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Thursday, May 14, 2015 12:01 am

U.S.S. Illinois nuclear sub now under construction

Group visits Illinois to raise awareness and money

John Hollenbeck, Fred Cook, Koby Johnson and Leonard Wass, chairman of the U.S.S. Illinois’ Commissioning Committee, were on hand to showcase a model of the nuclear submarine at the State Capitol recently to publicize the cutting-edge sub.


Members of the new nuclear submarine USS Illinois (SSN-786) Commissioning Committee brought a replica of the cutting-edge sub to the Illinois State Capitol April 29. The commission is charged with raising awareness of the sub, which is being built in Groton, Connecticut, and with raising money to promote the ship and to support families of crew members once they are deployed.

Navy veteran Leonard R. Wass is the chairman of the committee and was a submarine officer in the 1960s, retiring in 1989 from the Navy Reserves. Logistics Supply officer John Hollenbeck, Yeoman First Class Fred Cook and electrical technician Koby Johnson were on hand to answer questions from legislators, lobbyists and the public.

The sub will be a Virginia-class submarine, which will gather intelligence, deploy Special Forces and attack land targets. The U.S.S. Illinois will be 377 feet long and 34 feet wide and weigh 7,300 tons while submerged. It will be able to launch 16 Tomahawk Cruise missiles simultaneously. It will be able to travel under water at 25 knots, or 29 miles per hour.

The U.S.S. Illinois is an attack sub with the latest stealth technology.

The U.S.S. Illinois will have a crew of 139. It will carry weapons on the front of the ship and will be able to launch an entire platoon (25-30) of Navy Seals at once, Wass said. It is an attack submarine with the latest stealth technology to avoid detection in deep and shallow waters. It will also be self-sustaining, making its own water, electricity and oxygen.

“This will be the first Navy ship named for Illinois since 1897,” added Loree Riggs, a Navy veteran and member of the committee.   “Every U.S. Navy ship has a sponsor, usually the wife of a prominent dignitary,” Riggs said. “Michelle Obama is the sponsor of the U.S.S. Illinois.” The First Lady is scheduled to christen the boat next fall, and it will be commissioned in early 2016. Submarines are typically at sea for six months, according to Riggs.

The Union League Club of Chicago is the home base for the sub’s Commissioning Committee. Two crew members are currently training as chefs for the U.S.S. Illinois in the Union League’s kitchen.

Readers interested in supporting the USS Illinois can make donations from $100 (Ensign) to $50,000 (Admiral) to help fund the commissioning of this state-of-the-art submarine. For more information see www.ussillinois.org.

Contact Ginny Lee at ginnylee2011@gmail.com.


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