Officials attend USS Colorado commissioning


GROTON, Conn. — Colorado’s state and national delegation was well represented on Saturday for the commissioning of the fourth naval vessel to operate under the USS Colorado name.

Some of those on hand for the ceremony at Naval Submarine Base New London in Connecticut on Saturday, March 17, were State Senator Larry Crowder from the San Luis Valley, Governor John Hickenlooper and U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner who gave the keynote speech.

“A very proud day for this state and nation,” said Crowder, a veteran, pictured above. He estimated 2,000 people were in attendance.

“The USS Colorado is second to none in ability, and will be a major source of deterrence to the myriad threats we face around the globe,” Gardner said. “I want to again thank the men and women in uniform, and the crew that will man this magnificent vessel. You are brave, disciplined, and professional. And as the courageous explorer who founded Pike’s Peak, Zebulon Pike, exclaimed, ‘May Heaven be propitious, and smile on the cause of my country.’

“Remember that, as you embark upon your journey on the high seas. Remember that, as you stand up to tyranny and those looking to do us harm. And know this: your nation and our great state is proud of you.”

Bennet said, “The people of Colorado are remarkably proud to know that, for decades to come, people in ports around the world will say, ‘There goes the Colorado.’ In the months and years ahead, we will be standing behind the USS Colorado and her crew as she silently protects our interests around the world. From monitoring undersea cables, to tracking the ever more capable submarines of our adversaries, to protecting our interests in the South China Sea and the Arctic, she will lead you on missions that shape this century.”

The USS Colorado was commissioned as SSN 788 Virginia Class attack submarine, the 15th Virginia-class attack submarine to join the fleet. The most modern and sophisticated attack submarine in the world, the 377-foot submarine is capable of gliding 30 MPH at a depth of 800 feet below the surface with a crew of 138 sailors.

Sen. Lt. Michael Nielson of Arvada is an officer on the ship and also designed the crest that puts Colorado's name and symbol on the ship.

As the most modern and sophisticated attack submarine in the world, the submarine can operate in both littoral and deep ocean environments and presents combatant commanders with a broad and unique range of operational capabilities. Colorado is a flexible, multi-mission platform designed to carry out the seven core competencies of the submarine force: anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, delivery of Special Operations Forces (SOF), strike warfare, irregular warfare, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and mine warfare.

Colorado is a part of the Virginia-class' third, or Block III, contract, in which the Navy redesigned approximately 20 percent of the ship to reduce acquisition costs. Colorado features a redesigned bow, which replaces 12 individual Vertical Launch System (VLS) tubes with two large-diameter Virginia Payload Tubes (VPTs) each capable of launching six Tomahawk cruise missiles, among other design changes that reduced the submarines' acquisition cost while maintaining their outstanding warfighting capabilities.

Colorado also has special features to support Special Forces, including a reconfigurable torpedo room which can accommodate a large number of personnel and all their equipment for prolonged deployments and future off-board payloads. Also, in Virginia-class SSNs, traditional periscopes have been replaced by two photonics masts that host visible and infrared digital cameras atop telescoping arms, which are maneuvered by a video game controller. Through the extensive use of modular construction, open architecture, and commercial off-the-shelf components, the Virginia class is designed to remain at the cutting edge for its entire operational life through the rapid introduction of new systems and payloads.

SSN 788 was built at Electric Boat in Groton, Conn and is 7,800 tons and 377 feet in length, has a beam of 34 feet and operates at more than 25 knots submerged. It is designed with a nuclear reactor plant that does not require refueling during the planned life of the ship, reducing lifecycle costs while increasing underway time.

The submarine Colorado is the fourth U.S. Navy vessel to bear the Colorado name. The first USS Colorado (Screw Frigate) was named after the Colorado River, the second USS Colorado (AC 7) was an armored cruiser commissioned in 1905, and the third USS Colorado (BB 45) was the lead ship of its class and was commissioned in 1923.