USS ILLINOIS (SSN-786), is a Virginia-class submarine. The contract to build her was awarded to Huntington Ingalls Industries in partnership with the Electric Boat division of General Dynamics in Newport News, Virginia on 22 December 2008. This ship is the third of the Block III submarines which will feature a revised bow, including some technology from Ohio-class SSGNs. The first group of sailors reported for duty during June 2013.


Class & type Virginia class submarine
Displacement 7,800 tons
Length 377 feet
Beam 34 feet
Propulsion S9G Reactor
Speed 25 Knots (underwater)
Range Essentially unlimited distance; 33 years
Test Depth Greater than 800 feet
Complement 134 officers & men
Cost $2.7 Billion

Path to Commissioning

Commissioning is the act or ceremony of placing of a warship in active duty with its country’s military forces.

It takes about five years to build a submarine. Submarines are constructed in modules which are built at Newport News, VA, Quonset Point, RI and Groton, CT.  After the modules are constructed they are barged to the construction yard, which for ILLINOIS is Electric Boat Shipyard in Groton, CT. There the modules are assembled and systems are tested.

There are three main events in a submarine’s construction. The first event is the Keel Laying Ceremony which traditionally celebrated the start of construction. Since submarines really do not have a keel and since the Virginia class submarines are constructed in modules, the Keel Laying Ceremony is typically held about mid-point in construction when one or more modules are available for the ceremony. The ILLINOIS Keel Laying Ceremony took place on 2 June 2014.  First Lady Michelle Obama took sponsorship.

Illinois Flags

The second major event is the Launching and Christening. Instead of the traditional sliding down the ways, due to their size modern submarines are launched by moving to it to a dry-dock which is then flooded down and the ship becomes waterborne. The Christening is the traditional ceremony in which the ship’s sponsor breaks a bottle of champagne on the bow of the ship and formally names the ship by saying ‘I christen thee ILLINOIS!”.  ILLINOIS christening is expected to be held on June 20, 2015.

submarine in dock

After launching and christening USS ILLINOIS will spend about 1-2 months pierside completing installation and testing of equipment. The final phase of construction is the at-sea trials termed the Alpha and Bravo Sea Trials during which ILLINOIS will first submerge and conduct numerous tests to prove she is ready for delivery to the Navy.

The final and most widely attended event is the Commissioning.  The shipyard will deliver ILLINOIS several weeks after sea trials and all other construction testing in November, 2015.  Commissioning is anticipated to take place the summer of 2016.