Huntington Ingalls Industries (HII) has launched the US Navy’s Virginia-class submarine Delaware (SSN 791) at its Newport News Shipbuilding division.

The 377ft-long,7,800t submarine was launched into the James River, having been christened by Jill Biden during a ceremony in October.

Its launch follows a three-day process when HII moved the submarine out of a construction facility and into a floating dry dock using a transfer car system.

The floating dry dock was then submerged when the submarine was launched into the water.

Once the vessel was launched in water, it was moved to the shipyard’s submarine pier for final outfitting, testing and crew certification.

Newport News submarine construction vice-president Dave Bolcar said: “Successfully launching Delaware into the water the first time is a proud moment for the Virginia-class submarine team and the thousands of dedicated shipbuilders involved in constructing the ship.

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“With this significant key event behind us, we look forward to completing construction and sea trials next year so this great warship can join the fleet and defend our nation.”

“We look forward to completing construction and sea trials next year so this great warship can join the fleet and defend our nation.”

Delaware is the ninth to be delivered by its Newport News Shipbuilding division and the 18th Virginia-class submarine being built under HII’s teaming agreement with General Dynamics Electric Boat.

Construction of Delaware commenced in September 2013. According to HII, the construction phase involved more than 10,000 shipbuilders from Newport News and Electric Boat.

The US Navy’s Virginia-class nuclear-powered fast attack submarines will replace the Los Angeles-class submarines.

Built to support a range of open-ocean and littoral missions, Virginia-class submarines are equipped with new technologies that enable increased firepower, manoeuvrability and stealth.

These submarines can support multiple mission areas and possess the ability to operate at submerged speeds of more than 25k for months at a time.

Once testing is complete, HII expects to deliver Delaware to the US Navy next year.