It’s official: New submarine USS Delaware christened

DOVER — For the first time in more than 90 years, the U.S. Navy’s fleet includes a ship named after the First State.

Hundreds gathered in Huntington Ingalls Industries’ shipyard in Newport News, Virginia, Saturday morning as dignitaries from Delaware, the Navy and elsewhere gathered to christen SSN 791, a nuclear-powered attack submarine, as USS Delaware.

“This submarine will carry Delaware’s motto of liberty and independence around the world, and she’ll be prepared to fight for those ideals,” Vice Admiral Rick Snyder said.

The sub, part of the Virginia-class, is not expected to be launched until 2019, but the christening means Delaware’s long naval drought is over.

The ship is the seventh to bear the Delaware name. The first, built in 1776, took part in the Revolutionary War before being captured by the British.

Another Delaware played a role in the Quasi-War, an undeclared conflict with France from 1798 to 1800, while the third such ship sailed around Europe and South America. It was burned in 1861 to prevent the Confederate Navy from capturing it.

The fourth Delaware took part in the Civil War, and another began life as the Piscataqua prior to being renamed in 1869.

The last vessel named for the First State, one of two Delaware-class battleships, was commissioned in 1910 and served as a convoy escort in World War I.

It was decommissioned in 1923 and scrapped months later.

After the Navy announced in 2012 it intended to name five new submarines after states that did not have any vessels representing them, Delaware’s congressional delegation urged military officials to adopt the Delaware name on the suggestion of a constituent.

Construction on it began in 2016.

“This is an incredibly proud day for the state of Delaware,” Gov. John Carney said Saturday.

In keeping with tradition, Saturday’s ceremony included the breaking of a bottle against the ship.

“I christen thee United States ship Delaware. May God bless this submarine and all who sail in her,” Jill Biden, the former second lady of the United States and the ship’s sponsor, said just before smashing a ceremonial bottle of sparkling wine on the side of the submarine.

Delaware is the 18th Virginia-class submarine.

The 377-foot-long sub can travel at speeds of more than 25 knots. It will be commanded by Brian Hogan and carry a crew of 132 individuals.

It is, in the words of Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development & Acquisition James Geurts, “the most lethal nuclear attack submarine we have ever put to sea.”

Intended to replace Seawolf- and Los Angeles-class vessels, Virginia-class submarines can handle a variety of roles, from surveillance to anti-submarine warfare to anti-surface 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,” states the Navy’s website.

The vessel was supposed to be christened Sept. 15, but the event was postponed due to Hurricane Florence.

Saturday’s ceremony was livestreamed, and, according to U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, more than 1,000 people attended watch parties his office held throughout the state.

Members of the crew visited Delaware and attended the University of Delaware-Elon football game earlier this month, receiving a warm welcome from when they were introduced to the crowd, Gov. Carney noted.

“This submarine will be strong like the sailors who make up her crew,” Ms. Biden said.

 

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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