Local Interest
11:25 am
Thu September 6, 2007

Navy To Commission New Sub in Wilmington

Wilmington, NC – The Navy has announced it will commission its new nuclear submarine, the SSN 777 North Carolina, in Wilmington next spring.

The Secretary of the Navy will preside over the event, along with World War Two veterans who served aboard the battleship North Carolina.

Congressman Mike McIntyre's office sent the first announcement, and says the commissioning will take place either April 26 or May 3rd of next year. McIntryre describes the ceremony as a "spine-tingling" event.

"The crew that has been assigned to the North Carolina, at the end of the ceremony, in the pomp and circumstance, will then literally run aboard the ship as it gets ready to sail into service."

The river isn't deep enough to bring the submarine all the way to downtown, so the ceremony will have to take place at the Port of Wilmington, downriver from the vessel's namesake, the battleship North Carolina. But that won't diminish the ties between the two.

Captain Dave Scheu, who runs the Battleship, says he's been involved in the building of the new North Carolina since the submarine got its name.

"You know, the battleship has got a teak deck? When we removed the teak in the late 1990s, I've kept all of that, the original teak. And we've actually put some of that on the submarine, on the deck."

According to Scheu, during commissioning a new ship "comes alive" for its crew and the Navy.

A city press release describes the submarine as the 5th ship to carry the North Carolina name. The first was a ship-of-the-line commissioned in 1824. Others included a Confederate ironclad and an armored cruiser in 1908.

The SSN 777, a Virginia class nuclear attack submarine, took three years and two billion dollars to build.

A coalition of local and national officials campaigned over the past year to bring the commissioning ceremony to Wilmington, a process that included scrutiny of the river's suitability and security.

The Navy usually commissions vessels either at their shipyard or port of service, but does sometimes honor requests for the event to occur in other locations.

The vessel was christened last spring in Newport News, Virginia.

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