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding in Newport News, Va. She is 337 feet in length, has a beam of 34 feet, and can operate at more than 25 knots submerged.
The New Hampshire’s improved stealth, sophisticated surveillance capabilities, and special warfare enhancements will enable it to meet the Navy’s multi-mission requirements. It is scheduled to be commissioned October 25 at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine.
Since the 1980s, the U.S. Navy fleet has shrunk from nearly 600 ships to about 280, but the Navy is not building at the replacement rate, so it will shrink even further. This year Congress funded nine ships, which is the best in a while, but below the replacement rate, which is about 10 per year.
“The decline in the number of ships being built combined with advances in technology and some work going nonunion has caused a traumatic decline in our membership,” Ward said. “We are at 10 percent of what we’ve been.”
But Ward is hopeful that membership numbers will rise in the next couple of years when pending legislation to increase to two ships per year becomes effective.
Local 614 has represented workers at the shipyard since it was chartered in 1944.