January 2, 2018 – USS South Dakota (SSN 790), will be commissioned at Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, Connecticut, Feb. 2, 2019, as the seventeenth Virginia-class submarine to join the fleet.
Deanie Dempsey, wife of retired Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, who served as the 18th chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is the ship’s sponsor. After spending several decades of service in support of just the Army, Deanie became a champion for all of the services in her role as the chairman’s spouse. She remains actively engaged in countless activities in support of military families and participates in dozens of private and charitable organizations in support of military spouses and their families.
Designed to operate in both coastal and deep-ocean environments, South Dakota will present leadership with a broad and unique range of capabilities, including anti-submarine warfare; antisurface ship warfare; strike warfare; special operation forces (SOF) support; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; irregular warfare; and mine warfare missions. South Dakota is a part of the Virginia-class’ Block III contract, in which the Navy redesigned approximately 20 percent of the ship to reduce acquisition costs.
South Dakota features a redesigned bow, which replaces 12 individual Vertical Launch System (VLS) tubes with two large-diameter Virginia Payload Tubes (VPTs) each capable of launching six Tomahawk cruise missiles, among other design changes that reduced the submarines’ acquisition cost while maintaining their outstanding warfighting capabilities.
South Dakota has special features to support SOF, including a reconfigurable torpedo room which can accommodate a large number of SOF and all their equipment for prolonged deployments and future off-board payloads. Also, in Virginia-class SSNs, traditional periscopes have been replaced by two photonics masts that host visible and infrared digital cameras atop telescoping arms. Through the extensive use of modular construction, open architecture, and commercial off-the-shelf components, the Virginia class is designed to remain at the cutting edge for its entire operational life through the rapid introduction of new systems and payloads.
South Dakota will be the third U.S. Navy ship, and first submarine, to be commissioned bearing the name “South Dakota.” The first USS South Dakota (ACR9/CA 9) was a Pennsylvania-class armored cruiser and launched in 1904. Assigned to the Armored Cruiser Squadron, Pacific Fleet, South Dakota cruised off the west coast of the United States through August 1908. She was then sent on a cruise to Samoa and later operated in Central and South American Waters. She returned home in 1912 and was placed in reserve at Puget Sound Navy Yard.
The second USS South Dakota (BB 57) was commissioned March 1942 and assigned to Task Force 16 centered on the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CV 6). South Dakota conducted blockade operations against Japanese forces approaching Guadalcanal, where they engaged Japanese carrier forces in the Battle of Santa Cruz. She saw action in the Battle of Savo Island, Battle of Philippine Sea, Okinawa, Iwo Jima, and other Japanese strongholds earning 13 battle stars.