Construction & Commissioning

Construction Phases

It takes about five years to build a Virginia class submarine. The submarines are built in a teaming arrangement by General Dynamics-Electric Boat and Huntington Ingalls Newport News Shipbuilding. The latter builds the stern, habitability and machinery spaces, torpedo room, sail and bow sections. Electric Boat builds the engine room and control room. Both contractors perform work on the reactor plant and alternate on the final assembly, test, outfitting and delivery. After the modules are constructed they are barged to the final construction yard, which for USS IDAHO is Electric Boat Shipyard in Groton, CT. There the modules are assembled and systems are tested.

Preparing for Commissioning

Many milestones are completed between launching and commissioning of a ship. Below are just a few of them.

Keel Laying - 24 AUG 2020

This is the formal recognition of the start of a ship's construction. In earlier times it was the "laying down" of the central or main timber making up the backbone of a vessel. Today, fabrication of the ship may begin months before and some of the ship's bottom may actually be joined. However, the keel laying ceremony (also referred to as the keel authentication ceremony) symbolically recognizes the joining of modular components and the ceremonial beginning of a ship.

During the keel laying ceremony, the ship's sponsor authenticates the keel by chalking her initials onto a metal plate. The initials are then welded onto a plate that is permanently affixed to the ship.

Christening - Spring 2024

The official launching ceremony recognizing the "floating" of a ship by name and marked with the traditional breaking of a bottle of champagne across the bow.

The blessing of ships dates as far back as the third millennium BC, when the ancient Babylonians, according to a narrative, sacrificed an oxen to the gods upon completion of a ship. Throughout history, different cultures developed and shaped the religious ceremony surrounding a ship launching.

Today the christening is often conducted before the launching. The ship's sponsors who are most often women break the bottle of champagne and ceremonially give the ship its name. The first recorded christening of a United States Navy ship is USS Constitution, on Oct. 21, 1797 in Boston, where the ship's sponsor, Capt. James Sever, broke a bottle of wine across the bow as "Old Ironsides" slid into the water.

If you are interested in attending the Christening or Commissioning, please periodically check our Upcoming Events page. We will post updates there when more information is available.

Sea Trials

Sea trials are an intense series of tests to demonstrate the satisfactory operation of all installed shipboard equipment. Sea Trials ensure that the performance of the ship as a whole is in accordance with its plans and specifications. New construction ships undergo Builder's Trials and Acceptance Trials prior to ship's delivery and Final Contract Trials several months after delivery and sail away.


The official turnover of custody of a ship from the shipyard to the U.S. Navy. This private ceremony involves the Prospective Commanding Officer who actually signs for the ship. This event normally coincides with Move Aboard when the Pre-commissioning crew moves aboard and starts living, eating, standing watch, training and working aboard the ship while final work continues in the shipyard.

Sail Away

The ship's final departure from the construction yard for its homeport or commissioning site. It signifies the end of the new construction period and the beginning of its life preparing to perform the mission it was designed to undertake.

Commissioning - Spring 2025

The commissioning ceremony marks the acceptance of a ship as a unit of the operating forces of the United States Navy. At the moment of breaking the commissioning pennant, the ship will "come alive" and the crew will ceremonially run aboard ship. Thereafter the ship is officially referred to as a United States Ship (USS).

The act of placing a ship in commission marks her entry into active Navy service. At the moment when the commissioning pennant is broken at the masthead, a ship becomes a Navy command in her own right and takes her place alongside the other active ships of the Fleet.

This ceremony continues a centuries old tradition, observed by navies around the world, and by our own Navy since December 1775, when Alfred, the first ship of the Continental Navy, was commissioned at Philadelphia. Once in commission, the commanding officer and crew are entrusted with the privilege, and the responsibility, of maintaining their ship’s readiness in peace, and of conducting successful operations at sea in time of war.

No written procedure for commissioning was laid down in our Navy’s early days, but the act of commissioning was familiar, derived from established British naval custom. Commissionings were simple military ceremonies. The prospective commanding officer came on board, called the crew to quarters, and formally read the orders appointing him to command. He then ordered the ensign and the commissioning pennant hoisted; at that moment the ship went into commission, and the first entry in the ship’s deck log recorded this.

Keel Laying

PCU IDAHO Keel Laying

On August 24, Ship Sponsor Terry Stackley authenticated the keel of PCU Idaho (SSN-799) at a ceremony held in Quonset Point Rhode Island “Today we celebrate the keel-laying of Idaho, the 26th ship of the Virginia class,” said Electric Boat President Kevin Graney in his remarks. “In fact, the area of this building where we’ve gathered today is where we are building Idaho’s first super-module, the large center section of the ship that will move on to Groton for final assembly in a year’s time.” SSN-799 will be the fifth U.S. Navy vessel named in recognition of the 43rd state.

EB leadership, Quonset Point employees and the future crew of PCU Idaho were present at Monday’s keel laying. Special guests were also in attendance and introduced by Vice President of Quonset Point Operations, Sean Davies. Along with Terry Stackley and her family, the guests included Captain Andrew Gillespie of SUPSHIP Groton, Captain Andrew Miller, Commander of Sub Squadron FOUR in Groton, the former Governor of Idaho, Dirk Kempthorne and Quonset Point’s Master Shipbuilders—QP employees who this year, have given 40 years of service or more to Electric Boat. “Thank you for your service to the Navy, the country and to your coworkers,” said Davies.

As ship sponsor, Mrs. Stackley is no stranger to the Navy. Her father served and worked in private shipyards throughout the eastern seaboard, including Electric Boat Groton in the 1960’s. Her connection to the Navy continued to grow after meeting her husband, Sean, who served as the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition from 2008 to 2017. Mrs. Stackley dedicated nearly four decades as a Navy wife, and will now dedicate her time to serving Idaho and her crew throughout the ship’s service life.

“The machinery you use to accomplish this task is truly remarkable,” Stackley said. “More remarkable, however, are the dedication, skills, and patriotism of the men and women here at Electric Boat. The finest submarines in the world are being built by your hands, beginning right here at Quonset Point.” Addressing the employees in the audience, she continued, stating that “your great legacy has been passed on from generation to generation, stretching all the way back to 1899, and so it’s no wonder that this is not just a job for you. This is your passion. Thank you for your hard work and dedication.”

Following remarks from Stackley, Davies introduced QP employee Tim Cashman, who was chosen to weld Stackley’s initials on the steel plate that will be installed on the bottom centerline of submarine Idaho, also known as the keel. Cashman began his career at Electric Boat on third shift in 1976—44 years ago. In his spare time, he volunteers for two local theater groups, building sets and helping with productions, and is also involved in his CERT Community Emergency Response Team. His wife, sister and three children were in attendance to offer their support. Once the weld was complete, Terry Stackley declared the keel of PCU Idaho to be “truly and fairly laid.”

“In a few short years, when the magnificent USS Idaho goes to sea, she’ll be equipped with the finest technology our country produces to ensure she can safely and reliably perform her mission. Her greatest strength, however, will not be her technology. It will be the men and women who sail in her,” said Stackley.

USS IDAHO Keel Laying

Hull section of the future USS IDAHO on display festooned with the US Flag, Ships Crest and the Official Seal of the State of Idaho

USS IDAHO Keel Laying

The ship’s Sponsor, Terry Stackley giving her keynote address

USS IDAHO Keel Laying

Welder Tim Cashman of Electric Boat, welds Terry Stackley’s Initials into the plate of steel that will be mounted in the submarine

USS IDAHO Keel Laying

The ship’s Chief of the Boat, Master Chief David Pope, Executive Officer, Lieutenant Commander Rene Medrano, Former Governor Dirk Kempthorne, Ship’s Sponsor, Terry Stackley and the Ships Commanding Officer, CDR Nicholas Meyers on stage at the Keel Laying.

Commissioning Pennant

The commissioning pennant is the distinguishing mark of a commissioned Navy ship. A commissioning pennant is a long streamer in some version of the national colors of the Navy that flies it. The American pennant is blue at the hoist, bearing seven white stars; the rest of the pennant consists of single longitudinal stripes of red and white. The pennant is flown at all times as long as a ship is in commissioned status, except when a flag officer or civilian official is embarked and flies his personal flag in its place.

Narrow pennants of this kind go back several thousand years. They appear in ancient Egyptian art. They can be seen flying from ships' mastheads and yardarms in manuscript illustrations and Renaissance paintings from the Middle Ages. Professional national navies began to take form late in the 17th Century. All ships at that time were sailing ships, and it was often difficult to tell a naval ship from a merchantman at any distance. Navies began to adopt long, narrow pennants, to be flown by their ships at the mainmast head to distinguish themselves from merchant ships. This became standard naval practice.


Central Coast Veteran Recollects WWII Service Aboard USS Idaho
May 27th, 2024

A few months before he died in 2013, Morro Bay resident Steve Pivarski recalled his WWII service in the US Navy aboard the Battleship USS Idaho with Tom Wilmer.

Sun Valley and Other Idaho Towns Played Outsized Role in U.S. Naval History Monday, May 27, 2024
May 27th, 2024 -- Idaho may be landlocked. But it’s still managed to play an outsized role in U.S. Naval history from hosting the largest unmanned submarine in the world in its waters to Sun Valley’s role as a convalescent center for Navy soldiers during World War II.

USS Idaho Cooks Surface in Ketchum During State Culinary Tour
May 27th, 2024

Idaho Mountain Express -- Though Idaho is landlocked, the state has a long history with the U.S. Navy. Some of the first ships were named for the state, and Idaho is the site of labs advancing military technologies and capabilities.


Idaho Public Television's "Idaho's Nuclear Navy" Boise Premier - March 11, 2024
June 4th, 2024

The USS IDAHO Commissioning Committee, Idaho Public Television, and the Idaho State Historical Society organized the Boise premier of "Idaho's Nuclear Navy" at the Egyptian Theatre. Governor Brad Little and former Governor Dirk Kempthorne gave remarks to the sold-out crowd.

Sun Valley Culinary Institute - Culinary Training
June 13th, 2024

Sun Valley Culinary Institute - Culinary Training

Post-Christening Evening Reception
June 11th, 2024

The USS IDAHO Commissioning Committee concluded a weekend of christening festivities by hosting an Idaho-themed reception for the crew and guests at the Mystic Marriott ballroom in Mystic, Connecticut on Saturday evening, March 16.