Nuclear sub timeline

April 05, 2002|By Knight Ridder/Tribune

1954: The Navy launches first nuclear submarine, the USS Nautilus.

1956: USS Skipjack combines a power plant with a fast-running design to create the modern attack submarine

1960: USS Triton circumnavigates the globe submerged.

1960: USS George Washington, the first fleet ballistic missile submarine, test fires the first Polaris missile.

1961: USS Lafayette goes to sea. The submarine and similar ships known as "boomers" later serve as the underwater launching points for Poseidon and Trident nuclear missiles. (The Navy later converts two submarines, the James Polk and the Kamehameha, to special op vessels for Special Forces in the 1980s and 1990s. A handful of attack submarines are also converted for special espionage, the last of which is the Parche.)

1963: USS Thresher, the first of the modern deep-diving, quiet attack submarines, sinks with all hands off Nantucket, possibly because of weakened pipe joinings. The sub class continues, as Permit.

1966: The new Sturgeon-class submarines go to sea, with new quieting technology.

1968: The Skipjack-class attack submarine, Scorpion, is lost with all hands.

1970s: Tomahawk missiles come into play.

1974: Los Angeles-class submarines are launched - the largest class of submarines built. The submarines are even quieter and faster, but can't dive as deep.

1977: Harpoon missile deployed.

1979: The new boomers, USS Ohio class, take to the sea - the stealthiest subs ever built. With 24 missile tubes, they will come to represent the largest single potential killing weapon ever made.

1989: Congress authorizes USS Seawolf , the next class of attack submarines. While most regard it as the most complicated and advanced attack submarine ever built, the cost - about $2.8 billion per ship - becomes too much as the Cold War ends and the need for such a ship diminishes.

Early 1990s: U.S. attack submarines launch tomahawks in Operation Desert Storm and against Osama bin Laden as retaliation for embassy bombings in Africa.

1996: Newport News and Electric Boat announce a partnership to build the new attack submarines, the Virginia class.

2002: Congress authorizes money for a plan to convert four Ohio-class nuclear-missile-loaded submarines to Tomahawk-firing Special Forces subs.

2007: The converted Ohio-class submarines are scheduled to enter service.

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