USS Indiana christened in Virginia

With one strong swing, Ship's Sponsor Diane Donald christened the Virginia-class submarine Indiana (SSN 789), witnessed by (from left) Vice President Mike Pence, Indiana Commander Jesse Zimbauer and Newport News Shipbuilding President Matt Mulherin, and an audience of nearly 4,000 event guests. (Photo Courtesy: Photo by Ashley Major/HII)

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WANE) The Hoosier State has another representative in the United States Navy. The USS Indiana (SSN 789) christened Saturday at Newport News Shipbuilding where the ship was constructed. The 16th Virginia-class fast attack submarine is the state’s first namesake ship in more than 70 years and the first submarine to be named after the state of Indiana.

The commanding officer of the USS Indiana, Jesse Zimbauer, and Ray Shearer, the chairman of the USS Indiana Commissioning Committee, have toured the state the past year to raise awareness for next year’s commissioning of the boat and to thank Indiana manufactures that build parts for the Navy’s submarine fleet.

PHOTOS | Christening of the USS Indiana

Photo courtesy Chris Oxley/Huntington Ingalls Industries

“There are more than one hundred Indiana businesses manufacturing components for the submarines in the Navy fleet,” Shearer said. “As a proud Hoosier and service veteran, it is exciting to know companies throughout the state, from small to large, have contributed to the legacy of USS Indiana. Hoosier hands have indeed built the Hoosier boat.”

According to the Navy, the first USS Indiana (BB-1) was commissioned in 1895. The battleship served in the Spanish-American War and was decommissioned in 1919. USS Indiana (BB-58) was launched sixteen days before the attack on Pearl Harbor and received nine battle stars for its World War II service. She was decommissioned in 1947 and sold for scrap in 1963.

“To be the namesake of BB-1 and then BB-58, one of the most celebrated warships that we’ve ever had, is a great legacy and honor,” Zimbauer said. The USS Indiana was built a few bays down from the dry dock where BB-58 was built right in Newport News.”

The Virginia-class submarine is a nuclear-powered platform that can carry missiles and torpedoes, gather intelligence and deploy special forces, including SEALS. Each boat costs approximately $2.68 billion to build. While pricey, it is less expensive than the Seawolf-class subs that preceded the Virginia-class, with each of those costing over $3 billion per unit.

The christening ceremony officially marked the launching of the submarine by the builders, Huntington Ingalls Industries. The boat will now go through several months of sea trials and testing before being commissioned into the fleet. The commissioning ceremony is scheduled for early 2018.

Diane Donald, wife of Retired Navy Admiral Kirkland Donald, served as Ship’s Sponsor. She performed the traditional honor of breaking a bottle of American sparkling wine across the ship’s bow during the christening ceremony.

Fourteen veterans of the World War II Indiana battleship were in attendance, two of whom are from Indiana.

Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Joe Donnelly (R-IN) both spoke at the ceremony.