Construction Timeline

Keel Laying: September 1, 2021

  • Small ceremony – the start of construction of a ship.
  • Ship’s Sponsor is Kate Mabus, daughter of Former Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus
  • Although no true ‘keel’ on an SSN, the sponsor initials a steel plate and mounted permanently in the ship.
  • The Keel Laying Ceremony will be broadcast live on General Dynamic’s website ( on September 1, 2021 and will be posted here afterwards.

Christening: Summer 2024

  • Christening is a shipyard ceremony designed to celebrate the float off or ‘wetting’ of the ship.
  • Unlike in days past, submarines no longer ‘slide down the ways”.
  • Ceremony culminated in the traditional bottle break of sparkling wine with about 3,000 attending.

Commissioning: Spring/Summer 2025

  • Formal induction of the ship into the fleet.
  • Culminating event with about 6000 attending.

Keel Laying

The keel laying is the formal recognition of the start of a ship’s construction. In earlier times it was the “laying down” of the central or main timber making up the backbone of a vessel. Today, fabrication of the ship may begin months before and some of the ship’s bottom may actually be joined. However, the keel laying ceremony (also referred to as the keel authentication ceremony) symbolically recognizes the joining of modular components and the ceremonial beginning of a ship.

Keel Laying ceremony video for USS Indiana


The official launching ceremony recognizing the “floating” of a ship by name and marked with the traditional breaking of a bottle of champagne across the bow. The blessing of ships dates as far back as the third millennium BC, when the ancient Babylonians, according to a narrative, sacrificed an oxen to the gods upon completion of a ship. Throughout history, different cultures developed and shaped the religious ceremony surrounding a ship launching. Today the christening is often conducted before the launching. The ship’s sponsors who are most often women break the bottom of champagne and ceremonially give the ship its name. The first recorded christening of a United States Navy ship is USS Constitution, on Oct. 21, 1797 in Boston, where the ship’s sponsor, Capt. James Sever, broke a bottle of wine across the bow as “Old Ironsides” slid into the water.

Christening ceremony video for USS Indiana


The commissioning ceremony marks the acceptance of a ship as a unit of the operating forces of the United States Navy. At the moment of breaking the commissioning pennant, the ship will “come alive” and the crew will ceremonially run aboard ship. Thereafter the ship is officially referred to as a United States Ship (USS).

The act of placing a ship in commission marks her entry into active Navy service. At the moment when the commissioning pennant is broken at the masthead, a ship becomes a Navy command in her own right and takes her place alongside the other active ships of the Fleet.

This ceremony continues a centuries old tradition, observed by navies around the world, and by our own Navy since December 1775, when Alfred, the first ship of the Continental Navy, was commissioned at Philadelphia. Once in commission, the commanding officer and crew are entrusted with the privilege, and the responsibility, of maintaining their ship’s readiness in peace, and of conducting successful operations at sea in time of war.

No written procedure for commissioning was laid down in our Navy’s early days, but the act of commissioning was familiar, derived from established British naval custom. Commissionings were simple military ceremonies. The prospective commanding officer came on board, called the crew to quarters, and formally read the orders appointing him to command. He then ordered the ensign and the commissioning pennant hoisted; at that moment the ship went into commission, and the first entry in the ship’s deck log recorded.

Preparing for Commissioning

Many milestones are completed between launching and commissioning of a ship. Below are just a few of them.

Sea Trials

Sea trials are an intense series of tests to demonstrate the satisfactory operation of all installed shipboard equipment. Sea Trials ensure that the performance of the ship as a whole is in accordance with its plans and specifications. New construction ships undergo Builder’s Trials and Acceptance Trials prior to ship’s delivery and Final Contract Trials several months after delivery and sail away.


The official turnover of custody of a ship from the shipyard to the U.S. Navy. This private ceremony involves the Prospective Commanding Officer who actually signs for the ship. This event normally coincides with Move Aboard when the Pre-commissioning crew moves aboard and starts living, eating, standing watch, training and working aboard the ship while final work continues in the shipyard.

Sail Away

The ship’s final departure from the construction yard for its homeport or commissioning site. It signifies the end of the new construction period and the beginning of its life preparing to perform the mission it was designed to undertake.

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