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Helmut Schmidt, Published April 28 2012

USS North Dakota set to be completed in 2014

FARGO – The executive officer for the USS North Dakota, one of the Navy’s newest nuclear attack submarines, will be in Fargo on Tuesday and Wednesday to talk about its construction.

Lt. Cmdr. Jeremiah D. Minner will speak at a dinner sponsored by the North Dakota Council of the Navy League of the United States on Tuesday at the Ramada Inn.

Wednesday, Minner will speak at a news conference and VIP luncheon at the Ramada hosted by the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce.

The USS North Dakota is the first of the latest version of the Navy’s Virginia-class nuclear attack submarines.

Construction of the USS North Dakota – designated SSN 784 – began in March 2009, and plans call for the sub to be handed over to the Navy in 2014.

A keel-laying ceremony for the USS North Dakota will be held May 11, said Greg Rose, a spokesperson for Electric Boat Corp in Groton, Conn., where the submarine is being built.

“They build it in segments, five or six big chunks,” said Bob Wefald, spokesman for the North Dakota Council of the Navy League.

Components of the submarine are also being built at Quonset Point, R.I., and Newport, R.I., said Bob Wefald, the North Dakota spokesman for the Navy League.

Wefald said he lobbied 23 years to get the Navy to name another ship after North Dakota.

SSN 784 will be the second ship to honor North Dakota, which has produced 17 recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor.

The first USS North Dakota (BB-29), was a 20,000-ton Delaware-class battleship that served from 1910 to 1923.

Wefald, 69, is a former state attorney general and state district court judge. He’s also a Navy veteran, who served as a gunnery officer on a guided missile destroyer during the Vietnam War. He later entered the reserves, serving at several posts around the world, before retiring in 1991 as a captain.

Wefald says North Dakotans will be proud of the submarine when it is completed.

“It’s a great honor for the state,” Wefald said. “It’s going to be carrying the name North Dakota around the world.”

Virginia-class submarines can strike targets at sea (ships or other submarines) or on land, using a mix of torpedoes and missiles. They’re stealthy and are equipped with sophisticated surveillance gear.

The submarines are also designed to carry and deliver teams of special forces troops. They can also deliver mines and map minefields.

Virginia-class submarines are 377 feet long and displace 7,800 tons. They can operate at more than 25 knots submerged (about 29 mph).

“The bottom line is our enemies should not leave their coast undefended,” Wefald said.

According to Military.com, Virginia-class subs were to have cost $1.8 billion apiece, but the price tag has grown to $2.3 billion, due to drawn- out construction schedules.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583

If you go

What: Dinner and presentation on the USS North Dakota by Lt. Cmdr. Jeremiah Minner, the submarine’s executive officer

When: Tuesday at the Ramada Inn in Fargo. The event begins with a social at

6 p.m., dinner at 6:30 p.m., and is followed by a presentation by Minner.

Info: Cost is $25. Reservations can be made by calling Dave Johnston at (701) 238-9630. Seating is limited.