NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. -- The keel of the nation's 13th Virginia-class attack submarine has been laid in a ceremony featuring first lady Michelle Obama.
The milestone to commemorate the beginning of construction on the future USS Illinois was marked Monday at the Rhode Island manufacturing plant for Electric Boat, a division of General Dynamics.
The first lady, who is from Illinois, is the ship sponsor. She called the honor one of the most extraordinary experiences of her life.
In Navy tradition, she wrote her initials on a metal plate and a welder inscribed them. The plate will later be mounted on the submarine.
Construction began in 2011. The $2.7 billion boat is scheduled to be delivered to the Navy in 2016.
Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus (MAY'-bus) also spoke at the ceremony.