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NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (Dec. 11, 2020) — Huntington Ingalls Industries’ (NYSE: HII) Newport News Shipbuilding division hosted a keel authentication ceremony today for Virginia-class attack submarine Massachusetts (SSN 798). Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event was held virtually, without an audience.

“This construction milestone is typically a small ceremony with shipbuilders and the submarine’s crew in attendance,” said Jennifer Boykin, president of Newport News Shipbuilding. “Given the current COVID-19 environment and the precautions it requires, today’s event is smaller than usual in scope, but not in importance.”

“Today’s event is a significant milestone in the life of the boat because it is the official construction kickoff, but it also marks the beginning of an important partnership between our shipbuilders who will build this mighty war vessel and the sailors who will bring her to life,” Boykin added.

Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer of Facebook, is the ship’s sponsor. In a pre-recorded video message, Sandberg etched her initials onto a metal plate, signifying the keel of SSN 798 as being “truly and fairly laid.”

Ronnie Payne, a master shipbuilder who has worked on every Virginia-class submarine built at Newport News, then traced Sandberg’s initials with a welding torch at the company’s Supplemental Module Outfitting Facility. The metal plate will remain affixed to the ship throughout its life.

“This year has been difficult for so many, and I am extra grateful for moments like this one when we can celebrate such an important milestone together,” Sandberg said. “I have a deep respect for the shipbuilders who will bring this vessel to life. I am so grateful for the opportunity to build a lifelong bond with this boat and its crew in my role as the sponsor.”  

Massachusetts is the 25th Virginia-class fast attack submarine being built under the teaming agreement with General Dynamics Electric Boat. Construction began in March 2017 and is approximately 50% complete. The boat is scheduled for delivery to the Navy in 2023.

“One of the privileges in establishing a command from the very beginning is developing a relationship with the boat’s namesake state — a relationship inherited from our forebears and one that will last the life of the ship and beyond,” said Cmdr. Erik Lundberg, commanding officer of the pre-commissioning unit. “Our mission is clear — deliver the most advanced, most capable warship to the Navy and our nation with an equally advanced and capable crew to bring her to life. The crew of Massachusetts stands ready.” 

About Huntington Ingalls Industries

Huntington Ingalls Industries is America’s largest military shipbuilding company and a provider of professional services to partners in government and industry. For more than a century, HII’s Newport News and Ingalls shipbuilding divisions in Virginia and Mississippi have built more ships in more ship classes than any other U.S. naval shipbuilder. HII’s Technical Solutions division supports national security missions around the globe with unmanned systems, defense and federal solutions, and nuclear and environmental services. Headquartered in Newport News, Virginia, HII employs more than 42,000 people operating both domestically and internationally. For more information, visit:

Danny Hernandez
Director of Public Affairs
(202) 580-9086
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Massachusetts Sponsor's Initials Welded

Master Shipbuilder Ronnie Payne (far right) welds Ship Sponsor Sheryl Sandberg’s initials into a steel plate during the keel authentication ceremony for Virginia-class submarine Massachusetts (SSN 798). The plate will be permanently affixed to the submarine, symbolizing Sandberg’s lifelong relationship with the shipbuilders and crew. Also pictured were Newport News Shipbuilding President Jennifer Boykin (left) and Cmdr. Erik Lundberg, commanding officer of the pre-commissioning unit. Photo by Matt Hildreth/HII

Dec 11, 2020


Danny Hernandez

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