The crew of the USS Vermont (SSN 792) man the rails during a commissioning commemoration onboard Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, Conn., on Saturday. Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Javon Swaby/U.S. Navy
Aug. 30 (UPI) -- The commissioning of the first Block IV Virginia-class submarine, the USS Vermont, was celebrated in Connecticut over the weekend, more than a year after a ceremony for the vessel was canceled due to COVID-19, according to the U.S. Navy.
The ceremony for the Vermont was held Saturday at Naval Submarine Base New London, Submarine Readiness Squadron 32 said in a statement.
"We get to finally say, the ship's in commission, thank you so much to everyone who supported us," Commander Charles Phillips, the commanding officer of USS Vermont, said at the ceremony.
Vermont has been an active nuclear-powered attack submarine since it was delivered to the U.S. Navy and administratively commissioned on April 18, 2020, but the traditional commissioning ceremony was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Its service has included anti-submarine warfare exercises with the Brazilian navy in the U.S. 4th Fleet area of operation in December.
As part of safety precautions at Saturday's ceremony, attendance was limited, no public or media tours were held and masks were required indoors and encouraged outdoors.
"This represents the people of Vermont. We want to make them proud and let them justify their confidence in us as we defend our country," Phillips said.
The Vermont is 377 feet long, has a 34-foot beam and will be able to dive to depths greater than 800 feet and operate at speeds in excess of 25 knots submerged, and it has a crew of more than 130 Navy personnel, according to the statement.
The Block IV Virginia-class submarines incorporate design changes to increase the submarine's lifecycle and number of deployments and decrease maintenance and total ownership cost.
The Virginia class of nuclear-powered cruise missile fast-attack submarines is designed to excel in anti-submarine warfare, anti-ship warfare, strike warfare, special operations, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, irregular warfare and mine warfare.
"Vermonters have served with valor from the highest mountains to the depths of the ocean," said U.S. Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro, who was attending his first ship ceremony as secretary and served as the event's keynote speaker.
"This vessel has already proven itself in service, not only because it was designed the right way, but because of the exemplary work of the men aboard," he added.
U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vermont, U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., also spoke at the ceremony.
The first of the Block IV Virginia-class submarines is the third U.S. Navy ship to bear the name Vermont.
The first was one of nine 74-gun warships that Congress authorized in 1816.
The second was Battleship No. 20, which was commissioned in 1907 and first deployed in December of the same year as part of the "Great White Fleet." The battleship was decommissioned on June 30, 1920.
Rear Admiral Douglas Perry, director of undersea warfare on the chief of naval operations' staff and a Vermont native, also spoke Saturday at the ceremony.
Perry spoke about the legacies of previous Navy ships with Vermont ties and military heroes from the state's past, like Ethan Allen during the Revolutionary War and 19th Century Admiral of the Navy George Dewey.
"The Green Mountain State's legacy of naval service runs deep," Perry said. "You join a rich history of honorable service."
The Vermont was christened in a traditional ceremony at General Dynamics' Electric Boat shipyard in Groton, Conn., on Oct. 20, 2018.
"She is the most technologically advanced submarine in the world," said Gloria Valdez, ship sponsor and a former deputy assistant secretary of the Navy overseeing shipbuilding and modernization.