USS Delaware joins submarine force

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The U.S. Navy today commissioned USS Delaware (SSN 791), the 18th Virginia-class attack nuclear submarine.

Although the public commissioning ceremony at the Port of Wilmington was canceled due to restrictions of large public gatherings, the ship made the transition to normal operations.

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

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 first submarine, to bear the name of the state of Delaware. Delaware is made to carry out the seven core competencies of the submarine force: anti-submarine warfare; anti-surface warfare; delivery of special operations forces; strike warfare; irregular warfare; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and mine warfare, according to a Navy release.

Virginia class submarines are armed with Tomahawk missiles and torpedos and have a crew that numbers 135. The price tag is in the $3 billion range.

Vice Adm. Daryl Caudle, commander, Submarine Forces, said he is pleased to welcome the ship to the U.S. submarine fleet.

“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, 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.”

The submarine is 377 feet long, has a 34-foot beam, and will be able to dive to depths greater than 800 feet and operate at speeds in excess of 25 knots submerged. It will operate for over 30 years without ever refueling. Delaware’s keel was laid April 30, 2016, and was christened during a ceremony Oct. 20, 2018. It is the final Block III Virginia-class submarine, before the next wave of Block IV deliveries.

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