It’s been almost 100 years since a ship carried Delaware’s name. The next one will be built in Newport News, Virginia starting next year.
The USS Delaware was announced this afternoon at the Pentagon by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, along with Second Lady Jill Biden and Delaware Lieutenant Governor Matt Denn. The sub is expected to enter service in 2018.
“I chose the name Delaware to honor the long-standing relationship between the Navy and our nation’s first state,” said Mabus. “It has been too long since there has been a USS Delaware in the fleet and this submarine will remind future deployed service members and state residents of their strong ties and many shared values for decades to come.”
The 377-foot-long Virginia-class submarine will weigh in at 7,800 tons and will be able to operate at 25 knots under water which is equivalent to nearly 30 miles per hour. It will be powered by a reactor that will not need to be refueled during the expected lifespan of the vessel.
“As a proud military mom, and a proud Delawarean, I am honored to sponsor the USS Delaware,” said Biden. “Wherever the Delaware goes, it will take the strength, resilience, and bravery of military families in Delaware and across the country.”
The US Navy archives show the submarine will join a tradition of ships bearing Delaware’s name that started in 1776, with a 24-gun frigate named Delaware. She was captured by the British in Philadelphia in 1777. The second ship to bear Delaware’s name was a 20-gun converted merchant ship bought by the Navy in 1798 and sold off in 1801.
The third Delaware was 74-gun ship of the line which had a crew of more than 800. She was built in 1820 and served American diplomatic and trade interests in the Mediterranean until 1844. Even though no longer in service, the ship was still being kept in Hampton Road, Virginia when the Civil War broke out in 1861. She was burned along with other ships in the Navy yard to prevent the Confederates from taking control of the ship.
The fourth iteration of the Delaware was a side-wheel steamer built in 1861 in Wilmington. The ship took part in a number of skirmishes with Confederate forces off the North Carolina coast and patrolled waters including the Chesapeake Bay. This Delaware was decommissioned in 1865.
In 1869, a screw steamer called the Piscataque was renamed the Delaware.
The last ship to represent the First State was the USS Delaware battleship which served from 1909 through 1924 and joined the Atlantic Fleet in 1910. The Delaware survived several encounters with attacking submarines while escorting a convoy of ships near Norway. The Delaware was eventually sold in 1924 and scrapped to meet requirements of the Washington Treaty on arms limits.
WHYY’s First Experience looked at a an exhibit on the story of the USS Delaware that includes objects, photos and a ceremonial silver service set that was paid for by the citizens of Delaware. You can see that story in the video below.