The Submarines

I. History of FBM Submarines
II. Today's Force
III. FBM Submarine Comparison Chart

History of FBM Submarines

The original FBM submarine force consisted of 41 POLARIS submarines, authorized from 1957 through l963. The first was USS GEORGE WASHINGTON (SSBN 598), commissioned 30 December 1959 and deployed on the first ever FBM patrol with a full load of 16 tactical missiles on 15 November 1960. The last was USS WILL ROGERS (SSBN 659), commissioned 1 April 1967 and deployed 3 October 1967. This completed initial deployment of the POLARIS FBM force. The first 10 submarines (598 and 608 Classes) carried the various generations of the POLARIS missile. All 10 POLARIS submarines have terminated their strategic missions.

The next 31 FBM submarines were constructed to the POLARIS configuration. However, they were converted to the POSEIDON C3 missile during regularly scheduled shipyard overhauls from 1969 through 1976. The POSEIDON C3 missile had a longer range and a multiple, independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV) warhead. The missile was first deployed on USS JAMES MADISON (SSBN 627) on 31 March 1971. Subsequently, 12 submarines were retrofitted to TRIDENT I C4 from 1978 through 1981. The first deployment was on USS FRANCIS SCOTT KEY (SSBN 657) on 20 October 1979. Starting in 1985, as part of the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) I treaty and unratified SALT II agreement, POSEIDON C3 SSBNs were retired to offset the increasing numbers of TRIDENT submarines. The remaining POSEIDON submarines were eventually placed in stand down condition on 1 October 1991. Subsequently, C4 backfitted SSBNs were retired and the last patrol of a C4 backfit SSBN ended 2 April 1994.

The continued delivery and deployment of TRIDENT submarines has maintained the effective presence of a strong strategic deterrent. The first TRIDENT submarine, USS OHIO (SSBN 726), was commissioned in 1981 and deployed 6 September 1982 with the TRIDENT I C4 missile. The eighth TRIDENT submarine, USS NEVADA (SSBN 733), completing the force of TRIDENT submarines armed with this missile, was commissioned in 1986 and deployed 11 August 1987. The successor missile, TRIDENT II D5, became operational on the final 10 new construction TRIDENT submarines. The first, USS TENNESSEE (SSBN 734), was commissioned in 1988 and deployed 23 March 1990. The last, USS LOUISANA, was commissioned in 1997 and deployed 15 October 1998. The four most recently built C4 TRIDENT submarines (SSBNs 730, 731, 732, and 733) are being backfitted to a D5 configuration. Two of the four submarines are now complete and have been deployed. The original four TRIDENT I (C4) submarines (SSBNs 726, 727, 728, and 729) have been decommissioned and are scheduled for conversion to Guided Missile Submarines (SSGN).

Deploying to forward base sites in the Atlantic and Pacific, the original POLARIS program included five FBM tenders supporting their respective squadrons. Four were subsequently converted to POSEIDON C3 support capability. Later, the two largest were converted for TRIDENT I C4 support. With the Continental United States (CONUS) basing of the TRIDENT submarine force, all of the tenders have been transferred from their FBM support roles.

Today's Force

Type: Ohio-class SSBN
Builder: General Dynamics Electric Boat Division
Date Deployed: Nov 11, 1981 (USS Ohio)
Propulsion: One nuclear reactor, one shaft
Length: 560 feet (170.69 meters)
Beam: 42 ft (13 m)
Displacement:16,764 tons (17,033.03 metric tons) surfaced; 18,750 tons (19,000.1 metric tons) submerged
Speed: 20+ knots (23+ miles per hour, 36.8+ kph)
Crew: 15 Officers, 140 Enlisted
Armament: 24 tubes for Trident I and II, MK48 torpedoes, four torpedo tubes

The Navy’s fleet ballistic missile submarines, often referred to as "Boomers," serve as an undetectable launch platform for intercontinental missiles. They are designed specifically for stealth and the precision delivery of nuclear warheads.

Ohio class SSBNs have the capability to carry up to 24 submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) with multiple independently-targeted warheads. The SSBN’s primary weapon, the Trident missile, was built in two versions. The first generation missile, Trident C-4, has been phased out of service and replaced by the larger, longer-range, and more precise Trident II D-5. The first eight submarines (SSBN 726 to 733) were initially built to only carry the C-4 missile. The first four Ohio class (SSBN 726 through SSBN 729) ended their strategic deterrent mission in the early 2000s when they began the conversion process into guided missile submarines, or SSGNs. SSBN 730 through 733 have been retrofitted to carry the D-5 missile. SSBN 734 to 743 were designed from the beginning to carry the D-5 missile and continue to execute their primary mission of strategic deterrence.

SSBNs are specifically designed for extended deterrent patrols. To increase their at-sea time, the Ohio class have three large-diameter logistics hatches that allow sailors to rapidly transfer supply pallets, equipment replacement modules and machinery components, significantly reducing the time required for in-port replenishment and maintenance.

The Ohio class design allows the submarines to operate for 15 or more years between major overhauls. On average, the submarines spend 77 days at sea followed by 35 days in-port for maintenance. Each SSBN has two crews, Blue and Gold, which alternate manning the submarines while on patrol. This maximizes the SSBN’s strategic availability while maintaining the crew’s training readiness and morale at high levels.

Current Fleet

  • USS Henry M. Jackson (SSBN 730), Bangor, WA
  • USS Alabama (SSBN 731), Bangor, WA
  • USS Alaska (SSBN 732), Kings Bay, GA
  • USS Nevada (SSBN 733), Bangor, WA
  • USS Tennessee (SSBN 734), Kings Bay, GA
  • USS Pennsylvania (SSBN 735), Bangor, WA
  • USS West Virginia (SSBN 736), Kings Bay, GA
  • USS Kentucky (SSBN 737), Bangor, WA
  • USS Maryland (SSBN 738), Kings Bay, GA
  • USS Nebraska (SSBN 739), Bangor, WA
  • USS Rhode Island (SSBN 740), Kings Bay, GA
  • USS Maine (SSBN 741), Bangor, WA
  • USS Wyoming (SSBN 742), Kings Bay, GA
  • USS Louisiana (SSBN 743), Bangor, WA

FBM Submarines - Comparison Chart

top of page