GROTON, Conn. (AP) - The U.S. Navy's newest attack submarine, the future USS Oregon, was christened in Connecticut on Saturday.
Politicians, shipyard leaders and Navy officials gathered for a ceremony at the General Dynamics Electric Boat shipyard in Groton, where they spoke about the importance of Virginia-class submarines and praised the skills of the thousands of shipyard workers in Connecticut, Rhode Island and Virginia who built the Oregon.
Vice Adm. James Kilby said the Oregon, outfitted with the most modern weapons and sensors, will disappear beneath the waves and never be detected until a time and place of its choosing. It "truly represents naval combat power," said Kilby, a deputy chief of naval operations.
The submarine is expected to cost about $2.7 billion and join the fleet next year. It will officially become the USS Oregon when it's commissioned.
Electric Boat, which has facilities in Connecticut and Rhode Island, builds attack submarines with Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia. Jennifer Boykin, president of Newport News Shipbuilding, said the submarine represents the "very best of American innovation, quality and pride."
About 100 Electric Boat workers, upset over a proposed new contract, protested outside of the ceremony, according to The Day newspaper in New London. A vote on the contract is scheduled for next week.
Inside the shipyard, the ship's sponsor, Dana Richardson, christened the nuclear submarine with sparkling wine from Oregon and water from Crater Lake National Park in Oregon. Richardson, a native of Corvallis, Oregon, said the privilege of being a ship sponsor is beyond her wildest dreams. She's married to retired Adm. John Richardson, who served as the chief of naval operations from 2015 until this summer.
The submarine is the third Navy ship to honor the state. It will carry on the proud legacy of its predecessors, said Republican U.S. Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon, who delivered the keynote address. Walden said the submarine has the capability to prevent nuclear war.
Construction began in the fall of 2014. It's the 20th Virginia-class submarine. The class of submarines, equipped with torpedoes and missiles, are designed to carry out a wide range of missions, including surveillance work and the delivery of Special Operations forces.
The Oregon is part of a group of submarines with design changes so the submarines will need one less period in the shipyard for maintenance over their lifespan, according to the Navy. Consequently, they will be able to do one more deployment over their lifespan, for a total of about 15 deployments.