Navy Commissions Newest Virginia-Class Attack Sub

The USS Colorado, commissioned here March 17, is the first submarine to bear the name and third vessel to be named for the state. The submarine was brought to life by her sponsor, Annie Maybus Mabus, daughter of former Navy Secretary Ray Mabus.

“To the crew of USS Colorado, this is your day” she said, addressing the crowd and ship’s company during the ceremony. “The commissioning crew truly does bring life to the boat. The pride I feel for the crew of this boat knows no bounds.”

As the most modern and sophisticated attack submarine in the world, the USS Colorado can operate in both littoral and deep ocean environments and presents combatant commanders with a broad and unique range of operational capabilities.

Something New Every Day

“This is an amazing group of sailors that are outfitted here. Every day we are doing something new for the first time. Just in the time that I’ve been here, I’ve watched the team transform into a high performance team that is able to operate the Navy’s newest and most capable warfighting ship at sea, in the harsh ocean environments, ready to carry out our mission,” said Navy Cmdr. Reed Koepp II, the sub’s commander. “I have seen them achieve greatness in qualifications and I have seen them build to a level of experience and expertise, ready to start executing the nation’s missions and get through our initial tactical certifications and engineering readiness.”

The Colorado is a flexible, multimission platform designed to carry out the seven core competencies of the submarine force: anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, delivery of special operations forces, strike warfare, irregular warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and mine warfare.

The Colorado is a part of the Virginia-classes’ third, or Block III, contract, in which the Navy redesigned approximately 20 percent of the ship to reduce acquisition costs. The Colorado features a redesigned bow, which replaces 12 individual Vertical Launch System tubes with two large-diameter Virginia Payload Tubes, each capable of launching six Tomahawk cruise missiles, among other design changes that reduced the submarines’ acquisition cost while maintaining their outstanding warfighting capabilities.

After the ceremony, the Colorado was opened up for tours to the general public, to include the crew’s mess, the wardroom, control, and the torpedo room.

High Expectations

“Our submarines are in high demand today and the expectations for Colorado are a mile high,” Navy Adm. J. Franklin Caldwell, Jr., director of naval reactors, said. “In [its] lifetime, [the] Colorado will travel thousands of miles undetected to protect our nation and our interests around the globe. We cannot begin to imagine all the missions that [the Colorado] will do and all of the places [it] will sail, but we do know that [the] Colorado’s stealth, [its] endurance, [its] combat power, and [its] speed will ensure that our Navy remains in control of the undersea domain.”

Colorado also has special features to support special operations forces, including a reconfigurable torpedo room which can accommodate a large number of personnel and their equipment for prolonged deployments and future off-board payloads.

“We are very proud to represent the great state of Colorado and we are very excited for the future of the ship,” said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Stephen Col, the sub’s executive officer. “I can honestly say I have the greatest job in the Navy.”

Also, in Virginia-class SSNs, traditional periscopes have been replaced by two photonics masts that host visible and infrared digital cameras atop telescoping arms, which are maneuvered by an Xbox controller. Through the extensive use of modular construction, open architecture, and commercial off-the-shelf components, the Virginia class is designed to remain at the cutting edge for its entire operational life through the rapid introduction of new systems and payloads.

“I couldn’t be more proud and honored to serve with and for the crew,” Koepp said. “The Colorado is a gem of an assignment for any submariner, whether you are a first-term, junior sailor, or you are the commanding officer. I couldn’t be more proud to lead and serve with the crew.

The Colorado was built at Electric Boat in Groton, Conn., and weighs 7,800 tons and is 377 feet long with a beam of 34 feet. The sub can operate at more than 25 knots submerged. It is designed with a nuclear reactor plant that does not require refueling during the planned life of the ship, reducing life cycle costs while increasing underway time.