Following the Keel laying ceremony for NORTH DAKOTA on May 11th our small USSND delegation drove to Groton CT where NORTH DAKOTA is being built and where there is also an Attack Sub Base. The purpose of our trip was a visit and tour aboard USS VIRGINIA (SSN-774) arranged for us by Commander Doug Gordon, Commanding Officer of USS NORTH DAKOTA. VIRGINIA is the lead ship of the VIRGINIA Class submarines having been commissioned on October 23, 2004.
We were all very pleased and excited about being on a VIRGINIA Class as we climbed the ladder down into the boat. I imagine if you do it often enough it becomes second nature to you, but I for one was glad to have several crew members right there helping us. We were divided into two small groups – actually you cannot have anything other than a small group as the quarters are very close. We saw several of the enlisted and officer berthing areas, the kitchen and scullery, the crew’s dining area, the wardroom, sickbay, the control room which is the place from which the pilot and co-pilot drive the boat and the place where all of the data from the sensors is displayed because there is no periscope.
We also went to the torpedo room to stand on the “Dance Floor.” The torpedo room is the most spacious part of the boat. While the torpedo tubes remain fixed in place, the “Dance Floor” can be configured to carry more torpedoes or cruise missiles, Special Operation Forces and all of the equipment, or more bunks or a combination of such things. I think on NORTH DAKOTA they should call this area “The Prairie,” because in comparison to the available space on the rest of the boat, the torpedo room deck feels like the “Wide Open Prairie.”
Here is a cut away view of the VIRGINIA with th bow of NORTH DAKOTA added to it. Together they show the inside view of a VIRGINIA Class submarine and the bow of NORTH DAKOTA with its enhanced sonar dome and its two six shot cruise missile tubes.