July 19 (UPI) -- Meals were served for the first time on the submarine Delaware as the Virginia-class vessel nears delivery to the U.S. Navy.
Crew members aboard the nuclear-power submarine dined on salad, sausage and spaghetti with a choice of meat sauce or Alfredo at Huntington Ingalls Industries' shipyard in Newport News, Va., on July 8.
"The first meal is a significant event in construction for both shipbuilders and the Navy crew," Bob Bolden, director of Virginia-class submarine construction at HII's Newport News Shipbuilding division, said in a company news release Thursday. "This is a result of shipbuilders and sailors working side by side and is one of the last steps in the journey to bringing the ship to its operational state to support sea trials and delivery."
The submarine, designated as SSN 791, is in the final stages of construction and testing.
Following successful sea trials later this year, Delaware will be the ninth Virginia-class submarine delivered by Newport News to the Navy.
Delaware is the 18th Virginia-class submarine built in a teaming agreement with General Dynamics Electric Boat.
More than 10,000 shipbuilders from both companies as well as 5,000 suppliers have participated in Delaware's construction since the work began in September 2013.
"I appreciate Newport News Shipbuilding's superb work through our construction process and am immensely proud of my crew's efforts to open our galley, support our crew and take this next step toward Delaware becoming a self-sufficient, sea-going warship," Cmdr. Brian P. Hogan, commanding officer of the pre-commissioning unit, said.
Two months later, the sub was launched for the first time. Over three days, an elaborate car system moved the submarine into a floating dry dock where it was lowered and launched into the James River.
The Virginia-class ship is expected to gradually replace the Los Angeles-class attack submarine whose design dates to the 1970s. The nuclear-powered fast-attack submarine is built for anti-sub and anti-surface operations with torpedoes, Tomahawk cruise missiles. It also is capable of mine-laying operations.
Virginia-class subs are 7,800 tons and 377 feet in length with a beam of 34 feet operating at more than 25 knots submerged. The crew includes 15 officers and 117 enlisted personnel, according to the Navy.
The USS Virginia, the first ship in the class, was commissioned in 2004.