President Biden previously represented the state of Delaware for 36 years in the U.S. Senate.
Due to COVID restrictions in place at the time, there was no traditional commissioning ceremony held when USS Delaware was commissioned administratively on April 4, 2020. On that day, the submarine was underway and became the first U.S. Navy ship commissioned while submerged.
Saturday’s ceremony followed the script of a traditional commissioning in every way and was held in commemoration of the milestone.
“This latest Navy ship to carry the Delaware name is part of a long tradition of serving our nation proudly and strengthening our nation’s security,” President Biden said. “Not just us, but our allies and partners around the world as well.”
As the ship sponsor, Dr. Jill Biden performed the traditional honor of calling for the crew to man the ship and “bring her to life,” a ceremonial procession following the commemorative setting of the first watch.
“This vessel will always uphold the First State’s motto of ‘Liberty and Independence,’” she said. “It’s difficult to put into words what it means to be a part of the USS Delaware family. It’s an incredible honor that I take seriously. I’ve seen the heart of this crew and it makes me proud and humbled to be your shipmate for life.”
USS Delaware is the 18th Virginia-class submarine built, as well as the eighth and final Block III Virginia-class sub. The Block III submarines are notable for replacing 12 vertical launch tubes for Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAM) with two larger, 87-inch diameter launch tubes, capable of carrying larger payloads, among other advancements.
“The men who serve — and will serve — aboard the USS Delaware will bear our state’s name for decades to come as they defend our nation,” said U.S. Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware, the event’s keynote speaker. “Through their sacrifice and service, may we grow even closer to that more perfect union.”
USS Delaware is homeported at Submarine Base New London in Groton, Connecticut, where it operates under Submarine Squadron 12 and its Commodore, Capt. Matthew Boland.
“The Sailors who power our undersea fleet are an elite breed,” Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro told those in attendance Saturday. “They’re skilled, they’re disciplined and they’re determined. They make enormous sacrifices, achieving amazing things over the horizon and under the waves.”
Delaware Gov. John Carney, U.S. Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester of Delaware, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday and Adm. Daryl Caudle, commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, were also among the distinguished guests in attendance.
The submarine is the seventh U.S. Navy ship to be named for the First State, but first in more than a century. The first ship to be named Delaware was a 24-gun frigate launched in July of 1776, the month the Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence.
The most recent previous ship to bear the name was a battleship commissioned in 1910 and in service in the Atlantic during World War I.
Cmdr. Matthew Horton, commanding officer of SSN 791, told Saturday’s attendees his submarine followed in the proud wake of the battleship Delaware, which also visited the Port of Wilmington 112 years ago to celebrate her commissioning.
“This week we had the pleasure of sailing through the beautiful Delaware Bay and River, past Fort Delaware, and continuing the tradition of Delaware warships calling on their namesake and presenting our fine warship to the First State,” he said.
“USS Delaware stands before you as the ideal ship,” Horton continued. “Limitless in range; unmatched in power, precision, and stealth. Her engineering renders her nearly undetectable; her sensors reveal the presence of any foes. Capable of dominating across the spectrum of warfare, she excels in all her assigned missions. From the depths of the ocean, ensuring sea control, to delivering precision strikes and supporting naval special warfare.”
Fast-attack submarines are multi-mission platforms enabling five of the six Navy maritime strategy core capabilities – sea control, power projection, forward presence, maritime security and deterrence. They are designed to excel in anti-submarine warfare, anti-ship warfare, strike warfare, special operations, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, irregular warfare and mine warfare. Fast-attack submarines project power ashore with special operations forces and Tomahawk cruise missiles in the prevention or preparation of regional crises.