USS Simon Bolivar (SSBN-641)

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Simon Bolivar (SSBN-641) underwaying, c. 1 February 1991.
USS Simon Bolivar (SSBN-641) on 1 February 1991
Name: USS Simon Bolivar
Namesake: Simón Bolívar (1783–1830), a hero of South American independence movements
Awarded: 1 November 1962
Builder: Newport News Shipbuilding, Newport News, Virginia
Laid down: 17 April 1963
Launched: 22 August 1964
Sponsored by: Mrs. Thomas C. Mann
Commissioned: 29 October 1965
Decommissioned: 8 February 1995
Struck: 8 February 1995
Honors and
Battle Effectiveness Award (Battle "E") Fiscal Year 1974
Providence Plantation Award Fiscal Year 1974
Battle "E" Fiscal Year 1975
Battle "E" Fiscal Year 1976
Battle "E" Fiscal Year 1982
Battle "E" Fiscal Year 1990
Fate: Scrapping via Ship and Submarine Recycling Program begun 1 October 1994; completed 1 December 1995
General characteristics
Class & type: Benjamin Franklin class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine
Displacement: 6,494 tons
Length: 425 feet (130 m)
Beam: 33 feet (10 m)
Draft: 32 feet (9.8 m)
Propulsion: S5W reactor
Speed: 16 knots (30 km/h) surfaced
21 knots (39 km/h) submerged
Test depth: 1,300 feet (400 m)
Complement: Two crews (Blue Crew and Gold Crew) of 14 officers and 126 enlisted men each
Armament: 16 missile tubes,
4 × 21 inches (530 mm) torpedo tubes

USS Simon Bolivar (SSBN-641), a Benjamin Franklin class fleet ballistic missile submarine, was the only ship of the United States Navy to be named for Simón Bolívar (1783–1830), a hero of the independence movements of the former Spanish colonies in South America.

Construction and commissioning[edit]

Simon Bolivar '​s keel was laid down on 17 April 1963 by the Newport News Shipbuilding of Newport News, Virginia. She was launched on 22 August 1964, sponsored by Mrs. Thomas C. Mann, and commissioned on 29 October 1965 with Commander Charles H. Griffiths commanding the Blue Crew and Commander Charles A. Orem commanding the Gold Crew.

Service history[edit]

During late December 1965 and most of January 1966, Simon Bolivar underwent demonstration and shakedown operations. The Gold Crew successfully fired a Polaris A-3 ballistic missile off the coast of Cape Kennedy, Florida, on 17 January 1966, and the Blue Crew completed a successful Polaris missile firing on 31 January. In February 1966, the Gold Crew continued shakedown operations in the Caribbean Sea. In March 1966, Simon Bolivar '​s home port was changed to Charleston, South Carolina, where she was assigned to Submarine Squadron 18, and minor deficiencies were corrected during a shipyard availability period. Beginning in April 1966, the Blue Crew prepared for and conducted the first deterrent patrol, while the Gold Crew entered a training period. The Gold Crew conducted the second deterrent patrol, then went into a training period that lasted into early 1967 while the Blue Crew conducted the third deterrent patrol. Simon Bolivar completed her third deterrent patrol in January 1967.

The ship's operations during patrols were focused on rigid requirements for US strategic deterrent patrols: remain undetected, maintain continuous communications with national command authority and maintain capability to launch missiles within 15 minutes of receipt an emergency action message.

Simon Bolivar '​s routine of deterrent patrols out of Charleston by her two crews continued until 7 February 1971, when she returned to Newport News for overhaul and conversion of her ballistic missile system to support Poseidon missiles.

Simon Bolivar departed Newport News on 12 May 1972 for post-overhaul shakedown operations and refresher training for her two crews, which lasted until 16 September 1972. By the end of 1972, she had resumed deterrent patrols while operating from the SBBN refit site in Rota, Spain serviced by submarine tender USS Simon Lake (AS-33) as part of Submarine Squadron 16.

In October 1974 Simon Bolivar returned to Charleston as part of Submarine Squadron 18 from where she conducted refits, with strategic operations usually assigned to patrol areas in the North Atlantic. Submarine tender USS Hunley (AS-31) provided refit and re-supply services.

She was awarded the Battle Effectiveness Award (Battle "E") for Fiscal Year 1974 and the Providence Plantation Award for most outstanding fleet ballistic missile submarine in the United States Atlantic Fleet. She also was awarded the Battle "E" for in Fiscal Years 1975 and 1976.

During a 1976 strategic patrol, a crew member experiened a life threatening medical emergency. The ship aborted its alert patrol status, and charted an easterly course for a high speed transit to a medevac point off the UK coast. Upon reaching shallow water of 100 fathoms, the ship surfaced into a raging winter storm with waves repeatedly breaking over the ship and the harnassed watchstanders in the cockpit of the sail. Bolivar continued a high speed surface run until the evacuation point was reached enabling a transfer of the injured crewman. The Simon Bolivar then returned to open ocean and resumed alert patrol status ending with a return to the Charleston SSBN site.

As part of a "warm - cold water" refit exchange program, in 1977 the ship conducted one "cold water" refit from the Holy Loch SSBN site in Scotland with maintenace and supply services provided by submarine tender USS Holland (AS-32). Then departing Holy Loch for her 34th deterrent patrol, Simon Bolivar returned to the Charleston SSBN site to continue its normal refit-patrol operating cycle from the continental US.

In February 1979, following her 40th deterrent patrol, Simon Bolivar entered Portsmouth Naval Shipyard at Kittery, Maine, for overhaul and conversion of her ballistic missile system to support Trident C-4 ballistic missiles. Upon completion of overhaul she returned to her home port of Charleston in January 1981.

Simon Bolivar continued to make deterrent patrols, undergoing occasional refits at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay Georgia, and was awarded the Battle "E" for Fiscal Year 1982. She successfully launched a Trident test missile in the summer of 1983.

The ship completed 73 strategic deterrent patrols over a period of 28 years during her commissioned service.

Deactivation, decommissioning, and disposal[edit]

Deactivated while still in commission in September 1994, Simon Bolivar was both decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 8 February 1995. She was the last SSBN of the original 41 for Freedom.

Her scrapping via the U.S. Navy '​s Nuclear-Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program at Bremerton, Washington was completed on 1 December 1995.