The US Navy has received an attack submarine sponsored by first lady Michelle Obama and named for her home state, the Navy announced Monday.
The USS Illinois, a Virginia-class submarine, was christened by Obama at a ceremony last October. It was built by General Dynamics Electric Boat.
Obama, a native of Chicago, has made support of service members and veterans of the military, along with their families, a central focus of her role as first lady.
In Navy tradition, the sponsor of a ship is mostly a ceremonial role and normally filled by a woman. Technically the sponsor is considered a member of the crew and may advocate for the ship’s continued service. Sponsors are chosen by the secretary of the Navy.
In addition to the USS Illinois, Obama was also the sponsor of the Coast Guard Cutter Stratton based in Alameda, California.
Illinois is home to the Navy’s only basic training facility, located in Great Lakes, Illinois — a facility where every enlisted sailor begins his or her service.
The vessel is the ninth submarine of its class to finish and deliver ahead of schedule, the Navy said in a press release.
“Illinois’ delivery continues the program’s success of delivering Virginia-class submarines ahead of schedule and within budget,” Navy Capt. Michael J. Stevens, said in the release. “Our plan is to have Illinois out on operations next year, going from construction start to mission-ready in just over six years.”
Virginia-class submarines are nuclear-powered vessels designed to conduct anti-submarine and anti-surface ship warfare, and also offer intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities. They have the ability to attack targets on land with Tomahawk cruise missiles.
The Illinois is the 13th submarine of the class.
Former first lady Laura Bush sponsored the USS Texas, another Virginia-class submarine in 2004. Hillary Clinton sponsored the USS Columbia, a Los Angeles-class submarine, when she served as first lady.
The Illinois is scheduled to be commissioned on October 29 in Groton, Connecticut.
It is the second ship in the Navy to bear the name. The first Illinois was a battleship that began its service in December 1907.