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USS Delaware (SSN-791)

Nuclear-Powered Attack Submarine [ 2020 ]

USS Delaware SSN-791 was commissioned in 2020 and represents one of the newest boats of the potent Virginia-class serving the modern USN.

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 04/02/2022 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.

The modern United States Navy (USN) fields two types of active submarines - the general "attack" configuration and the strategic-minded "ballistic missile" submarine and the two are made up of various classes, both old and new. The attack arm consists of the older Los Angeles-class which is now being buoyed in ever-growing numbers by the newer Virginia-class. As planned, the Virginia-class is slated to become a group of sixty-six boats of which twenty-two have been completed into April 2022 - nineteen remaining active as of this writing (2022).

The Virginia-class is a direct successor to the Los Angeles-class design and will be procured into 2043 with a service career planned into the 2060s.

The latest addition to this class is USS Delaware (SSN-791) and she represents the last boat of the "Block III" initiative of the group, given reworked bows with Large Aperture Bow (LAB) sonar systems. Block I involved four boats and were the original offerings including lead-ship USS Virginia (SSN-774) herself while the six Block II hulls saw improved hull construction processes to speed up assembly. Block IV boats (with a focus on maintenance reduction) began with USS Vermont (SSN-792) and will end with USS Utah (SSN-801). Block V (adding guided-missile capability) will begin with USS Oklahoma (SSN-802) and continue on from there.

Awarded in April of 2008 to Newport News Shipbuilding, USS Delaware saw her hull laid down on April 30th, 2016 and she was launched on October 20th, 2018. The boat was commissioned while underwater - a U.S. Navy historical first - on April 4th, 2020 due to COVID restrictions in place on the surface (she was, however, commissioned by way of formal ceremony in April of 2022). She homeports out of Groton, Connecticut giving her access to the critical waterways of the Atlantic.

The boat has a conventional submarine silhouette with her sail mounted forward and the dive planes set along the sides of the hull (as opposed to the sail). The sail / conning tower is home to the usual sensors and communications masts as well as the needed optics for the attack role. The hull itself is tubular in its general shape, tapering at the stern and capped by a shrouded propeller unit. Control planes are arranged at the stern in typical cruciform pattern.

As built, the vessel has a running length of 377 feet, a beam of 34 feet, and a draught of 32 feet. It is powered by the S9G PWR series nuclear reactor generating 280,000 horsepower along with 2 x Steam turbines developing 40,000 horsepower driving a single-shaft pump-jet propulsor unit astern. This arrangement gives the boat essentially unlimited operational ranges and a submerged speed of around 25 knots - allowing the craft to remain on station for as long as crew endurance and supplies hold out. The reactor is rated for a lifespan of 33 years before requiring servicing. The hull has been tested down to depths of 800 feet.

Aboard is a crew of 135 personnel made up of fifteen officers and 120 enlisted.

Nuclear-powered and reserved for attack sorties, USS Delaware carries an armament suite of centered on torpedoes and missiles. There is inherent support for the Mk 48 torpedo family through four bow-mounted / bow-facing torpedo tubes while the "bread-and-butter" of the design is its 12 x Vertical Launch Systems (VLSs) handling the BGM-109 "Tomahawk" land-attack cruise missile. Up 25 x Torpedoes and 12 x Cruise missiles can be carried by the boat.©MilitaryFactory.com
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Huntington Ingalls Industries / Newport News Shipbuilding - USA
United States
Operators National flag of the United States
United States
National Origin
Commissioned, Active
Project Status
Hull Class
USS Virginia (SSN-774); USS Texas (SSN-775); USS Hawaii (SSN-776); USS North Carolina (SSN-777); USS New Hampshire (SSN-778); USS New Mexico (SSN-779); USS Missouri (SSN-780); USS California (SSN-781); USS Mississippi (SSN-782); USS Minnesota (SSN-783); USS North Dakota (SSN-784); USS John Warner (SSN-785); USS Illinois (SSN-786); USS Washington (SSN-787); USS Colorado (SSN-788); USS Indiana (SSN-789); USS South Dakota (SSN-790); USS Delaware (SSN-791); USS Vermont (SSN-792); USS Oregon Warner (SSN-793); USS Montana (SSN-794); USS Hyman G. Rickover (SSN-795); USS New Jersey (SSN-796); USS Iowa (SSN-797); USS Massachusetts (SSN-798); USS Idaho (SSN-799); USS Arkansas (SSN-800); USS Utah (SSN-810); USS Oklahoma (SSN-802); USS Arizona (SSN-803); USS Barb (SSN-804)

Submerged Attack
Traveling under the surface to search, track, and / or engage or reconnoiter areas.
Maritime Patrol
Active patroling of vital waterways and maritime areas; can also serve as local deterrence against airborne and seaborne threats.
Fleet Support
Serving in support (either firepower or material) of the main surface fleet in Blue Water environments.

The vessel supports the launching of missiles against airborne, waterborne, or land-based targets at range; typical of modern designs.
Ability to launch torpedoes against ocean-going targets.

377.0 feet
(114.91 meters)
34.0 feet
(10.36 meters)
32.0 feet
(9.75 meters)
Displacement (Submerged)

1 x S9G PWR series water-cooled nuclear reactor unit generating 280,000 horsepower with 2 x Steam turbines developing 40,000 horsepower driving 1 x Shaft astern.
15.0 knots
(17.3 mph)
Surface Speed
25.0 knots
(28.8 mph)
Submerged Speed
Essentially Unlimited

1 knot = 1.15 mph; 1 nm = 1.15 mile; 1 nm = 1.85 km

4 x 533mm torpedo tubes in bow (Mk 48 torpedo family).
12 x Vertical Launch System (VLS) tubes for BMG-109 "Tomahawk" land-attack cruise missiles.

Up to 25 x Torpedoes and 12 x Cruise missile reloads carried.


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Image of the USS Delaware (SSN-791)
Image from the United States Department of Defense DVIDS database; Public Release.

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