PCU New Jersey (SSN 796) is a Virginia-class attack submarine.
What is a submarine? And what type of submarine is the New Jersey?
With the submarine Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) New Jersey (SSN 796) nearing completion, and two more ceremonies planned before it is officially accepted into the US naval force, it’s important to know more about this class of service that protects the United States, and about the submarine community which delivers powerful impact and unique capabilities as a maritime security force.
Since World War II, submarines have paved the way for the latest research and construction of a war fighting specialty group that now includes protection against weapons systems that can threaten joint forces at over-the-horizon ranges, long range challenges that increase demands to meet growing and increasing scopes of responsibilities for all military forces, including the Navy’s submarine force. Recognized as the most capable force in the world, the Navy currently has 53 fast attack submarines, 14 ballistic-missile submarines and four guided-missile submarines, representing more than fifty percent of the nation’s nuclear deterrent arsenal; with new construction and replacements within the current fleet, submarines will carry an even greater percentage of strategic warheads.
The New Jersey is a Virginia-class attack submarine. The Virginia-class, also known as the VA-class or 774-class, is a class of nuclear-powered fast attack submarines in the U.S. Navy designed for a broad spectrum of open-ocean and littoral missions. They are a less expensive alternative to the Seawolf-class attack submarines, designed during the Cold War era, and are replacing older Los Angeles-class submarines, 29 of which have already been decommissioned. They were designed by General Dynamics's Electric Boat (EB) and Huntington Ingalls Industries, and are the newest submarine model incorporating the latest in stealth, intelligence gathering, and weapons systems technology. Built at a cost of approximately $2.8 billion each, they have been commissioned since 2004 with eight currently on order and 19 completed.
They can travel at 25 knots or more and have unlimited range, with food for the crew and maintenance requirements their only limits to beneath-the-surface mobility. They have been tested to more than 800-foot depth and have a complement of approximately 15 officers and 120 enlisted members, both men and women.
For the New Jersey, the first official ceremony was held in March 2019, when the builder, Huntington Ingalls Industries Newport News Shipbuilding division in Virginia hosted a keel authentication ceremony, one of many Navy traditions.
During that ceremony, which celebrates the start of building the ship, construction is almost halfway completed since submarines are built in modules.
A welder from Monmouth County burned the initials of the submarine’s sponsor onto a steel plate that will be displayed inside the boat throughout its service life.
Dr. Susan DiMarco, a retired dentist from Montclair and an active volunteer in civics and art-related activities, is the sponsor of the submarine New Jersey. Her husband, Jeh Johnson, is former Secretary of Homeland Security and was present with her and their son, Jeh Johnson Jr., who serves in the U.S. Coast Guard, at the ceremony.
The New Jersey Commissioning Committee explains that the Secretary of the Navy is charged with designating sponsors for all United States Navy ships. According to ancient tradition, sponsors bestow good luck and divine protection over the ship and its crew.
Since the early 1800’s, sponsors have almost exclusively been women, and they usually have a unique connection to the namesake of the ship or its mission. As they christen their ships, bestowing upon the vessel the name chosen by the Secretary of the Navy, they become an integral part of that ship’s history. The crew will change many times over the course of a ship’s life, but the sponsor remains the same. She will participate in many of the ceremonial milestones in the life of her ship and will maintain contact with the commanding officers and crew members throughout the life of the ship.
After the initials were burned onto the plate, Mrs. DiMarco declared the keel “truly and fairly laid” and paid compliments to the welder, Jessica Batruk from Monmouth County, a woman who said she has been fascinated by welding since high school and sees her future continued with the Virginia shipyard.
The boat’s christening, the second ceremony, is set for Nov. 13 in Newport News. Highlights of that ceremony include Ms. DeMarco announcing, "In the name of the United States, I christen thee New Jersey. May God bless her and all who sail in her." She most likely will swing a bottle of champagne, attached to a tether, against the bow of the ship, and the ceremony concludes with “Anchors Aweigh”.
Cadets from the Marine Academy of Science and Technology’s NJROTC unit at Sandy Hook will serve as the color guard during the ceremony, presenting the US, Navy, and New Jersey flags.
The third ceremony, scheduled for 2022, will be the commissioning of the sub, when it will be accepted by the Navy and placed into active service, and will officially be called United States Ship (USS) New Jersey.
For more information and to keep up with news of the New Jersey visit the USS New Jersey (SSN796) Commissioning Committee’s website at https://njcommissioning.org/.