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USS Arizona and USS Oklahoma to sail again

A photo illustration of the future Virginia-class attack submarine USS Arizona (SSN 803). (U.S. Navy photo illustration by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Paul L. Archer/Released)

Navy ships named USS Arizona and USS Oklahoma will return to active duty with the announcement Monday by Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly that two new Virginia-class attack submarines will be named after “heroes of the greatest generation” who died on the famed Pearl Harbor battleships.

The move brings back into service the hallowed ship names 78 years after both were badly damaged in the surprise Japanese attack of Dec. 7, 1941. Most of the Navy casualties that day came from losses on the two ships.

The two new subs will begin to usher in an era of greater firepower for the Virginia class, which has a key role in checking China’s power in the Western Pacific.

“I am honored and humbled to name the next two Virginia-class nuclear fast-attack submarines to be built as the USS Oklahoma (SSN-802) and the USS Arizona (SSN-803),” Modly said in a release. “It is my fondest wish that the citizens of the great states of Arizona and Oklahoma will understand and celebrate our Navy’s desire to memorialize the 1,177 heroes who perished in USS Arizona (BB-39) and the 429 more in USS Oklahoma (BB-37) in Pearl Harbor, on Dec. 7, 1941.”

Modly added that “there is no greater honor I can think of for the Navy, the Marine Corps, and the nation than to build and commission into active service two state-of-the-art American warships carrying the spirit of those heroes of the greatest generation, as well as that of their families and the Grand Canyon and Sooner states as they sail through a new American maritime century.”

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Approximately 1.8 million people annually visit the Pearl Harbor National Memorial, which includes the USS Arizona, USS Oklahoma and USS Utah memorials; six officer bungalows; three mooring quays; and the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center.

Both new submarines will be the first of the latest-generation “Block V” Virginia-class vessels with “acoustic superiority design changes,” the Navy said.

But there will be a big difference between the two new subs. The Oklahoma will be the standard 377 feet while the Arizona will have an extra 84-foot midhull extension known as a “Virginia Payload Module,” stretching the vessel to 461 feet.

The VPM subs will have four additional large payload tubes to increase Tomahawk missile strike capability from 12 to 40 missiles per vessel.

“Block V Virginias and Virginia Payload Module are a generational leap in submarine capability for the Navy,” Rear Adm. David Goggins, who is with Program Executive Officer for Submarines, said in a release. “These design changes will enable the fleet to maintain our nation’s undersea dominance.”

Earlier this month Naval Sea Systems Command awarded a $22.2 billion nine-ship Block V contract to General Dynamics Electric Boat.

Eight of the nine will have Virginia Payload Modules. The contract includes an option for a 10th VPM sub.

To date, the Navy has taken delivery of 18 Virginia-class submarines, which are replacing older Los Angeles-class subs. Pearl Harbor has six Virginia subs and is planning for the arrival of the longer VPM subs. Contract delivery for the first Block V submarine is fiscal 2025, the Navy said.

“Our submarine force is fundamental to the power and reach of our integrated naval force,” Modly said when the Block V contract was awarded.

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© 2019 The Honolulu Star-Advertiser