Senior Navy leaders and shipbuilders gathered at HII-Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS) Wednesday, Aug. 2, to attend a keel-laying authentication for the future Virginia-class submarine USS Oklahoma (SSN 802).

The keel laying signifies a major milestone in the life of a ship where the ship begins to transition from design to reality. The future USS Oklahoma will be the 29th Virginia Class Submarine and the first Block V submarine. It is the second Navy vessel, and the first submarine, to be named for the state of Oklahoma.

“Today represents a culmination of hard work and skill performed by a talented shipbuilding workforce and a strong foundation for future Sailors who will patrol the deep seas aboard Oklahoma in service of our nation,” said Capt. Mike Hollenbach, Virginia Class Program Manager.

In a time-honored Navy tradition, the submarine’s sponsor, Ms. Mary Slavonic, looked on as a NNS welder etched her initials onto a ceremonial steel plate that will be installed on the submarine at a later date. The bond symbolizes the enduring relationship between the sponsor, the ship, and her crew.

Slavonic has a long history of civic support to both her native state of Oklahoma and to the Navy. She worked alongside her husband, acting Under Secretary of the Navy Greg Slavonic, in building the USS Oklahoma (BB-37) Memorial in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, to honor the 429 Sailors and Marines who perished aboard the ship December 7, 1941.

Virginia-class submarines are the most advanced attack submarines in the world, with superior stealth, firepower and maneuverability than previous classes. They can hit shore-based targets with highly accurate Tomahawk cruise missiles and are capable of long-term, stealth surveillance of sea forces, littoral waters or ground targets.

Their design also provides for Special Forces delivery and support, mine delivery and minefield mapping, and anti-submarine and anti-ship warfare. These capabilities allow the submarine force to contribute to regional stability and preservation of future peace while operating everywhere international law allows.