Feb. 2 (UPI) -- The U.S. Navy commissioned its newest fast attack submarine, the USS South Dakota, on Saturday in Groton, Conn.
Sen. Mike Rounds and Gov. Kristi Noem headed a delegation from South Dakota at the event. Also on hand was Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who represents the state where the $2.6 billion sub was built and its home port, the U.S. Naval Submarine Base.
"Today is a really special day for me," Noem said. "I am here to deliver a message to service members, here as governor of our state. ... They are proud of you, grateful for you, remember their freedom, each day they are safe and always come home.
Rounds said: "It is a great honor and humbling moment for me to be here to commission the USS South Dakota. The men and women, generation after generation who wear the uniform .. protecting our freedom and nation. "
Deanie Dempsey, wife of former Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, served as office ship's sponsor, giving the order to "man our ship and bring her to life."
After the American flag was hoisted, sirens blasted. Officers and crew members boarded the submarine to the Naval Song "Anchors aweigh." During the uplifting song, one child was dancing in the aisles.
"We celebrate the great day today," the ship's commander Craig Litty, said. "We honor the arrival of the nation's newest warship and most capable warship to the fleet.
"It's a day South Dakota will never forget'"
The nuclear-powered submarine, designated SSN-790, is the 17th in the series of Virginia-class Navy submarines and the third Navy vessel to carry the state's name. Regarded as the state-of-the-art in its class of attack submarines, it can operate in littoral, or shallow water, environments, as well as in deep ocean situations.
"USS South Dakota enters service during a period of dynamic security challenges," Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer said in a statement earlier this week. "I am confident USS South Dakota and its crew will ensure our Navy and nation remain safe and strong, and proudly serve our nation's interest for decades to come."
The Navy regards the submarine as a flexible, multi-mission platform designed to carry out seven core competencies of the submarine force: anti-submarine warfare; anti-surface warfare; delivery of Special Operations Forces; strike warfare; irregular warfare; mine warfare, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.
At 377 feet in length, the 7,800-ton vessel features a redesigned bow for action in shallow water, and the capability of launching up to six Tomahawk cruise missiles. It was built by General Dynamics Electric Boat at its Groton facility.