Fifth USS Missouri, an attack submarine, to go to sea soon

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A new naval vessel named the USS Missouri will hit the open waters soon.

A $2 billion nuclear-powered attack submarine is being welded together in Groton, Conn., and will be christened later this year. The Navy says it will be the most advanced submarine in the world.

"All Missourians can take pride that a namesake to the 'Mighty Mo' will soon be joining the Navy's fleet, this time in the silent service," said Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo.

Skelton is chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, so the boat's naming is not entirely coincidental. Also, his father shoveled coal on the second USS Missouri, a World War I-era battleship.

This will be the fifth USS Missouri. The first was a Confederate side-wheeler in the Civil War. The most famous was the great battleship on which the Japanese surrendered at the end of World War II. It's now a floating museum in Hawaii.

The new Missouri is being assembled from nine cross sections. Once completed, it will be longer than a football field, slightly bigger than the Cold War-era Los Angeles-class subs it is helping replace.

The Navy plans to build 30 of the new subs, called Virginia-class, of which the Missouri will be the seventh.

In war movies, submarine captains stood on cramped command decks, staring through periscopes. But the new boats use updated technology.

"They have photonics masts, which essentially use high-resolution cameras and video storage," said Lt. Cmdr. Larry Knock, the executive officer of the USS Missouri. "So rather than standing behind the barrel of the scope, the commander stands at a flat-panel display."

The change allows the control room to be placed lower in the ship, where there's more room. Plus, the ships are designed to make adding technology upgrades easier.

As an attack sub, the USS Missouri will hunt down enemy submarines and surface ships. It also will be able to carry out intelligence missions and carry Navy SEALs and even minisubs in its diver exit chamber.

In addition to torpedoes, the sub will carry Tomahawk missiles.

"She could be in the Gulf of Mexico and put a cruise missile into a window in Kansas City," said retired Rear Adm. J. Stanton Thompson, of Higginsville.

The Missouri will be launched into the water for final construction later this year and be christened Dec. 5.

Hermann-based Stone Hill Winery, which made the sparkling wine used to christen the 1901 USS Missouri, has offered to do so for the new submarine. Becky Gates, the wife of Defense Secretary Robert Gates, is scheduled to do the traditional breaking of the bottle over its bow.

Afterward, the submarine will spend several months doing sea trials before the Navy officially commissions the boat.

Thompson, who served in the Navy for 35 years, said the boat is his proudest assignment.

"I predict this sub will make history during its lifetime," Thompson said.

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