New USS Colorado Takes Up Proud and Illustrious Mantle, but She’s Different

When a keel laying ceremony was held March 7 for the USS Colorado, the Rhode Island event was described as “a special day for our Navy, the state of Colorado, and our shipbuilding partners” by U.S. Navy Rear Adm. David Johnson.

An artist rendering of the Virginia-class submarine USS Colorado.

Stan Bailey / U.S. Navy

An artist rendering of the Virginia-class submarine USS Colorado.

Colorado has had three prior namesake war ships, but never before anything like this one. The new Colorado (SSN 788) will be an atomic-powered Virginia-class submarine. She’ll cruise at more than 25 knots submerged (how much more is classified) and the reactor is designed never to need refueling during the planned life of the ship.

During the festivities, the initials of the submarine’s “sponsor,” Annie Mabus, were welded onto a steel plate that will be permanently affixed to the hull. Mabus is the daughter of current Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus. Having a sponsor is traditional.

It’s also traditional to refer to ships with a feminine gendered pronoun. She’ll have enhanced stealth, sophisticated surveillance capabilities, anti-ship and anti-submarine warfare tools, and a battery of the latest Tomahawk cruise missiles. She’s also designed to deliver and support special forces.

USS Colorado off Tinian 24-July-1944 with hull damage, the result of 22 hits from shore batteries.

U.S. Navy / via Wikipedia

USS Colorado off Tinian 24-July-1944 with hull damage, the result of 22 hits from shore batteries.

The history of ships named Colorado is a proud one, including that of the battleship Colorado, which was commissioned in 1923 and played a significant role in the Pacific Theater during World War II. She supported the invasions of Tarawa, Kwajalein and Eniwetok and the Marianas. While supporting the landings at Leyte Gulf in November 1944, she was struck by two “Kamikaze” suicide planes, but survived.

On the Sunday of the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack, which devastated American battleships at anchor in Oahu, the Colorado, as fortune would have it, was in the Bremerton, Wash., Navy Yard. She was decommissioned in 1947.

Among BB-45’s peacetime duties was the search for disappeared American aviator Amelia Earhart in 1937.

The second USS Colorado was an armored cruiser commissioned in 1905. Among other duties, she escorted convoys carrying troops and materials to England during World War I, and made six Atlantic crossings ferrying veterans of the American Expeditionary Force home after the war. She was renamed the Pueblo in 1916 to free up the name for the new battleship.

Annie Mabus, daughter of U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, is the official sponsor, a tradition, of the new USS Colorado. The keel laying ceremony was March 7.

Specialist 2nd Class Armando Gonzales/U.S. Navy / U.S. Navy

Annie Mabus, daughter of U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, is the official sponsor, a tradition, of the new USS Colorado. The keel laying ceremony was March 7.

The first Colorado, named after the river and not the state (statehood was in 1876), was a three-masted steam frigate commissioned in 1858. During the Civil War, she participated in blockades of Confederate ports both in the Gulf of Mexico and along the Atlantic seaboard. After the war, she served in the Pacific where, according to the history provided by the USS Colorado Committee in Littleton, “she came under an unprovoked attack by Korean shore batteries then participated in a punitive expedition destroying the forts.”

Long histories short, don’t mess with the Colorado.

SSN 788 is being built by General Dynamics Electric Boat and Huntington Ingalls Industries-Newport News.

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