USS Los Alamos could be name of nuclear sub

By:  Steve Terrell

A small city in the mountains of landlocked New Mexico could become the namesake of the next U.S. attack submarine.

All five members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation this week asked Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer to name the next Virginia class fast-attack submarine “USS Los Alamos” in recognition of the contributions the city and its national laboratory have made to the United States Navy.

“This year marks the 75th anniversary of the founding of Los Alamos National Laboratory, and it is clear that the work of the men and women of Los Alamos has helped make the United States Navy the strongest in the world today,” the letter said.

A spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich said Tuesday the Navy plans to procure two Virginia class submarines a year for the next five years.

The nation’s newest nuclear sub, the USS Colorado, was commissioned last week.

Another nuclear sub named for a New Mexico city — the USS Albuquerque — was decommissioned last year after 33 years of service. The Albuquerque was a Los Angeles class fast-attack submarine. Virginia class subs are the latest model of the Navy’s attack subs.

The USS New Mexico, also a Virginia class vessel, was commissioned in 2010.

If the Navy does decide to name a nuclear submarine after Los Alamos, it’s unlikely the community will react the way Santa Fe did when then-Mayor Sam Pick asked former U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman to request that the Navy name a nuclear submarine after the city.

Local veterans groups supported the effort, but local peace groups were adamantly against it, arguing the City of Holy Faith should not be the namesake of a nuclear attack sub.

There were petition drives for both sides and contentious hearings at City Hall on the issue. The fight culminated in a City Council meeting attended by about 100 people. The emotional speeches included dueling versions of the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi from Bert Prince, who was the local commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Hib Sabin, the peace activist who had spearheaded the opposition.

In the end, the City Council voted 4-3 in favor of naming the submarine after Santa Fe.

The USS Santa Fe was commissioned in 1994 and remains in active service.