The USS Arizona (BB-39) was among the vessels to sink during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and now the US Navy is looking to honor the battleship’s legacy with the construction of a new attack submarine. On December 7, 2022, 81 years since the attack, the granddaughter of one of Arizona‘s crew members forever left her mark on the Virginia-class submersible.
Arizona was one of the many primary targets of the Japanese during the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. She was initially struck by a 1,760-pound projectile, which caused her munitions and fuel to ignite, sparking an explosion so strong that the battleship was thrust into the air. She then sank, with the parts sticking out of the water remaining ablaze for approximately two days.
Almost half of those who perished on December 7, 1941 were members of Arizona‘s crew. While between 334 and 355 crewmen survived the bombardment, 1,177 did not. While attempts were initially made to retrieve the bodies trapped within the battleship, the decision was ultimately made to leave the over 900 who couldn’t be removed from the wreckage.
In December 2019, it was announced that the USS Arizona (SSN-803), a new Block V Virginia-class attack submarine, had been approved for construction. Three years later, on the 81st anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the “keel-authentication ceremony” was held at General Dynamic Electric Boat’s Quonset Point Facility in North Kingston, Rhode Island.
During the ceremony, Nikki Stratton, the granddaughter of late Seaman First Class Donald Stratton, who served aboard Arizona, welded her initials onto a steel plate. She was approached by the Navy to sponsor the submarine following her grandfather’s funeral, and, as per tradition, her initials will be permanently adhered to the vessel.
Around 500 people were present at the event, including seven veterans from the Second World War. Two of them, Lou Conter and Ken Potts, are the only remaining survivors from Arizona. At 101 years old, they both joined remotely, with Potts waving at the audience during a video livestream and Conter pre-recording a video message.
The first Navy vessel named from the state of Arizona since Pearl Harbor, the attack submarine will be among the most advanced in the world, according to Rear Adm. Johnathan Rucker, Program Executive Office, Attack Submarines. “Their stealth, firepower, and maneuverability are superior to every other attack submarine in the world,” he explained.
Arizona will be the 30th submarine in the Virginia-class. She’s estimated to have a length of 460 feet, and will be able to reach a top speed of 25 knots. The vessel will be the first equipped with the Virginia Payload Module, which is comprised of four large-diameter, vertical payload tubes that’ll allow the vessel to deliver weapons and unmanned undersea vehicles, among other payloads. She’ll also be equipped with Tomahawk missiles, which will allow her to hit shore-based targets.
On top of her weapons capabilities, Arizona will also be able to perform long-term, stealth surveillance, as well as the delivery of Special Forces, sea mine delivery and minefield mapping, and both anti-submarine and anti-ship warfare.
The Virginia-class attack submarines are designed to perform a wide array of littoral and open-ocean missions, including warfare and intelligence gathering. It was the first class to trade in the traditional periscope for photonic sensors, and is equipped with an infrared laser rangefinder, high-resolution cameras, an integrated Electronic Support Measures (ESM) array, and infrared and light-intensification sensors.
The vessels are intended to replace the aging Los Angeles-class, many of which have already been decommissioned.
During the keel-authentication ceremony, Nikki Stratton told the audience that her grandfather suffered burns to over 65 percent of his body when Arizona was attacked. Following his recovery, he re-enlisted in the Navy and served in the Pacific Theater aboard the destroyer USS Stack (DD-406). He was present during offensives in New Guinea and the Philippines, and participated in the Battle of Okinawa.
Following the war, he dedicated his life to preserving the legacy of Arizona and those who perished aboard the battleship.
“The future is unknown, but one thing we do know is that the crew of SSN-803 will stand watch, patrolling the ocean’s depths,” Stratton told the crowd. “She will strike fear into the hearts of our enemies and become a beacon of hope. Long may she rule the deep.”
The submarine version of the USS Arizona will be assembled at Groton Shipyard, and will be built with pieces supplied by Electric Boat and Newport News Shipbuilding.