GROTON, Conn., Feb. 19 -- The USS Jimmy Carter entered the Navy's fleet Saturday as the most heavily armed submarine ever built and as the last of the Seawolf class of attack subs that the Pentagon ordered during the Cold War's final years.
The $3.2 billion Jimmy Carter was commissioned Saturday, the first submarine named after a living ex-president. Carter, a submariner during his time in the Navy, was on hand for the ceremony signaling the end of an era in submarining.
Navigator Lt. Stephen Karpi, left, salutes former president Jimmy Carter at the commissioning of the fast-attack submarine named for Carter.
(Chip East -- Reuters)
"The most deeply appreciated and emotional honor I've ever had is to have this great ship bear my name," Carter said in remarks prepared for the ceremony at the Naval Submarine Base New London.
Carter, with his wife, Rosalynn, was joined by his vice president Walter Mondale and his wife, Joan, and Stansfield Turner, CIA director in the Carter administration.
The 453-foot, 12,000-ton submarine has a 50-torpedo payload and eight torpedo tubes for Tomahawk cruise missiles and anti-submarine torpedoes. According to intelligence experts, it can tap undersea cables and eavesdrop on the communications passing through them.
It can reach speeds of more than 25 knots and is engineered to be quieter than the other two Seawolves, making it better for surveillance.
A 100-foot hull extension to the Jimmy Carter equips it to replace the USS Parche, one of the fleet's premier spy subs, analysts say.