ARLINGTON, Va. - The COVID-19 pandemic is driving the U.S. Navy to adapt some of the ways it conducts business, but the commissioning of a submarine underwater is likely to be a first.
The Virginia-class attack USS Delaware was commissioned into the Navy on April 4 while the sub was underwater, James F. Geurts, assistant secretary for research, development and acquisition, told reporters during an April 16 teleconference.
Geurts said the Delaware's crew replicated commissioning ceremony traditions that could be accomplished beneath the surface, including "bringing the ship to life" and sounding the claxon. The crew also fired water slugs through the Delaware's torpedo tubes.
"Due to public health safety and restrictions on large public events, the commissioning ceremonies for the future USS Delaware and future USS Vermont were canceled for April 4 and 18, respectively," Bill Couch, a spokesman for Naval Sea Systems Command, told Seapower back on March 24.
A Navy release added: "Although the traditional commissioning ceremony was canceled due to restrictions on large gatherings brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Navy commissioned USS Delaware administratively on April 4 and transitioned the ship to normal operations. Meanwhile, the Navy is looking at an opportunity to commemorate the special event with the ship's sponsor, crew and commissioning committee."
The Delaware is the eighth and last Block III Virginia-class SSN. The Vermont is the first of 10 Block IV Virginia-class subs. The two subs were built jointly by General Dynamics' Electric Boat and Huntington Ingalls' Newport News Shipbuilding.