U.S. ship maker Huntington Ingalls Industries christened the latest 7,800-ton Virginia-class nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSN), the future USS Delaware (SSN-791), at the company’s Newport News shipyard on October 20.
The submarine was christened by Jill Biden, the former Second Lady of the United States and the ship’s sponsor. The christening ceremony included the breaking of a bottle of sparkling wine against the boat. “I christen thee United States ship Delaware. May God bless this submarine and all who sail in her,” Biden said, before smashing the bottle.
The future USS Delaware is the 18th Virginia-class SSN and the ninth to be delivered by Newport News. Construction of the new sub began in September 2013 and is 93 percent complete. It is expected to be delivered to the U.S. Navy in 2019.
The weekend also saw the christening of a second Virginia-class SSN, the future USS Vermont (SSN-792), during a ceremony held at General Dynamics Electric Boat Shipyard in Groton, Connecticut, on October 20. The boat’s sponsor is Gloria Valdez, the former deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. Navy for naval shipbuilding. Construction of the Vermont began in May 2014. The new SSN is also slated for delivery in 2019.
The future USS Vermont is the 19th Virginia-class submarine and the first Block IV boat. Virginia-class SSNs are built in block increments, with Block I and Block II already delivered to the U.S. Navy and the last Block III boats slated for delivery in 2019. The U.S. Navy’s Block III fleet will consist of eight submarines, whereas the service awarded a $17.6 billion contract for 10 Block IV Virginia-class boats in 2014.
In comparison to Block I and II boats, Virginia-class attack Block III and Block IV SSNs are equipped with the so-called Virginia Payload Module (VPM) – two large-diameter tubes that replace 12 individual vertical launch tubes and increase the submarine’s missile payload at a lower cost.
“Block III boats changed 40 percent of the bow to include two Multiple All Up Round Canisters (MAC) ahead of the boat’s sail that hold 12 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles apiece as well as a Large Aperture Bow (LAB) array that requires fewer parts and less maintenance than previous Virginia sonars,” according to USNI News. “Block IV boats will build on the improvements to allow the boats to spend less time in the yard — from four major maintenance periods to three — and to squeeze an extra deployment out of the design.”
The submarines can carry up to 24 torpedoes and Tomahawk cruise missiles.
On September 24, the U.S. Navy took delivery of the 17th Virginia-class SSN, the future USS South Dakota (SSN 790). Another Virginia-class sub, the USS Indiana (SSN 789), was commissioned at the Navy Port at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Port Canaveral, Florida on September 29.