Friday, September 10, 2010

USS Virginia Arrives at Shipyard for Maintenance, Upgrades

By Larry Favinger
Staff Columnist
She came up the river slowly, accompanied by security and tug boats, much to the delight of a small yet enthusiastic crowd of municipal officials, shipyard workers, members of the media, and, clearly not the least of these, family members of her crew.
While some saw the arrival of the attack submarine USS Virginia signifying a long future for the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, there were those with a much more personal reason for welcoming her.
“Hi Daddy,” one of the small youngsters cried out several times as the boat made it way to its dock.
According to a shipyard spokeswoman, Virginia is the first of her class to arrive at the shipyard for work, and is scheduled for “a major availability consisting of various maintenance work and several systems upgrades.”
The bread and butter for the shipyard has been and remains work on the 688 Class (Los Angeles) submarines, Capt. L. Bryant Fuller, the shipyard commander, said. “One of these days it will be nothing but the Virginia Class,” he said, adding the Virginia class will eventually replace the 688’s.
Work on the Virginia class “is our future,” said Paul O’Connor, president of the yard’s Metal Trades Council, the largest union on the shipyard. He said the arrival of the new class of submarine is “another step in our history” at the shipyard that has been operating for more than 200 years.
Workers have received a lot of special training to prepare for work on the submarine.
Tom Ferrini, the Mayor of Portsmouth, also noted the historic event.
“It continues a long and storied tradition that we enjoy in Portsmouth and the seacoast of Maine and New Hampshire,” he said. “The city of the open door welcoming the submarine, its crew and their families. It means a lot to us economically, and we’re proud of our Naval shipyard to be able to maintain and improve its standing” in the military community as a fine facility.
Portsmouth is the host community for the Virginia and its crew. Chairman of the Host Committee is City Councilor Bob Lister and the former superintendent of Portsmouth schools. In the near future Lister will become the interim superintendent of Somersworth schools.
The USS Virginia, under the command of CMDR. Tim Salter of Buffalo, N.Y., has a crew of 13 officers and 121 enlisted personnel. The boat was built under a team agreement between General Dynamics Electric Boat in Groton, Conn., and Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding of Newport News, Va.
Commissioned in October 2004, Virginia is the sixth United States Navy vessel to be named for the 10th American state.
According to NAVSEA, Virginia is the fist of the newest class of nuclear powered attack submarines, built to excel in anti-submarine, anti-ship and strike warfare, special operations, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, irregular warfare and mine warfare missions.
Cmdr. Salter is a 1992 graduate of MIT with a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering and was commissioned through the Reserve Officer Training Corps.
He had served aboard the USS Salt Lake City, USS Greeneville, and USS Philadelphia. He has completed three deployments with USS Kitty Hawk Carrier Battle Group and one deployment with USS Kearsarge Expeditionary Strike Group.
He has also served on the staff of Commander in Chief, U.S. Naval Forces Europe. Most recently he attended the Naval War College where he earned a Masters of Arts degree in National Security and Strategic Studies.
Photo caption: The USS Virginia arrived at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard last week. (Courtesy photo)