USS Idaho Is The First Ship To Bear That Name In A Century

Ship-naming ceremony at the West Idaho state fair, 2015. (Photo Credit: U.S. Navy / MC2 Armando Gonzales / Released)
Ship-naming ceremony at the West Idaho state fair, 2015. (Photo Credit: U.S. Navy / MC2 Armando Gonzales / Released)

The U.S. Navy has announced that they are constructing a new advanced attack submarine, named the USS Idaho (SSN-799). Work on the submarine started in August and is planned to be complete by the summer of 2022. The vessel should be in service in 2023.

The USS Idaho is built with the future in mind

This 377-foot vessel will have a crew of 134 and will be one of the most advanced submarines in the world. It is a Virginia-class submarine, a type that has been replacing the older Los Angeles–class, and is equipped with the latest stealth and weapon systems.

USS Virginia, the lead ship in the Virginia Class.
The USS Virginia, the lead ship of the Virginia Class. (Photo Credit: U.S. Navy / General Dynamics Electric Boat)

Virginia-class subs like the USS Idaho are powered by an S9G nuclear reactor that can last for over 30 years without refueling, which is longer than the Idaho‘s scheduled service life. On top of this, they can carry torpedoes, Tomahawk missiles, and Harpoon anti-ship missiles. The Virginia class has been designed with the future in mind, ready to accept technologies that aren’t available yet, like energy-based weapons.  So far, 19 out of 86 Virginia-class submarines have been completed by General Dynamics.

The USS Idaho itself will displace about 8,700 tons and cost about $2.6 billion. It is expected to provide at least 30 years of service. The Idaho will be able to dive to below 800 feet, and can remain submerged for up to three months.

The Idaho‘s predecessor had a storied career

This submarine is not the first U.S. Navy vessel to be named the Idaho, however, as the name dates back to a WWI-era New Mexico-class battleship the USS Idaho (BB-42). That USS Idaho battleship displaced over 30,000 tons and carried twelve 14 inch guns.

The USS Idaho dressed with flags during the Naval Review off New York City, October 1912.
The USS Idaho dressed with flags during the Naval Review off New York City, October 1912. (Photo Credit: Bureau of Ships Collection / U.S. National Archives, #19-N-62-2-1)

This ship, known as “The Big Spud,” had an incredible career, being completed during WWI and accepted into service in 1919. She spent much of the peaceful 1920s and ’30s participating in training, ceremonies, and exercises in the Pacific Fleet, and on a few occasions transported notable historical figures like the president of Brazil.

When WWII began in Europe, President Franklin D. Roosevelt began moving warships to protect U.S. supply ships heading for Europe. The Idaho was moved from the Pacific and provided support to shipping during the Battle of the Atlantic. It was during this time when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. Luckily for the Idaho, she was stationed in Hvalfjörður, Iceland, when the attacks occurred.

With the U.S. now an active participant in the war, the Idaho rejoined the Pacific fleet and had her worn-out main guns replaced. The Idaho would spend the rest of the war assisting the island-hopping campaign in the Pacific, providing days-long naval bombardments of Japanese-held islands before U.S. troops would assault them. She also acted as an anti-aircraft platform to protect U.S. forces.

During the war, the Idaho provided fire support on the Gilbert and Marshall Islands, the Philippines campaign, and the islands of Peleliu, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa. During the Battle of Okinawa, she shot down five kamikaze aircraft during a massed attack, but suffered a near miss from one, forcing her to undergo repairs before returning to the island and continuing her shelling.

After the Japanese surrender, the Idaho was docked in Tokyo Bay and witnessed the signing of the Japanese Instrument of Surrender. Just two years later, she would be cut up for scrap.

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The new USS Idaho will operate silently below the waves instead, with her pump-jet pushing her along instead of a traditional propeller, to reduce the noise emitted from the vessel. Richard Colburn, the chairman of the USS Idaho Commissioning Committee, is currently raising money to fund the 2023 commissioning ceremony and hopes to make quality of life improvements for the crew.

Colburn says, “When you step on the submarine, we want it to look like Idaho and we want them to take part of Idaho with them.”

Jesse Beckett

Jesse Beckett is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE