The US Navy commissioned the final Block III Virginia-class nuclear-powered attack submarine, USS Delaware (SSN 791) on April 4, 2020.
"The Navy commissioned USS Delaware (SSN 791), the 18th Virginia-class attack submarine, April 4. Although the traditional public commissioning ceremony was canceled for public health safety and due to restrictions on large public gatherings, the Navy commissioned USS Delaware administratively and transitioned the ship to normal operations. Meanwhile, the Navy is looking at a future opportunity to commemorate the special event with the ship’s sponsor, crew and commissioning committee," the Navy said in a statement.
USS Delaware (SSN 791) is the 18th Virginia-class boat.
"Delaware is a flexible multi-mission platform designed 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. It is the final Block III Virginia-class submarine, before the next wave of Block IV deliveries," the Navy said in a statement," the Navy said.
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.
This class of fast-attack submarines were being built to replace the ageing Los Angeles-class boats. The ships are equipped with 12 twelve Vertical Launch System (VLS) tubes, 4 torpedo tubes, Mk 48 ADCAP Torpedoes, UGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles, Mk 60 CAPTOR mines, advanced mobile mines, and unmanned underwater vehicles.
During their 33-year service life, Block I-III submarines will have to undergo four depot maintenance availabilities and conduct 14 deployments. Block IV design changes will reduce the planned depot maintenance availabilities to three and increase deployments to 15.
Block V: The 84-foot Block V submarines built will have additional Virginia Payload Module (VPM) mid-body section, increasing their overall length. The VPM is designed to triple the Tomahawk cruise missile capacity of the Virginia-class subs, a move designed to offset the pending retirement of the Ohio-class guided-missile subs, which have a 154-Tomahawk capacity. Each VPM sub will have a 40-Tomahawk loadout.