USS Illinois History

The USS ILLINOIS (SSN-786) is the 13th Virginia Class nuclear submarine and part of the block III design. She was built by General Dynamics at the Electric Boat shipyard in Groton, Ct. She is only the second U.S. Navy ship to be commissioned with the name “USS ILLINOIS” since a battleship with that name was commissioned in 1897. She was Commissioned on October 29, 2016 and transited thru the Panama Canal to her home port, Pearl Harbor, Hi. arriving just before Thanksgiving 2018.

Block III Virginia Class boats feature a revised bow with a Large Aperture Bow (LAB) sonar array, as well as technology from Ohio-class SSGNs (2 VLS tubes each containing 6 missiles). The Virginia Class submarines are 377 feet long and displace 7900 tons. They are designed to prevail in both open ocean and littoral waters and are expected to be in service for at least 33 years. She is manned by a crew of 135 (enlisted and officers) and carries Mk 48 torpedos, tactical Tomahawk and Harpoon missiles and unmanned underwater vehicles. She can also be configured to insert and retrieve Special Ops and SEAL teams.

Her performance characteristics are classified but you can be sure she is the state-of-the-art in the finest Navy in the world.

There have been only two commissioned Navy Ships named USS Illinois. The first was a battleship built over 113 years ago.

USS Illinois  BB-7

Illinois (BB-7) was laid down 10 February 1897 by the Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co., Newport News, Va., launched 4 October 1898; sponsored by Miss Nancy Leiter; and commissioned 16 September 1901, Captain G. A. Converse in command.

After shakedown and training in Chesapeake Bay, the new battleship sailed 20 November 1901 for Algiers, La., where she was used to test a new floating dry dock. She returned to Newport News in January 1902 and from 15 to 28 February Illinois served as flagship for Rear Admiral R. D. Evans during the reception for Prince Henry of Prussia. Bearing the flag of Rear Admiral A. S. Crowninshield, the battleship departed New York 30 April 1902 and arrived Naples 18 May, where the Admiral took command of the European Squadron. Illinois carried out training and ceremonial duties until 14 July 1902, when she grounded in the harbor of Christiana, Norway, and had to return to England for repairs. She remained at Chatham until 1 September 1902, then proceeded to the Mediterranean and South Atlantic for fleet maneuvers.

Illinois, 1901–1907

Illinois was detached from the European Squadron 10 January 1903 and assigned to the North Atlantic. She engaged in fleet maneuvers, gunnery and seamanship training, and ceremonial operations until December 1907, when she joined the Great White Fleet for the cruise around the world. Following a Presidential review, the mighty battleships sailed from Hampton Roads on their important voyage. The Atlantic Fleet joined the Pacific Fleet 8 May 1908 in San Francisco Bay and after a review by the Secretary of the Navy the combined fleets continued their cruise. The ships visited Australia, Japan, Ceylon and other countries, arriving Suez 3 January 1909. At Suez word of the Sicilian earthquake sent Illinois, Connecticut, and Culgoa to Messina. After rendering valuable aid to victims of the disaster, the ships rejoined the fleet, returning to Hampton Roads 22 February 1909. President Roosevelt reviewed the fleet as it arrived, having given the world a graphic demonstration of America’s naval might. Illinois decommissioned at Boston 4 August 1909.

The battleship was placed in reserve commission 16 April 1912 and recommissioned 2 November 1912, in time to take part in winter fleet exercises and battle maneuvers with the Atlantic Fleet. During the summers of 1913 and 1914 Illinois made training cruises to Europe with Midshipmen. In 1919 the ship was again laid up at Philadelphia Navy Yard and was later loaned to the State of New York 23 October 1921 for use by the Naval Militia.

Excluded from further use as a warship by the terms of the Washington Treaty, Illinois was fitted out as a floating armory at New York Navy Yard in 1924 and was assigned to the New York Naval Reserve. She remained there for more than 30 years, though reclassified IX-15 8 January 1941 and renamed Prairie State to allow her name to be assigned to a projected new battleship. During World War II she served as a U.S. Naval Reserve Midshipmen Training School at New York. Following the war, she was retained on loan to the State as quarters for a Naval Reserve unit until 31 December 1955.

Source: Department Of The Navy — Naval Historical Center

For further information about the wooden mockup of the first Battleship Illinois, on display at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, in 1893 see the following link to a short article written by the Historian of the Illinois State Society in Washington, DC (former Illinois State Senator Mark Q. Rhoads). The actual ship was launched five years later in 1898.