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George Washington-class submarine

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

George Washington class
Class overview
Operators:  United States Navy
Succeeded by: Ethan Allen class submarine
Built: 1958–1961[1]
In commission: 1959–1985
Completed: 5[1]
Retired: 5[1]
General characteristics
Type: SSBN

Surfaced: 5,959 long tons (6,055 t)

Submerged: 6,709 long tons (6,817 t)[2]
Length: 381.6 ft (116.3 m)[1]
Beam: 33 ft (10 m)[1]
Draft: 29 ft (8.8 m)[1]
  • 16 knots (30 km/h) surfaced
  • 22 knots (41 km/h) submerged[2]
Range: unlimited except by food supplies
Test depth: 700 ft (210 m)[1]
Capacity: 112 (Crew Only)
Complement: Two crews (Blue/Gold) each consisting of 12 officers and 100 men.

The George Washington class was a class of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines deployed by the United States Navy. George Washington, along with the later Ethan Allen, Lafayette, James Madison, and Benjamin Franklin classes, comprised the "41 for Freedom" group of submarines that represented the Navy's main contribution to the nuclear deterrent force through the late 1980s.


In 1957, the US Navy began using submarines in the nuclear deterrent role, when a pair of World War II vintage diesel-electric boats, USS Tunny and USS Barbero, converted to be able to carry a pair of Regulus cruise missiles, began operating deterrent patrols. These two were soon joined by a pair of purpose built diesel boats, and a nuclear powered boat, USS Halibut. However, the use of Regulus in the deterrent role showed a number of limitations; as a cruise missile, it was vulnerable to interception by fighter aircraft, it was limited to subsonic speed, and had a range of less than 1000 km, while the largest of the Regulus armed boats could carry a maximum of five missiles. Additionally, the submarine had to surface to launch a missile, and the missile was guided by a radio signal transmitted from either ship, aircraft or ground station.[3] To over come these limitations, the Navy turned to ballistic missiles.

The commissioning of George Washington on 30 December 1959, the first submarine Polaris launch on 20 July 1960, and her first deterrent patrol November 1960-January 1961 were the culmination of four years of intense effort. The Navy initially worked on a sea-based variant of the US Army Jupiter intermediate-range ballistic missile, projecting four of the large, liquid-fueled missiles per submarine.[4] Rear Admiral W. F. "Red" Raborn was appointed by Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Arleigh Burke to head a Special Project Office to develop Jupiter for the Navy, beginning in late 1955.[4][5] However, at the Project Nobska submarine warfare conference in 1956, physicist Edward Teller stated that a compact one-megaton warhead could be produced for the relatively small, solid-fueled Polaris missile,[6] and this prompted the Navy to leave the Jupiter program in December of that year. Soon Admiral Burke concentrated all Navy strategic research on Polaris, still under Admiral Raborn's Special Project Office.[5] The problems of submerged launch, designing a submarine for 16 missiles, precise navigation for accurate missile targeting, and numerous others were all solved quickly.[7] By comparison, the contemporary Soviet Golf- and Hotel-class ballistic missile submarines only carried three missiles each; the Soviets did not commission an SSBN comparable to the George Washington class until 1967 with the introduction of the Yankee-class submarines.


The Navy ordered a class of nuclear-powered submarines armed with long-range strategic missiles on 31 December 1957, and tasked Electric Boat with converting two existing attack submarine hulls to ballistic missile-carrying boats to quickly create the deterrent force. To accomplish this conversion, Electric Boat persuaded the Navy in January 1958 to slip the launch dates for two Skipjack class fast attack submarines, the just-begun Scorpion (SSN-589) and the not-yet-started Sculpin (SSN-590). On 12 February 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower authorized funding for three ballistic missile submarines.

The George Washington class were essentially Skipjack class submarines with a 130 foot (40 m) missile compartment, inserted between the ship's control/navigation areas and the nuclear reactor compartment. In the case of the lead ship, USS George Washington (SSBN-598), that was literally the case: the keel already laid by Electric Boat at Groton, Connecticut for Scorpion was cut apart and extended to become the keel for George Washington. Then Electric Boat and Mare Island Naval Shipyard began construction of one other boat each from extended plans. President Eisenhower authorized construction of two more submarines on 29 July 1958. Newport News Shipbuilding and Portsmouth Naval Shipyard began work immediately.

The George Washington class carried the Polaris A1 missile on their patrols until 2 June 1964, when she changed out her A1 missiles for Polaris A3s. The last member of this class, USS Abraham Lincoln (SSBN-602) swapped out her A1s for A3s on 14 October 1965.

Withdrawal from strategic role

By the end of 1979, to make room within the limitations imposed by SALT II for the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines, and performing shortened patrols of six weeks due to reduced reactor fuel, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln offloaded their missiles at the newly-established Explosives Handling Wharf at Bangor, Washington. Eventually their missile compartments were completely removed and they were decommissioned by the end of 1982.[8] For the same reason, by 1983 George Washington, USS Patrick Henry (SSBN-599), and USS Robert E. Lee (SSBN-601) had their missiles removed and were reclassified as attack submarines nicknamed, "slow attacks", a role in which they served briefly in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii prior to being decommissioned by early 1985.[9]

George Washington's sail is preserved at the Submarine Force Library and Museum at Groton, Connecticut.

Boats in class

Submarines of the George Washington class:[8][10]

Name and hull number Builder Laid Down Launched Commissioned Fate
George Washington (SSBN-598)
General Dynamics Electric Boat, Groton, Connecticut 1 November 1957 9 June 1959 30 December 1959 Decommissioned 24 January 1985. Disposed of through Ship-Submarine Recycling Program at Bremerton, 1998
Patrick Henry (SSBN-599) General Dynamics Electric Boat, Groton, Connecticut 27 May 1958 22 September 1959 11 April 1960 Decommissioned 25 May 1984. Disposed of through Ship-Submarine Recycling Program at Bremerton, 1997
Theodore Roosevelt (SSBN-600) Mare Island Naval Shipyard, Vallejo, California 20 May 1958 3 October 1959 13 February 1961 Decommissioned 28 February 1981. Disposed of through Ship-Submarine Recycling Program at Bremerton, 1995
Robert E. Lee (SSBN-601) Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Co., Newport News, Virginia 25 August 1958 18 December 1959 15 September 1960 Decommissioned 1 December 1983. Disposed of through Ship-Submarine Recycling Program at Bremerton, 1991
Abraham Lincoln (SSBN-602) Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Kittery, Maine 1 November 1958 14 May 1960 8 March 1961 Decommissioned 28 February 1981. Disposed of through Ship-Submarine Recycling Program at Bremerton, 1994

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "SSBN-598 George Washington-Class FBM Submarines". Federation of American Scientists. Retrieved 18 October 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d Friedman, Norman (1994). U.S. Submarines Since 1945: An Illustrated Design History. Annapolis, Maryland: United States Naval Institute. pp. 196–200, 244. ISBN 1-55750-260-9.
  3. ^ "Regulus 1". Retrieved 10 November 2016.
  4. ^ a b Friedman, pp. 192-195
  5. ^ a b History of the Jupiter Missile, pp. 23-35
  6. ^ Teller, Edward (2001). Memoirs: A Twentieth Century Journey in Science and Politics. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Perseus Publishing. pp. 420–421. ISBN 0-7382-0532-X.
  7. ^ Friedman, pp. 193-199
  8. ^ a b Gardiner and Chumbley, pp. 610-611
  9. ^ Farley, Robert (18 October 2014). "The Five Best Submarines of All Time". The National Interest.
  10. ^ "Missile Submarines of the Cold War". California Center for Military History (dead link 2015-05-07). Archived from the original on 27 September 2013. Retrieved 18 October 2012.

External links

This page was last edited on 14 December 2020, at 16:56
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