The first submarine named “Delaware” enters service

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The US Navy on April 4 ordered the first submarine to bear the name of the first state, the USS Delaware.

Six warships bore the name, but never a submarine. The last one to be called “Delaware” was decommissioned almost a century ago, in 1923.

The versatile nuclear powered attack submarine has enough fuel to power the boat for its entire lifespan – no refueling is required. The USS Delaware is the last Virginia Block III class submarine. The class is made up of the most modern submarines in the Navy.

The USS Delaware, 377 feet long and 34 feet wide, can dive to over 800 feet and operate at 25 knots when submerged (about 29 miles per hour). It is designed for warfare, special operations force delivery and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance with a crew of 134 officers and sailors.

The ship’s sponsor is Jill Biden. Chosen by the Secretary of the Navy, a godfather is a woman who is usually selected for her relationship with the namesake. The sponsor has a ceremonial role throughout the life of the ship.

“I know this submarine and its brave crew of sailors will take the unwavering strength of my home country wherever they go,” Biden said.

The traditional public commissioning ceremony has been canceled for public health reasons. Instead, the submarine was commissioned administratively. A public commemoration should be scheduled once the coronavirus pandemic is under control.

A ship named Delaware

This is the first time in nearly 100 years that the name “Delaware” has been used for a US Navy vessel. It is the Navy’s seventh ship and the first submarine to bear this name.

Other ships named “Delaware” include:

  • Delaware i was a frigate launched in July 1776 to defend the Delaware River from the British. The ship was captured by the Royal Navy in 1777 and sold later.
  • Delaware II, a merchant ship of 1794 and purchased by the Navy in 1798. She has seen much action guarding American merchant ships in Philadelphia and New York, patrolling the West Indies and escorting convoys to Havana. Sold in 1801.
  • Delaware III was a “lineman”. In 1833, President Jackson boarded the Delaware III and received a 24-gun salute. The Delaware III and other ships were set on fire in the Norfolk Navy Yard in 1861 to prevent the Confederates from capturing it.
  • Delaware IV, 1861, was a side-wheeled steamboat built in Wilmington in 1861. It was very active during the Civil War, helping to capture a handful of Confederate ships. Decommissioned and sold in 1865.
  • Delaware V, 1866, was a screw steamboat and was first called Piscataqua. The Piscataqua was launched in 1866 and sailed for Asia, where she aided Americans and American interests during the Boshin War in Japan. It was renamed Delaware V in 1869 and returned to New York in 1870. It remained there until its sinking in 1876. Sold for scrap.
  • Delaware VI was a battleship commissioned in 1910, sponsored by Anna P. Cahall, the niece of Governor Simeon Pennewill. Shortly after, heading for Norfolk, an explosion on board killed nine men. In 1917, the Delaware VI was one of several ships sent to reinforce the British Grand Fleet during World War I. In 1919, the Delaware VI and other ships of its squadron escaped torpedoes from German submarines. Decommissioned in 1923 and sold for scrap.


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