Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) has authenticated the keel of the US Navy’s Virginia-class submarine Arkansas (SSN 800).

The Arkansas is the 27th fast-attack submarine of its class, being constructed as part of the navy program with General Dynamics Electric Boat.

The Virginia-class fleet will eventually replace the aging Los Angeles-class submarines first commissioned in 1976.

The ceremony was sponsored by members of the Little Rock Nine, the first African-American students to attend the all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, during desegregation in the US.

In 1957, the group was among those who declared segregation in public schools unconstitutional.

Members of the Little Rock Nine at the USS Arkansas keel authentication ceremony. Photo: Ashley Cowan/HII

The Little Rock Nine was supported by then-President Dwight D. Eisenhower with security escorts for protection as they went to the school.

“Their courageous spirit will forever inspire Arkansas and her crew. This group forever changed our nation’s history and their submarine will help ensure their legacy continues,” explained Jennifer Boykin, President of the HII Newport News Shipbuilding Division.

“The bravery and resilience of the Little Rock Nine sparked a fire of change and demonstrated the strength of blending different perspectives and backgrounds.”

“We harness this strength in the shipyard every day. Our diversity allows us to extend beyond our own limits, to reach new heights, and build each boat even better than the one before it. Arkansas will be proof of this power.”

‘Advantage in Undersea Domain’

According to HII, the Virginia-class submarines will bolster the US Navy’s maneuverability, firepower, and stealth in sub-surface warfare.

The keel authentication ceremony for USS Arkansas follows the delivery of the USS Montana (SSN 794), the launch of the USS New Jersey (SSN 796), and the ongoing development of the USS Massachusetts (SSN 798).

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“With advances in sound silencing, acoustic sensors, and weapons delivery systems, Arkansas will traverse the world’s oceans and seas as an apex predator,” US Naval Submarine Forces Vice Adm. William Houston said.

“Representing our asymmetric advantage in the undersea domain, the Arkansas will have no equal.”