The USS Delaware, the Navy’s Latest Nuclear Attack Submarine, is Coming to Wilmington

Newport News Shipbuilding christened the USS Delaware on October 18, 2018 

On Saturday, April 4 a truly historic event will take place in the Port of Wilmington. That afternoon, the seventh USS Delaware will be commissioned in official ceremonies marked by centuries of US Navy tradition.

The new USS Delaware is not just any ship – it is the latest nuclear attack submarine in the US fleet. Constructed over five years at a cost of over $3 billion, the sub stretches to 377 feet and weighs in at 7800 tons.

Powered by an advanced GE PWR S9G nuclear reactor with 40,000 Horse Power, the USS Delaware will not stop to refuel during the sub’s expected forty-year life cycle.


The first USS Delaware, a 24 gun sailing frigate was commissioned during the American Revolution. There have been another five ships named for the state since that time, but none has been commissioned in over one hundred years.

Then in 2012, Senator Carper, who served 23 years in the U.S. Naval Reserves, along with Senator Chris Coons and then Congressman John Carney, sent a letter to the Navy stating that it was high time a ship be named for Delaware. The delegation letter had been prompted by a letter to the editor in the News Journal penned by Mr. Steven Llanso.


With follow up calls to Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, Carper’s persistence paid off, and the Navy decided to name its latest submarine in honor of the state. Following construction, the seventh USS Delaware was christened by Delaware’s own Jill Biden on October 20, 2018.

Once a ship is christened and launched, it leaves port for “sea trials.” In the case of the highly sophisticated USS Delaware, these trials have lasted more than a year. Upon completion of the trials, the sub is officially ready to be turned over to the Navy – this step is known as the “commissioning.”

Dr. Jill Biden led the christening by shattering a bottle of American-made sparkling wine against the submarine’s hull

It is unusual for a ship to be commissioned outside of a Navy port. But again Tom Carper prevailed and the submarine will be coming to Wilmington for the big event.

The public is welcome to attend the commissioning of the USS Delaware at the Port of Wilmington as well as the post-ceremony reception. Tickets will be limited but available through the USS Delaware commissioning website Here you will also find additional opportunities to support the USS Delaware and its crew.

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About the Contributor

John Riley

John Riley

A native Delawarean, John Riley is retired and lives in Greenville. In addition to grandchildren and golf he pursues a passion for writing and military history.