The USS Oregon officially joined the U.S. Navy fleet on Saturday, marking the first vessel named after the Beaver State in more than a century. The Navy commissioned the fast-attack submarine in a traditional ceremony at Naval Submarine Base New London in Connecticut Saturday.
“Oregonians are deeply honored that the 20th Virginia-class submarine will bear the name of our state,” Oregon Governor Kate Brown, the ceremony’s keynote speaker, said at the event.
The Memorial Day weekend event for USS Oregon — the second of the Block IV Virginia-class subs — represented the first in-person submarine commissioning ceremony since the USS South Dakota was commissioned on February 2, 2019.
“This is the first in-person commissioning ceremony of a submarine in more than three years, and that’s a long time to delay celebrations like this one,” Tommy Ross, performing the duties of assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition, told the assembled audience Saturday.
Because of restrictions on large gatherings in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the 2020 commissionings of the USS Vermont and USS Delaware were completed administratively, with ceremonies held at later dates in 2021 and 2022 to celebrate the milestones retroactively.
The newest vessel is the third U.S. Navy ship launched to bear the name Oregon, but the first in more than a century. The first, named after the Oregon Territory before Oregon became a state, was a brigantine in service from 1841 to 1845.
The second was an Indiana-class battleship commissioned in 1896 that saw action in the Spanish-American War before being decommissioned for the final time in 1919. The Oregon was loaned to her home state for a museum ship for 20 years before serving as an ammunition depot during the Battle of Guam in 1944.
There was also a CSS Oregon, a wooden sidewheel steamer that served as a gunboat in the Confederate States Army during the Civil War before being scuttled in 1862.
“As we commission Oregon today, the torch is passed from our storied naval history to the present,” said Ross. “First, a brig bearing the name Oregon served as an exploration vessel in the mid-19th century.
“Later, as an Indiana-class battleship, Oregon served in the Spanish-American War and helped destroy famed Spanish Admiral Pascual Cervera y Topete’s fleet. Today, Oregon breaks her flag again and returns to sea, reborn as an extraordinarily capable fast-attack submarine.”
USS Oregon is 377 feet long, has a 34-foot beam and is able to dive to depths greater than 800 feet and operate at speeds in excess of 25 knots. She has a crew of nearly 140 Navy personnel.
The Oregon is 377 feet long, has a 34-foot beam and is able to dive to depths greater than 800 feet and operate at speeds in excess of 25 knots. She has a crew of nearly 140 Navy personnel.
“The passion, grit and enthusiasm of Oregon’s crew has carried the ship to sea and were vital to the completion of construction and testing,” said Commander Lacy Lodmell, commanding officer of the USS Oregon.
“I have been deeply honored to see you grow into a team that is ready to undertake any mission we are assigned. This is without a doubt the finest crew I have ever had the pleasure to serve with.”
The submarine Oregon was previously christened in a traditional ceremony at General Dynamics Corp.’s Electric Boat shipyard in Groton, Connecticut, on October 5, 2019.
Dana L. Richardson, the wife of former Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson, is the ship sponsor. During Saturday’s commissioning event, Dana Richardson gave the crew the traditional order to “man our ship and bring her to life,” after which Oregon’s sailors ceremonially ran aboard the submarine.
Fast-attack submarines are multi-mission platforms enabling five of the six Navy maritime strategy core capabilities – sea control, power projection, forward presence, maritime security and deterrence.
They are designed to excel in anti-submarine warfare, anti-ship warfare, strike warfare, special operations, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, irregular warfare and mine warfare.
Fast-attack submarines project power ashore with special operations forces and Tomahawk cruise missiles in the prevention or preparation of regional crises.
“Oregon and the other Virginia-class submarines will not only sustain, but exploit our edge in undersea warfare,” said Admiral Frank Caldwell, director of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, at the Saturday ceremony.
“Soon Oregon will employ her stealth, her flexibility, her superior firepower and her endurance to travel silently throughout the world’s oceans undetected, collecting intelligence, preparing for battle and — if necessary — striking from the deep swiftly without warning to answer the nation’s call.”
Block IV Virginia-class submarines incorporate design changes focused on reduced total ownership cost. By making these smaller-scale design changes to increase the component-level lifecycle of the submarine, the Navy will increase the periodicity between depot maintenance availabilities and increase the number of deployments.
Blocks I-III Virginia-class submarines are planned to undergo four depot maintenance availabilities and conduct 14 deployments. Block IV design changes are intended to reduce planned availabilities by one to three, and increase deployments to 15.
Other speakers at the commissioning ceremony included Kevin Graney, president of General Dynamics Corp.’s Electric Boat shipyard, as well as U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal and U.S. Representative Joe Courtney of Connecticut.
The master of ceremonies was Lieutenant Commander Collin Hedges, executive officer of the Oregon.
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