Ship’s sponsor Jill Biden reacts after christening the submarine Delaware (SSN 791). Also pictured (from left) are Cmdr. Brian Hogan, the submarine’s commanding officer; U.S. Sen. Thomas Carper and Newport News Shipbuilding President Jennifer Boykin./Photo by John Whalen/Huntington Ingalls Industries
It was the turn of the 20th century when an active U.S. Navy ship was last named after the First State, but that will change soon.
The Virginia-class submarine USS Delaware was dedicated nearly a year ago by Jill Biden, Delaware educator and wife of former Vice President Joe Biden, who performed the traditional task of christening the ship with the crack of a Champagne bottle on its bow. She was accompanied by U.S. Senator Thomas Carper. In the lead up to full deployment, the crew enjoyed its first shipboard meal in July.
Known among the Navy fleet as SSN-791, the 377-foot-long Delaware is the 18th sub in the Virginia-class fleet, designed to take the place of the Los Angeles-class fleet, from which 20 ships were decommissioned.
According to the Navy and shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls Industries of Newport News, Virginia, the Virginia-class subs represent the latest in weapons and stealth technology. Operable in both shallow waters and open seas, the Delaware serves as both a surveillance and weapons platform. Its vertical launch tubes accommodate both Tomahawk missiles and non-nuclear long-range ballistic missiles. The torpedo room can be refitted to accommodate special operations forces for prolonged deployments.
The Delaware also deviates from the old-style optical mast periscope, updating the technology to a pair of photonic masts that extend outside the pressure hull. The new masts include high-resolution cameras with light intensification, infrared sensors and an infrared laser rangefinder.
After its dedication last October, the ship remained at the Newport News Module Outfitting Facility for final fitting-out before being deployed. No specific date was available, but the Navy expects the Delaware to head to sea between late 2019 and early 2020.