US Senator Mike Rounds’ Weekly Column: An Update on the USS South Dakota

Rounds Logo 2016 MikeRounds official SenateAn Update on the USS South Dakota
By Senator Mike Rounds 

In August 2018, just two years from now, the new USS South Dakota is expected to make its debut in the Navy’s fleet. Not only will the next generation, Virginia-Class nuclear submarine play an important role in the mission of our sailors, it will also serve as a new symbolic link forged between our state and the Navy. 

I had the honor of representing South Dakota at the keel laying ceremony of the USS South Dakota in Rhode Island earlier this year. Joined by former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, his wife Deanie, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo and members of the Rhode Island Congressional delegation, the ceremony formally marked construction of the submarine. However, the new Virginia-Class attack vessel has been many years in the making. The contract to build the submarine was awarded in December 2008 and construction began in 2013. Once complete, the USS South Dakota will include state-of-the-art technology designed to increase stealth, as well as a revised bow and sonar panels that will allow it to better detect and track other submarines in its area. The 370 foot long submarine, which weighs 7,800 tons, will be manned by 132 crew members and can stay at sea for up to three months at a time. It is armed with four torpedo tubes and can hold six Tomahawk missiles that are capable of hitting targets over 1,000 miles away.

It has been nearly seven decades since the last USS South Dakota, a battleship, was recognized with this honor. I am confident the new USS South Dakota will follow proudly in the tradition of its forebearer, which had such a distinguished history during World War II. The lead ship of her class, the USS South Dakota (BB-57) first served in the Pacific theater, where it fought two battles before returning to the United States for repairs. It later returned to the front lines, first in the North Atlantic and Artic Oceans and then again to the Pacific in the fall of 1943. 

This June, a celebration was held at the USS South Dakota Memorial in Sioux Falls to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the USS South Dakota (BB-57). Seventy-five years ago, in June 1941, then-First Lady Vera Bushfield, wife of South Dakota Governor Harlan Bushfield, christened the battleship and soon after it was sent to war. It retired in 1947 after many noble years of service. South Dakotans can be proud of that history, as well as the history that will be written by the new USS South Dakota when construction is complete.  I look forward to following that history far into our Navy’s future.

As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Subcommittee on Seapower, it is truly a privilege to witness the progress being made on the USS South Dakota. As we celebrate this progress, we must also pause to recognize the brave sailors who served on the USS South Dakota in decades past, as well as those who will serve on her in the years and decades to come. 

In two short years, the USS South Dakota will play a significant role in our national security efforts. It will also serve as a tribute to South Dakotans’ long history of service in our armed forces, to include service which continues today throughout our Navy. I look forward to tracking its successes.