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USS Von Steuben (SSBN-632)
USS Von Steuben, underway, 15 May 1985
USS Von Steuben (SSBN-632) on 15 May 1985.
Career (United States of America)
Namesake: Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben (1730–1794), a Prussian army officer who served in the American Revolutionary War
Ordered: 20 July 1961
Builder: Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Company
Laid down: 4 September 1962
Launched: 18 October 1963
Sponsored by: Mrs. Fred Korth
Commissioned: 30 September 1964
Decommissioned: 26 February 1994
Struck: 26 February 1994
Fate: Scrapping via Nuclear Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program begun 1 October 2000, completed 30 October 2001
General characteristics
Class & type: James Madison-class submarine
Displacement: 6,504 tons (light)
7,250 tons (surfaced)
8,250 tons (submerged)
Length: 425 feet (130 m)
Beam: 33 ft (10 m)
Draft: 32 ft (9.8 m)
Installed power: S5W reactor
Propulsion: 2 × geared steam turbines, 15,000 shp (11,185 kW) 1 shaft
Speed: Over 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph)
Test depth: 1,300 feet (400 m)
Complement: Two crews (Blue and Gold) of 13 officers and 130 enlisted men each
Armament: 16 × ballistic missile tubes
4 × 21 inches (0.53 m) torpedo tubes

USS Von Steuben (SSBN-632), a James Madison-class fleet ballistic missile submarine, was the second ship of the United States Navy to be named for Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben (1730–1794), a Prussian army officer who served in the American Revolutionary War.

Construction and commissioning[edit | edit source]

The contract to build Von Steuben was awarded to Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company in Newport News, Virginia, on 20 July 1961 and her keel was laid down there on 4 September 1962. She was launched on 18 October 1963, sponsored by Mrs. Fred Korth, and commissioned on 30 September 1964, with Commander John P. Wise in command of the Blue Crew and Commander Jeffrey C. Metzel in command of the Gold Crew.

Polaris missile launch

During the autumn of 1964, the Von Steuben completed two shakedown cruises — one for each crew — and a period of antisubmarine warfare training between the two cruises. On 22 December 1964, her Gold Crew fired her first Polaris ballistic missile on the Atlantic Missile Range before returning to Newport News for Christmas. She changed crews again at the beginning of 1965, and returned to the missile range off Cape Kennedy, Florida, where the Blue Crew fired its first Polaris missile. In February 1965, after completing all initial training operations, she returned to Newport News.

In March 1965, Von Steuben headed for her first duty assignment. She joined Submarine Squadron 18 at Charleston, South Carolina, her new base of operations, and immediately began conducting strategic deterrent patrols.

At the end of her 11th deterrent patrol early in 1968, Von Steuben was reassigned to Submarine Squadron 16 and operated out of Rota, Spain, until the middle of 1969. During that assignment, she visited Groton, Connecticut, in the summer of 1969 for repairs at the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics Corporation, after which she resumed deterrent patrols out of Rota.

Upgraded ballistic missile system[edit | edit source]

Poseidon missile launch

In November 1970, Von Steuben visited Groton once again, this time near the end of a 16-month overhaul during which she was modified to carry the newly developed Poseidon C-3 ballistic missile, which boasted major advances in warhead technology and accuracy and systematically was replacing the older Polaris missiles in the Lafayette, James Madison and Benjamin Franklin-class submarines. Von Steuben conducted post-conversion shakedown during the early months of 1971 and, while escorted by the destroyer USS William C. Lawe (DD-763) for range security, conducted a two-missile Demonstration and Shakedown Operation (DASO) in which she fired her first and second Poseidon missiles in February and March 1971, respectively.[1][2]

Trident I missile launch

In May 1971, she returned to Charleston and resumed strategic deterrent patrols carrying the newer Poseidon missiles.

Von Steuben's ballistic missile system was upgraded a second time in the early 1980s to use Trident I (C4) ballistic missiles.[3] These missiles were also retrofitted to 11 other SSBNs of the James Madison and Benjamin Franklin classes, replacing their Poseidon missiles, and also were the first missiles carried by the early Ohio-class submarines. Trident missiles were three-stage missiles that provided for increased range along with advances in inertial guidance systems.[4] Von Steuben continued making strategic deterrent patrols into the early 1990s with the Trident I missile.

Decommissioning and disposal[edit | edit source]

Von Steuben was decommissioned on 26 February 1994 and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register simultaneously. Her scrapping via the Nuclear-Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program at Bremerton, Washington, began on 1 October 2000 and was completed on 30 October 2001. Von Steuben's age from delivery to disposal was 37.2 years.

References[edit | edit source]

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