Electric Boat christens second submarine named for 'Father of the Nuclear Navy' Hyman G. Rickover
Groton — Electric Boat on Saturday morning christened the Hyman G. Rickover (SSN 795), marking the first submarine christening since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and the second submarine to be named after the man known as the "father of the nuclear Navy."
"OK, is she not big and beautiful?" Darleen Greenert, sponsor of the submarine, asked the crowd in a spirited start to remarks largely focused on the role of submariners' families. Greenert served in the Navy for 42 years and is the wife of Adm. Jonathan Greenert, former chief of naval operations.
She recognized "the best sponsor ever": Eleonore Rickover, the wife of the submarine's namesake and the sponsor of the first USS Hyman G. Rickover (SSN 709). She died July 5 at age 91.
"She set the bar," Greenert said. "She loved her crew, maybe sometimes more than her husband, I'm not sure. We've all been there."
Greenert said what most people don't know is the strength the Hyman G. Rickover has here "is matched by the strength of the families that serve behind her." She reflected on the sporting events and first steps and graduations that submariners miss, but said "those missed events, those missed opportunities, is because the families are serving proudly, bravely."
There are 132 officers and sailors in the boat's crew. Its current commanding officer is Thomas J. Niebel, and the prospective commander is Matt Beach. Its prospective executive officer is Lt. Cmdr. Jacob M. Montoya, and the chief of the boat is Senior Chief Jonathan B. Taylor.
The crew stood in rows in front of the submarine, and Greenert asked their family members to stand as she christened the ship. But she had a surprise and handed the bottle off to her daughter, matron of honor Sarah Greenert McNichol, who concluded the ceremony by breaking the bottle on her third hit.
Construction of the Hyman G. Rickover, which is the 22nd Virginia-class submarine, began in September 2015. It is the second Virginia-class submarine to be named after a person rather than a state, the first being the USS John Warner (SSN 785).
"We did not close a shipyard, public or private, in the United States for one day during the pandemic," Under Secretary of the Navy James Geurts said, adding that shipyard presidents shared best practices on the phone every day.
Despite the challenges of the pandemic, Electric Boat President Kevin Graney said shipbuilders at Quonset Point built the engine room deck in 12,000 fewer hours than the previous five ships, the welded pipe joints were completed in Groton earlier than the two previous ships, and electricians completed complex cable hookups on schedule and under budget.
Graney recognized six shipbuilders in particular "who have distinguished themselves by their extraordinary work on Rickover," including a father and son from Voluntown.
Father of the nuclear Navy
Hyman G. Rickover directed the Naval Reactors Branch for more than 30 years. He gave 63 years of active-duty service, ending his career as a four-star admiral, and died in 1986 at age 86.
Adm. James F. Caldwell Jr., director of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, said Rickover's legacy "is one of impeccably high standards, discipline, hard work, unwavering commitment to personal responsibility, challenging people to perform to the absolute best of their abilities beyond what even they thought was possible, and an unflinching, unapologetic and relentless pursuit of excellence."
Jennifer Boykin, president of Newport News Shipbuilding, drew a parallel between Rickover's qualities and the ones now seen in U.S. Olympic athletes, health care providers and shipbuilders.
U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, said the parts of Rickover's life he finds of great interest are not only Rickover's work in the Navy, but also his story as an immigrant who fled Poland with his family at age 6. Courtney also spoke about Rickover's passion for public education, and said the challenge now is not only to build the best new submarines possible but also to build a system of job training. EB now has 17,800 employees.
"Hyman Rickover revolutionized undersea warfare, and today, we face the same kind of revolutionary challenges," said U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. He added that "our enemies work every day to catch up," and we need to commit resources to building submarines.
For a gallery of more photos from the christening of the submarine Hyman G. Rickover, click here.