US Navy Secretary names new submarine USS Utah

US Navy Secretary Ray Mabus announced on Tuesday that SSN 801, a Virginia-class attack submarine, would be named USS Utah during a press conference today in the Capitol.

The submarine will share the same name as the Navy battleship that Japanese torpedoes sunk during the attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941. Construction on the 7,800-ton nuclear-powered submarine will begin in 2019 with a completion date estimated for 2024.

Executive Director Gary Harter, Honorable Ray Mabus, and Governor Gary Herbert place their hand over their heart during the passing of the colors by the US Naval Sea Cadet Corps.
Executive Director Gary Harter, Honorable Ray Mabus, and Governor Gary Herbert place their hand over their heart during the passing of the colors by the US Naval Sea Cadet Corps. (Samantha Clark)

Mabus, also former Governor of Mississippi, took office of Navy Secretary in 2009 and has focused on four priorities during his tenure–people, platforms, power, and partnership. He publicly thanked the more than 155,000 veterans that call the Beehive State home for their continuing support to sailors and marines across the country.

“I am going to keep up with this submarine always, and it is going to be special. They are all special to me but this one holds a special place in my heart,” Mabus said. “The sponsor of this ship is my daughter Kate. With her spirit, she emulates this ship. This submarine is going to be something else with Kate Mabus as its’ sponsor.”

The submarine will stand as a symbol to honor the significant impact the state of Utah has had on the Navy.

“As we sail deeper into the universe, it is time for another ship to be named after this great state,” Mabus said.

Before naming USS Utah, Mabus also took into account the submarine’s registry number, SSN 801, which serves as a telephone area code for Salt Lake City and a portion of the Wasatch Front. Gov. Gary Herbert joked that with the growing state population, another vessel may need to be named SSN 385, the 3-digit number of another Utah area code.

Herbert emphasized the importance of building upon the future. He mentioned that the Capitol was built when the state of Utah had fewer than 300,000 residents. During that time, founding residents said that they built the building not for today, but for tomorrow and for what they could become as a state.

“That vision is what we see here today. This submarine is about or future; it’s not about where we are necessarily, but for what we can become, and I am going to tell you that our Navy really helps us out with that,” Herbert said.

Herbert had the privilege of being in the USS Salt Lake City, a nuclear submarine decommissioned in 2006, and recognized the significant partnership and service of the Navy.

“I have seen the teamwork of our Navy personally in very cramped quarters, particularly in a submarine where there’s not a lot of extra space. It was a good example of the efficiency in our military,” Herbert said. “Again, today I think we look to the future with courage and vision and recognize that we as the United States need to maintain the peace and help others achieve the freedom that we have.”

Utah Veteran and Military Affairs Director, Gary Harter, conducted the ceremony and the US Naval Sea Corps, Battleship Utah, BB-31 Division participated in the posting of the colors. Many local veterans and their families attended the ship-naming event and students from West Jordan High School sang the National Anthem.

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