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CEREMONY COMMISSIONS FIRST IN NEW N-SUB CLASS

The Navy on Saturday commissioned the lead ship of its latest class of fast-attack submarines designed for post-Cold War security threats.

The $2.2 billion, nuclear-powered USS Virginia differs from other submarines because it can get close to shore in shallow water, which Navy officials say is important in fighting terrorism.

During ceremonies at the Norfolk Naval Station, Lynda Robb Johnson, daughter of former President Lyndon Johnson and wife of former Sen. Charles Robb, D-Va., gave the traditional order to "man our ship and bring her to life."

"Aye, aye, ma'am," the crew of about 130 responded.

They then raced up both ends of the sub and lined up on deck as a Navy band played "Anchors Aweigh."

The 377-foot-long sub is the first to be built without a periscope, using a high-resolution digital camera instead.

It is the first of 10 Virginia-class submarines scheduled to be built through a partnership between Northrop Grumman Newport News and General Dynamics Electric Boat.

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