There are three main events in NEW MEXICO’s construction. The first event is the Keel Laying Ceremony which celebrates the start of construction. Since submarines really do not have a keel and since the Virginia class submarines are constructed in modules (see Construction Status) the Keel Laying Ceremony is typically held about mid-point in construction when one or more modules are available for the ceremony. NEW MEXICO’s Keel Laying Ceremony is expected to occur in October 2007. Once a date is selected it will be announced here.
The second event is the Launching and Christening. Unfortunately the days of a submarine sliding down the slipway into the water are long gone. Instead the submarine is moved to a dry-dock which is then flooded and she slowly becomes waterborne. It isn’t as exciting but it is a lot safer. The Christening is the traditional ceremony in which the ship’s sponsor breaks a bottle of champagne on the bow of the ship and formally names the ship by saying ‘I christen thee NEW MEXICO!” NEW MEXICO’s christening is expected to be held in February 2009.
After launching and christening USS NEW MEXICO will spend about at year pierside completing installation and testing of equipment. The final phase of construction is the at-sea trials termed the Alpha and Bravo Sea Trials during which NEW MEXICO will first submerge and conduct numerous tests to prove she is ready for delivery to the Navy.
- Alpha Sea Trials
- First-time submergence
- High-speed runs
- Operations at test depth
- Testing of most systems and components
- Bravo Sea Trials
- Final at sea testing
- Completion of system and component testing
- Demonstration of other capabilities
Once the sea trials are completed the NEW MEXICO will be delivered to the Navy. The delivery actually marks the official commissioning date and will be the date the ship will celebrate its “birthday.”
The final and most widely attended event is the Commissioning. Commissioning is the act or ceremony of placing a ship in active service but is usually used for the placing of a warship in active duty with its country's military forces. The shipyard will deliver NEW MEXICO several weeks before the commissioning at the end of all sea trials and other construction testing. The shipyard is making such great progress on NEW MEXICO that the construction schedule has been accelerated six months. She will be delivered to the Navy in October 2009 instead of the originally scheduled April 2010.
Please note that invitations to keel and christening ceremonies are dictated in part by space availability. The keel ceremony will probably be limited to 350-400 and most will be shipyard workers. Outside attendance may be limited to fewer than 30 people. Christening is bigger - there were about 4,000 for TEXAS, less for NORTH CAROLINA, again, mostly shipyard workers. NEW MEXICO has an added problem of emerging bow first from the assembly building which will leave less real estate for staging the event. It has been suggested that the shipyard could feed streaming video back to New Mexico. The commissioning is typically the event at which large numbers of guests are accommodated. This is the event you should plan to attend.