U.S. Navy Commissions 18th Virginia-Class Fast Attack Submarine USS Delaware

The U.S. Navy commissioned its 18th Virginia-class nuclear-powered fast attack submarine, USS Delaware (SSN 791), on April 4, the service announced.

Although the traditional public commissioning ceremony was canceled for public health safety and due to restrictions on large public gatherings, the Navy commissioned USS Delaware administratively and transitioned the ship to normal operations.

According to the Navy, the service is looking at a future opportunity to commemorate the special event with the ship’s sponsor, crew and commissioning committee.

“This Virginia-class fast-attack submarine will continue the proud naval legacy of the state of Delaware and the ships that have borne her name,” said Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas B. Modly. “I am confident that the crew of this cutting edge platform will carry on this tradition, confronting the many challenges of today’s complex world with the professionalism and agility the American people depend on from the warriors of the silent service.”

Vice Adm. Daryl Caudle, commander, Submarine Forces, said he is pleased to welcome the ship to the U.S. submarine fleet and contribute to its unmatched undersea warfighting superiority.

“The U.S. Navy values the support of all those who contributed to today’s momentous milestone and will look for a future opportunity to commemorate this special event,” Caudle said. “The sailors of USS Delaware hail from every corner of the nation and from every walk of life. This crew, and the crews who follow, will rise to every challenge with unmatched bravery and perseverance to ensure the U.S. Submarine Force remains the best in the world.”

The ship’s sponsor, Dr. Jill Biden, offered congratulations to everyone who played a role in delivering USS Delaware to service.

“I know this submarine and her crew of courageous sailors will carry the steadfast strength of my home state wherever they go,” she said. “The sailors who fill this ship are the very best of the Navy, and as you embark on your many journeys, please know that you and those whom you love are in my thoughts.”

Delaware’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Matthew Horton, said today marks the culmination of six years of hard work by the men and women who constructed the submarine and are preparing her to become a warship. He said he is especially thankful to the crew and their families, Dr. Biden, the USS Delaware Commissioning Committee and the Navy League of Hampton Roads for all their hard work and support.

“As we do our part to maintain the nation’s undersea supremacy well into the future, today marks a milestone for the sailors who serve aboard USS Delaware. Whether they have been here for her initial manning three years ago, or have just reported, they all are strong, capable submariners ready to sail the nation’s newest warship into harm’s way,” Horton said. “I am equally proud of the families who have stood by through the long hours of shift work, testing, and sea trials and supported our mission with patriotism and devotion.”

USS Delaware (SSN 791) Timeline/Specs:

The contract to build USS Delaware was awarded to Huntington Ingalls Industries’ (HII) Newport News Shipbuilding (NNS) in partnership with General Dynamics Electric Boat (GDEB) on Dec. 22, 2008.  Her keel was laid on April 30, 2016, and was christened during a ceremony Oct. 20, 2018.

This is the first time in nearly 100 years the name “Delaware” has been used for a U.S. Navy vessel. It is the seventh U.S. Navy ship, and the first submarine, to bear the name of the state of Delaware. The previous USS Delaware was a dreadnought battleship USS Delaware (BB 28) that was delivered to the Navy in 1910.

The boat successfully completed her initial sea trials when she was submerged for the first time and performed high-speed maneuvers on the surface and underwater. During trials, she spent three days at sea proving all of its systems, components and compartments.

Delaware was delivered to the Navy by its builder HII last year. She is the ninth Virginia-class submarine to be delivered by NNS and the 18th overall built as part of a teaming agreement with GDEB.

USS Delaware is the Navy’s eighth and final Virginia-class Block III submarine that features a revised bow, including some technology from Ohio-class nuclear powered guided-missile submarines (SSGNs). The next ten Virginia class SSNs will be constructed in Block IV configuration.

In the case of Block III Virginia-class submarines, the Navy redesigned approximately 20 percent of the ship to reduce acquisition costs. They feature a redesigned bow, which replaces 12 individual Vertical Launch System (VLS) tubes with two large-diameter Virginia Payload Tubes each capable of launching six Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles (LACMs), among other design changes that reduced the submarines’ acquisition cost while maintaining their outstanding warfighting capabilities.

Delaware is 115 m long, 10 m wide, has a maximum draft of 9.8 m and will displace 7,800 tonnes. She is propelled by nuclear power, has a single propeller and is able to dive to depths greater than 800 feet and operates at speeds in excess of 25 knots submerged. The boat has a complement of 15 officers and 117 enlisted crew members and will operate for over 30 years without ever refueling.

Virginia-class submarines

The Virginia class, also known as the SSN-774 class, is a class of nuclear-powered cruise missile fast-attack submarines (SSNs), currently in the military service in the U.S. Navy. They are built for a broad spectrum of open-ocean and littoral missions to replace the Navy’s Los Angeles-class submarines.

Virginia-class submarines are flexible, multi-mission platforms designed to carry out the seven core competencies of the submarine force; anti-submarine warfare (ASW); anti-surface warfare (ASuW); delivery of special operations forces (SOF); strike warfare; irregular warfare; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR); and mine warfare.

Their inherent stealth, endurance, mobility and firepower directly enable them to support five of the six maritime strategy core capabilities: sea control, power projection, forward presence, maritime security and deterrence.

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