SSN 640 BENJAMIN FRANKLIN class
Originally commissioned as ballistic missile submarines, two remaining members of this class of submarine were converted to special operations attack submarines, with a capacity for carrying and delivering special operations forces added. They are equipped to covertly insert special operations forces in hostile territory. Like all submarines, they can sit off of a coast for as long as needed, undetected, waiting to act or leave without raising tensions in the meantime.
The 'boomers' converted to dual DDS carriers are huge compared to STURGEON SSNs. On the SSBN the SEALs and crew can be berthed without 'hot racking' - three men sharing two bunks on a rotating basis. Enough exercise equipment can be loaded for the SEALs (and crew) to maintain the physical conditioning required for mission success. Mission planning, briefings, and operations can be conducted with minimum crew disruption. Submarine crew training and casualty drills can be conducted with minimum impact on the SEALs. Both the submarine crew and SEAL teams can better maintain operational proficiency.
USS KAMEHAMEHA (SSN 642) is a BENJAMIN FRANKLIN class fleet ballistic missile submarine, built in 1965, which underwent a refueling overhaul at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard from November 1986 to December 1989. After completing a total of 63 deterrent patrols, KAMEHAMEHA's missile systems were inactivated in July 1992 and she was converted to a special purpose, brown water attack submarine at Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo, California. KAMEHAMEHA completed conversion to a drydeck shelter/swimmer delivery platform [the Dry Deck Shelters (DDS) actually can be removed from the ship]. This conversion installed modifications to support the surfaced and submerged deployment of Special Operations Forces. USS KAMEHAMEHA is now a very capable attack submarine with extensive modifications to enable her to conduct missions in support of special warfare operations. In August 1993, KAMEHAMEHA arrived in Pearl Harbor to become part of Submarine Squadron ONE. KAMEHAMEHA now regularly deploys in support of special warfare objectives throughout the Pacific.
In March of 1994 USS JAMES K. POLK (SSN 645) completed a 19-month conversion from ballistic missile submarine to attack/special warfare submarine at Newport News Shipbuilding. She then changed homeports to Norfolk where she was a mainstay at Submarine Squadron SIX. As the only dual dry-deck shelter submarine in the U.S. Atlantic Fleet, POLK made three deployments to the Mediterranean Sea. The submarine held its inactivation ceremony 08 January 1999 at Naval Station Norfolk after nearly 33 years of service.
The inactivation of the POLK left the KAMEHAMEHA (SSN 642) as the Navy's only former ballistic missile submarine equiped with Dry Deck Shelters. The ship returned at the end of 1999 from its first-ever six month deployment. The ship and her embarked Special Operations Forces from Seal Delivery Team ONE went from Pearl Harbor to Aqaba, Jordan and back, steaming about 36,000 miles and visiting many ports around the world. In October 1999 USS Kamehameha (SSN-642) became the first U.S. Navy submarine to visit Jordan while participating in a joint U.S.-Jordan Special Forces operations exercise in the Red Sea. His Majesty King Abdullah bin Al-Hussein of Jordan and other dignitaries visited Kamehameha while she was pierside in Aqaba. The King of Jordan was keenly interested in both USS Kamehameha's visit and the ship's participation in the exercise in which we participated, Early Victor 99. Exercise EARLY VICTOR is multi-dimensional and involved Jordanian Special Forces as well as U.S. Army and Air Force personnel.
USS Kamehameha is currently scheduled to decommission in October 2001. The ship will be inactivated in Bremerton, Washington. The retiring of Kamehameha will remove the dual-DDS capability for the USN, and will close out a thirty-seven year portion of the Submarine Force's hundred year history.
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