SSBN-598 George Washington-Class FBM Submarines
The USS George Washington (SSBN 598) was the world's first nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine. Arguably, it can be considered the submarine that has most influenced world events in the 20th Century. With its entry into service in December 1959 the United States instantly gained the most powerful deterrent force imaginable - a stealth platform with enormous nuclear firepower.
These first nuclear-powered submarines armed with long-range strategic missiles were ordered on 31 December 1957, with orders to convert two attack submarine hulls to missile-carrying FBM Weapon System ships. With some compromise in delivery schedules, the Navy agreed in January 1958 to slip the launch dates for two hunter-killer Skipjack types of fast attack submarines, the just-begun attack submarine Scorpion (SSN-589) and the not-yet-started USS Sculpin (SSN-590). Funding was provided with a supplement to the FY 1958 ship construction programm on 11 February 1958.
The first two are essentially of the hunter-killer type with a missile compartment inserted between the ship's control navigation areas and the nuclear reactor compartment. The keel of the first of these two ships had already been laid at Electric Boat, Groton, Connecticut, as the "Scorpion" and it was actually cut apart in order to insert the new 130 ft missile compartment ("Sherwood Forest"), thus extending the ship's length. At other shipyards, three more ships of the same type were built, making a total of five. The shipyards were Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company, Mare Island Naval Shipyard, and Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. These were designated the 598 class ships since the first submarine, the USS George Washington was the SSBN-598. The term SSBN means Submarine, Ballistic (Nuclear) with the "Nuclear" referring to the ship's propulsive power [SS = Submarine, not Ship Submersible], .
The President signed the FY 58 Supplemental Appropriation Act on 12 February 1958 funding the first three submarines. The construction, which had begun in January 1958, used funds "borrowed" from other Navy programs. The President authorized construction of submarines 4 and 5 on 29 July 1958.
The USS George Washington (SSBN-598) slipped underwater on the first strategic FBM patrol on 15 November 1960. The USS Patrick Henry (SSBN-599) departed for patrol on 31 January 1961. The USS George Washington (SSBN-598) resumed from patrol on 21 January 1961, coming alongside the tender USS Proteus (AS-19) at New London, Connecticut. The USS Patrick Henry (SSBN-599) resumed from patrol on 8 March 1961, but she came alongside the same USS Proteus which had moved to Holy Loch, Scotland becoming the first SSBN to use Holy Loch as a refit and upkeep anchorage.
On 1 July 1958, Submarine Squadron Fourteen was established.
On 15 November 1960, the USS George Washington (SSBN-598) deployed on operational patrol with 16 POLARIS At (1200 nm) missiles 4 years 11 months after RADM William F. "Red" Raborn became the director of SP, and 3 years 11 months after the SECDEF authorized the POLARIS
On 2 June 1964, the USS George Washington (SSBN-598). returned to Charleston, South Carolina, to off-load missiles in preparation for overhaul at General Dynamics, Electric Boat Division, shipyard in Groton, Connecticut. This ended the initial deployment of the first FBM submarine, with POLARIS A1's which began in November 1960. Finally on 14 October 1965, the USS Abraham Lincoln (SSBN-602) returned to the U.S., completing her initial deployment. She was the last of the first five SSBNs carrying the POLARIS A1 to return to the U.S. for overhaul. This marked the official retirement of the POLARIS A1 missile from active fleet duty. These first five boats were being refitted to carry POLARIS A3 missiles.
In the early 1980s, SSBN-598 George Washington, SSBN-599 Patrick Henry and SSBN-601 Robert E Lee had their missiles removed and were reclassified as attack submarines, a role in which they served for several years prior to decommissioning.
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