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Idaho at Sea

Advanced naval vessel in production

By Colin Anderson | Photo Courtesy of USS IDAHO Commissioning Committee

Once completed, she will be 377-feet long and carry a crew of approximately 135 mixed gender enlisted sailors and officers. She’ll be tasked with escorting battle ships and aircraft carriers, as well as gathering surveillance, reconnaissance and other intelligence. She’ll be ready to defend the homeland from underwater attack and will be capable of launching land attacks from below the surface. She’ll be one of the most technologically advanced submarines ever created, and she will carry the name USS IDAHO SSN 799.

It’s a once-in-a-century celebration for residents of the Gem State. While there have been other naval vessels that carry the name Boise (currently in service), Pocatello, and Twin Falls, this is the first naval vessel to carry the state’s namesake since the USS Idaho BB42, a New Mexico Class battleship built in 1919 that saw extensive action during World War II and was eventually decommissioned in 1946. While Idahoans can be proud to see such a beautiful new vessel carry the state’s namesake, they can be equally prideful that an integral part of its technology was developed within the state.

Henry Netzer is a Hayden resident and retired Navy captain. Captain Netzer spent a good deal of his service time aboard submarines off the waters of Hawaii. Once he left active duty, he eventually landed a roll as a civilian at the Navy’s Acoustic Research Detachment located in Bayview, Idaho, at the southern end of Lake Pend Oreille. “The lake is deep, protected and quiet, especially at night. It meets all the needs the Navy has for testing. It’s a great place for sure,” he said. Netzer was eventually director of the facility up until retiring in 2007.

While originally a naval training station during World War II, soon after it became an ideal research and development location for submarines. Here, large-scale submarine models and state-of-the-art facilities support a wide variety of research and technology ranging from submarine propulsion development to the calibration of full-scale acoustic transducers. Test ranges, and acoustic test facilities utilized in conducting research, development, test and evaluation of submarine acoustic stealth technology and propulsion, are conducted here, according to a naval release. Those tests have helped develop the technology found in subs across the fleet including the Virginia Class, of which the USS IDAHO will fall under.

The vessel, which is currently under construction in Connecticut, is scheduled to be christened sometime during the summer of 2022 and will be commissioned into the naval fleet in 2023. Netzer is the North Regional Chair of the USS IDAHO Commissioning Committee. The committee’s vision is: To Bring together the people of the great State of Idaho and the Officers and Crew of the USS IDAHO to celebrate in exemplary fashion the extraordinary honor of having a ship of the line named for the state. To create a bond between the people of Idaho and the sailors of the submarine that will last throughout the life of the ship and beyond. And, to recognize with great honor, the men and women that have served and will serve throughout the history of the land we now call Idaho.

“We want to showcase Idaho to the Navy, and the Navy to Idaho,” said Netzer. That showcasing is already underway, as many members of the chain of command of the submarine have already been identified. These include Commanding Officer Nicholas Meyers, Executive Officer Lieutenant Commander Rene Medrano, and Chief of the Boat Master, Chief David Pope III. These officers and their families, as well as several future crew members, have traveled to the Gem State to get a firsthand look at its people and culture. The first couple of visits were to Boise and Southern Idaho, where they met Governor Little and got to travel to several different events and activities. “They took in a Boise Hawks baseball game, rode in a parade, toured the Idaho National Laboratory, and saw Craters of the Moon,” explained retired Colonial and Commissioning Committee Public Affairs Officer Tim Marsano. “The events are really meant to create a bond between the sailors on the sea that will be sailing under our namesake and the people of our state.”

Another crew visit is just around the corner, as several enlisted sailors will be heading to Moscow during University of Idaho’s homecoming week. They’ll get a chance to take in the football game, ride in the homecoming parade, and do some meet and greets while on campus.

A big part of the commissioning committee’s mission is to not just introduce the crew to the state but to create lasting bonds with its citizens and have the ship’s interior carry representations of Idaho as well. “We will look to outfit the ship with artwork and paintings of the Sawtooths, and Lake Pend Oreille, have tabletops specific to the state of Idaho, and bring in a few creature comforts that are Idaho specific,” said Marsano.

The vessel is on track to be completed in 2022. A keel laying ceremony was performed at 10:30am, August 24, 2020, at the Quonset Point Facility of General Dynamics Electric Boat in North Kingston, Rhode Island. The keel laying of a ship is a time-honored Navy tradition. In the days of wooden ships, the start of construction was marked by the laying of the keel—the backbone of the vessel. Shipbuilders and sailors refer to the bottom centerline of the submarine as the keel.

Next up will be the ship’s christening, where the sponsor bestows the ship’s name while smashing the bottle against the bow of the ship. Finally, the commissioning ceremony is one of the most important. The ship is accepted by the United States Navy and becomes part of the active Navy Fleet. When the sponsor says, "Man Our Ship and Bring Her to Life," and the crew boards the ship, all present rejoice and break out in thunderous applause. It is a very patriotic and proud moment for all.

The USS IDAHO will come in at an approximate cost of $2.6 billion and will be in service to the Navy for decades. Its nuclear-powered propulsion and acoustic stealth capabilities are tied directly to research and development done both in Bayview and at the Idaho National Lab. It will have special features to host the missions of Navy SEALs and will carry an armament of tomahawk missiles and torpedoes, ready to defend itself and the nation.

The commissioning committee invites all of Idaho to enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime event. You can visit and click “Join Now” to receive the newsletter and latest updates. The anticipation, especially amongst those who have previously served, is especially high, and the committee hopes that all of Idaho recognizes what a special time they have before them. “Most think of us as a landlocked state, but we have a great naval history here. This is an opportunity for our citizens to really get to understand that history and be a part of its future,” said Marsano.

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