Oct. 22 (UPI) -- Dr. Jill Biden christened the country's 18th Virginia-class attack submarine with a bottle of sparkling wine as ship's sponsor this weekend at the Huntington Ingalls Industries' Newport News Shipbuilding division.
The ceremony for the Delaware, SSN 791, took place at the company's Module Outfitting Facility on Saturday, celebrating the milestone ahead of the vessel's launch. The former second lady of the United States served as the submarine's sponsor.
"I know it is a tremendous privilege to be selected as a pre-commission crew member, and the sailors standing with us today are the very best the Navy has to offer," Biden said at the ceremony. "I am grateful to become part of the USS Delaware family and to be their shipmate for life."
The submarine is the seventh ship to take the name Delaware, the home state of the Biden family. The principle speaker for the christening was U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del.
Virginia-class submarines can operate near coast lines and in deep waters. They're used to conduct anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface ship warfare, strike warfare, special operation forces support, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, irregular warfare and mine warfare missions.
The vessel's stealthiness and firepower allow it to operate within five of the six maritime strategy core capabilities: sea control, power projection, forward presence, maritime security and deterrence.
"Today's christening marks an important milestone in the life of the future USS Delaware, moving the submarine from a mere hull number to a boat with a name and spirit," Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer said in a press release. "This submarine honors the contributions and support the state of Delaware has given to our military and will stand as a testament to the increased capabilities made possible through a true partnership between the Department of the Navy and our industry teammates."
Delaware is the ninth Virginia-class attack submarine to be built by Newport News, and is the eighth and final Virginia-class Block III sub, according to the Navy.
The vessel is expected for delivery to the Navy sometime in 2019.