The crew aboard the USS Delaware Friday showed off a dress rehearsal of Saturday’s commissioning ceremony at the Port of Wilmington.
Originally set for April 2020, the pandemic pushed a public program to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Attendees will meet at the Chase Center on the Riverfront and be shuttled to the Virginia-class fast attack submarine.
President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden – who is the sponsor of the boat – will speak at the event.
The submarine was the first of its kind ever to be commissioned while already in the water.
It was initially commissioned back in April 2020, but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Navy administrators commissioned it out of public view.
“The secretary of the Navy made a promise that we would come back to Delaware, and the Navy honored that promise,” said USS Delaware Cmdr. Matthew Horton Friday.
Now, it is time to celebrate.
“It’s a great honor to have both the commander in chief and our sponsor here to celebrate with the families,” said Horton.
Each day, the USS Delaware sailors run through drills on the ship’s torpedoes and missiles, raise the periscopes and work on communications, practice fire fighting, have classroom training, and work up capabilities and proficiency.
The USS Delaware will be deployed overseas in about a year. Horton said it typically takes a year or so to train for deployment.
Thus far, the ship has been doing local operations for certifications as part of their effort to prepare the ship for deployment. They are about three months into this process, said Horton.
The ship has two periscopes and multiple antennas for several means of communication.
There are 121 enlisted sailors and 15 officers on the submarine, which runs about 34 feet in diameter and cost $3 billion to construct.
There won’t be any gas stops for the USS Delaware. The submarine doesn’t need to be refueled for roughly 33 years, which is the lifespan of Virginia-class submarines.
It is fully supplied with 21-foot-long torpedoes, which each cost around $1.5 million, according to Lt. Cmdr. Ryan Schaedel, who is also USS Delaware’s chief engineer.
There are two payload tubes that each carry six tomahawk missiles.
When asked how many torpedoes the submarine is equipped with, Schaedel simply said, “More than enough to take out our enemies.”
A media tour showed how tight the space is in the ship.
There’s no windows or natural light. Those who want to work out can enjoy a quasi-gym in one of the closets, which contains a treadmill and a few free weights.
The sailors are packed like a World Cup match. Bunks line two walls, three to a stack, with about two feet between them. Each has about a foot of space above the surface of the bed.
The crew eats in a tiny kitchen and dining area that is maybe 10-feet-by-10-feet. It’s the place the sailors hang out, said Schaedel.
They are used to dealing with limitations and slithering past one another to get around the boat.
The lack of space forces the crew to be innovative – for example, the dining table that the Captain and officers is the only long and open table. That means it doubles as an operating table in case of illness.
Sen. Tom Carper pushed for a U.S. Navy vessel to be named for Delaware.
“I called Ray Mabus, secretary of the Navy at the time, and said it’s been 100 years since the Navy has built a ship and named it after the First State — I asked if maybe there’s something we could do about it,” said Sen. Tom Carper.
Three months later, Mabus called Carper back, telling him that the Navy was ordering five Virginia-class fast attack submarines, and the first one off the line was to be the USS Delaware.
“If I could have pried through the phone wire and kissed him, I would have done it,” said Carper Friday. “I was so happy.”
Raised in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Jarek earned a B.A. in journalism and a B.A. in political science from Temple University in 2021. After running CNN’s Michael Smerconish’s YouTube channel, Jarek became a reporter for the Bucks County Herald before joining Delaware LIVE News.
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