Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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Charlotte IV (SSN-766)


The fourth U.S. Navy ship named Charlotte. The first Charlotte, a schooner that sailed as a Confederate blockade runner, was captured by the U.S. Navy on 10 April 1862, retained her name, and served from 1862–1867. The second Charlotte was laid down as North Carolina (Armored Cruiser No. 12) on 21 March 1905, renamed Charlotte on 7 June 1920, reclassified to a heavy cruiser (CA-12) on 17 July 1920, and served from 1908–1930. The third Charlotte, a patrol escort (PF-60), was named for the city in North Carolina and served from 1944–1946. The submarine is also named for the city in North Carolina.


(SSN-766: displacement 6,927; length 362'; beam 33'; draft 31'; speed 25 knots; complement 110; armament 12 Vertical Launch System (VLS) tubes for UGM-109 Tomahawk submarine-launched cruise missiles and UGM-84 Harpoon submarine launched anti-ship missiles, and four torpedo tubes for Mk 48 Advanced Capability (ADCAP) torpedoes; class Los Angeles)

The fourth Charlotte (SSN-766) was laid down on 17 August 1990 at Newport News, Va., by Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Co.; launched on 3 October 1992; sponsored by Mrs. Mary L. McCormack, wife of Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Financial Management and Comptroller) Robert C. McCormack; and was commissioned on 16 September 1994 at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., Cmdr. Michael J. Matthews in command.

In late 2005, Charlotte, Cmdr. Dennis Carpenter in command, steamed from Pearl Harbor, Hi., to Norfolk, Va., reaching that port on 29 November. During her voyage, the attack boat passed beneath the Arctic ice cap, breaking through 61 inches of ice while surfacing at the North Pole. The ships company rigged several sets of floodlights on the surface to compensate for the complete lack of sunlight, and despite a wind chill factor that reached a low of -50°F, most of her crewmen reported for what they called “ice liberty.” Some of the men took photographs, while others filmed a “Spirit Spot” for the Army/Navy football game, and a handful played a game of football. Two guests also sailed with the submarine and accompanied the liberty party onto the ice: Lt. James Winsor, RN, a submarine qualified officer of the British Royal Navy; and Travis King, known affectionately by the crew as the “Ice Pirate,” a civilian arctic expert of the Navy’s Arctic Submarine Laboratory. In addition, the ships company attained the appellation of “Bluenoses” for crossing the Arctic Circle.

Charlotte IV (SSN-766) 1994-North Pole
Crewmen brave the fierce Arctic weather while celebrating their “ice liberty” at the North Pole, 2005. (Unattributed or dated U.S. Navy photograph, Arctic Submarine Laboratory photographic archives)

“Conducting an under-ice transit presented both unique challenges and rewards for the Charlotte team,” Carpenter afterward recalled. “I am very proud of the men on board who engaged the situation head-on, and I am ecstatic that they were able to experience a North Pole surfacing.”

“I couldn’t believe how dark it was at the Pole,” Yeoman 3rd Class Guadalupe Deleon described the experience of exploring the harsh polar extremes. “It was pitch black and incredibly cold, but it was still really exhilarating. After all, how many people can say they have been at the North Pole?”

Charlotte IV (SSN-766) 1994-140724-N-BQ948-488
Charlotte sailors observe international ships and submarines steam in close formation during Rim of the Pacific (RimPac) 2014, a multi-national, multi-threat exercise across the Pacific, 25 July 2014. More than 40 ships, six submarines, over 200 aircraft, and nearly 25,000 people from 22 nations take part in the exercise from 26 June–11 August. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jacob Estes, U.S. Navy Photograph 140724-N-BQ948-488, Navy NewsStand)

Detailed history under construction.

Mark L. Evans

15 September 2015

Published: Thu Sep 17 10:42:51 EDT 2015