Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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  • nhhc-topics:submarine
  • nhhc-topics:nuclear-powered
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  • Ship History
Wars & Conflicts
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Alabama IV (SSBN-731)

1985-

The 22nd state, admitted to the Union on 14 December 1819, whose name is derived from two Choctaw Indian words: “alba amo,” meaning “thicket gatherers” or “vegetation gatherers.”

The first ship named Alabama, a ship-of-the-line, was re-named New Hampshire and served the Navy from 1864-1892. The first Alabama that thus sailed under Navy command, a side wheel steamer, served from 1846-1852. The second Alabama (Battleship No. 8), served from 1900-1921. The third Alabama (BB-60), a battleship, served from 1942-1962.

IV

(SSBN-731: displacement 16,815; length 560'; beam 42'; draft 38'; speed 20+ knots; complement 153; armament 24 Trident I C4 submarine launched ballistic missiles and four torpedo tubes for Mk 48 torpedoes; class Ohio)

The fourth Alabama (SSBN-731) was laid down on 27 August 1981 at Groton, Conn., by the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics Corp.; launched on 19 May 1984; sponsored by Mrs. Barbara E. Dickinson, wife of Representative William L. Dickinson (Ala.); and commissioned at Naval Submarine Base New London, Conn., on 25 May 1985, Capt. Wade H. Taylor (Blue Crew) and Capt. Malcolm S. Wright (Gold Crew) in command.

Alabama sailed from the Connecticut coast three days later and carried out her shakedown cruise off Cape Canaveral, Fla. (28 May-9 June 1985). The Blue Crew completed its shakedown training late in July, and the fleet ballistic missile submarine moored at Port Canaveral for the Gold Crew to relieve the Blue Crew (22 July). At the conclusion of the Gold Crew’s shakedown training, the Blue Crew boarded again at Naval Underwater Sound Center, New London, on 20 October, and sailed Alabama back to the yard at Electric Boat for a post-shakedown availability. Alabama completed her sea trials in Narragansett Bay (13-22 December 1985).

She returned to sea on New Year’s Day 1986, for sound trials as part of Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Project 113-2 at the Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center off the Bahamas. Alabama completed that assignment on 30 January, and celebrated Mardi Gras with her namesake state during a visit to Mobile, Ala. (2-11 February). The boat passed through the Panama Canal (17 February), crossed the equator southbound and then northbound (both on 20 February), and moored to Delta Pier, Naval Submarine Base Bangor, Wash., on 6 March. Three days later, she shifted berths to the Explosive Handling Wharf and began a strategic weapons load-out. Alabama subsequently sailed deterrent patrols while operating from the Pacific Northwest.

Alabama completed Patrol 9 in the North Pacific (22 June-1 September 1988). Two groups of midshipmen embarked when the boat conducted tactical torpedo load-outs at Pearl Harbor, Hi. (22 June-23 July and 30 July-1 September). The voyage also marked the 100th deterrent patrol carried out by a Trident-equipped submarine. Undersecretary of the Navy H. Lawrence Garrett, III, a former submariner, led the greeting party on Delta Pier at Bangor when Alabama returned, and he summarized the milestone: “…today we celebrate the 100th silent blow for peace and democracy in America and the world around us…While our strategic triad has held the line, Americans have hoped, imagined, invented, produced,” Garrett expounded. “Fleet ballistic missile submarines – and the men who take them to sea - are the heart and soul of our strategic triad.”

Alabama provided the setting for the (fictional) motion picture Crimson Tide, starring Gene Hackman and Denzel Washington, released in 1995. The submarine made a one day orientation voyage for members of the Defense Advisory Counsel on Women in the Services, on 2 September 1999. Alabama offloaded the last of her Trident I C4 submarine launched ballistic missiles at the Explosive Handling Wharf, Naval Base Kitsap, Bangor, Wash. The submarine then completed a conversion that enabled her to fire Trident II D5 missiles, and a refueling overhaul (late October 2005-February 2009).

Alabama (SSBN-731)
Caption:Alabama’s crewmen spell out “Bama 50” while they stand in formation on the submarine's hull as they complete the boat’s 50th deterrent patrol, 25 May 2000. (Photographer’s Mate 1st Mark A. Correa, U.S. Navy Photograph 000525-N-7878C-003, Navy NewsStand).

An improvised explosive device killed Lt. Jeffrey Ammon, who had previously acted as the submarine’s engineering officer, when it detonated against a truck the lieutenant rode within, in the Aband district of Afghanistan, on 20 May 2008. Ammon served as a quality assurance/quality control engineer with Provincial Reconstruction Team Ghazni, from 21 March 2007 until the 37-year-old officer’s death. These teams are responsible for supporting the Afghan government’s efforts to improve security and democratic governance by providing essential services and helping expand economic opportunities. Ammon worked tirelessly to help the Afghans, and veterans of his command observed that he proved a personable and dedicated individual augmentee. Nearly 1,300 people attended his funeral. Ammon’s wife and two children survived his death.

Detailed history under construction.

Mark L. Evans

Published:Tue Jan 19 19:54:18 EST 2016