NNS Authenticates Keel for Massachusetts (SSN 798) Jennifer Boykin and Cmdr. Erik Lundberg watch as Ronnie Payne welds the ship’s sponsor’s initials on a steel plate.

NNS Authenticates Keel for Massachusetts (SSN 798)

Published December 15, 2020

Newport News Shipbuilding hosted a keel authentication ceremony Friday, Dec. 11, for Virginia-class attack submarine Massachusetts (SSN 798). Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event was held without an audience.

“This construction milestone is typically a small ceremony with shipbuilders and the submarine’s crew in attendance,” said Newport News Shipbuilding President Jennifer Boykin. “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.”

Master Shipbuilder Ronnie Payne, who has worked on every Virginia-class submarine built at NNS, then traced Sandberg’s initials with a welding torch at the 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 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 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, SSN 798’s commanding officer. “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.”