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Florida VI (SSBN-728)

1983-

Florida was admitted to the Union as the 27th state on 3 March 1845.

The sixth U.S. Navy ship named Florida. The first Florida, a sloop, served from 1824-1831. The second Florida, a sidewheel steamer, served from 1861-1867. The third Florida, originally named Wampanoag, served from 1867-1885, and was renamed Florida on 15 May 1869. The fourth Florida (Monitor No. 9), served from 1903-1922, was renamed Tallahassee on 1 July 1908 to free the state name for assignment to a battleship, and was reclassified to BM-9 on 17 July 1920. The fifth Florida (Battleship No. 30), served from 1911-1931, and was reclassified to BB-30 on 17 July 1920.

VI

(SSBN-728: displacement 16,821; length 560'; beam 42'; draft 38'; speed 20+ knots; complement 153; armament 24 UGM-133 Trident I C4 submarine launched ballistic missiles and four torpedo tubes for Mk 48 torpedoes; class Ohio)

The sixth Florida (SSBN-728) was laid down on 4 July 1976 at Groton, Conn., by the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics Corp.; launched on 14 November 1981; and sponsored by Mrs. Marcia M. Carlucci, wife of Deputy Secretary of Defense Frank C. Carlucci III. During the boat’s fitting out period, several anti-nuclear demonstrators paddled a canoe named Auschwitz alongside Florida and poured animal blood topside, pounding on the upper portion of Tube No. 13 with a hammer, in early July 1982. A security team apprehended and removed the demonstrators, but the incident attracted national attention and compelled the Navy to review security procedures at the building yard. Ultimately, however, Florida was commissioned on 18 June 1983, Capt. William L. Powell (Blue Crew) and Capt. George R. Sterner (Gold Crew) in command.

A series of small fires broke out on board Florida while she completed a post shakedown availability at Electric Boat (31 October-20 December 1983). The fires caused only minor damage but unnerved many of the submarine’s sailors. Naval Investigative Service agents identified and arrested an unstable crewman who had set the fires to gain attention. His departure brought relief to the crew and enabled them to complete the yard work.

Manned by her Gold Crew, Florida shifted from the Atlantic to the Pacific Fleets in February 1984. She sailed from Port Canaveral, Fla.: passed through the Panama Canal on 18 February; crossed the equator on 20 February; and reached her new home port, Naval Submarine Base Bangor, Wash., on 25 March. Florida completed her first strategic deterrent patrol in Pacific waters (10 May-25 July 1984).

The changing strategic picture following the collapse of the East Bloc persuaded Navy leaders to convert the first four Ohio class submarines -- Florida (SSBN-728), Georgia (SSBN-729), Michigan (SSBN-727), and Ohio (SSBN-726) -- to guided missile submarines (SSGNs), principally equipped to fire UGM-109 Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles (TLAMs) through Multiple All-Up-Round Canisters in lieu of their Tridents. The modifications included: the ability to deploy with up to 154 TLAMs; improved intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities; and enhanced communications via the Common Submarine Radio Room. The conversions also opened the possibility that the submarines could operate unmanned aerial systems and unmanned undersea systems.

In addition, Florida gained the ability to support a Sea, Air, Land (SEAL) detachment. The SEALs could exit or re-enter the submarine as a group via two of the former Trident missile tubes. Two further systems improved her special operations capabilities: the Advanced SEAL Delivery System (ASDS), a dry, mini-submarine designed to deploy from her hull with a SEAL coastal assault team; and a SEAL Delivery Vehicle, which she could house within a dry deck shelter (DDS).

Florida (SSBN-728) VI 1983-021219-N-2903K-002
Florida makes for Norfolk to be converted into a guided missile submarine, 19 December 2002. (U.S. Navy Photograph 021219-N-2903K-002, Navy NewsStand)
Florida (SSBN-728) VI 1983-030814-N-0000X-003
An artist’s rendering captures how a converted Ohio-class submarine will launch her TLAMs from beneath the waves, 14 August 2003. (U.S. Navy Photograph 030814-N-0000X-003, Navy NewsStand)

Florida was redesignated SSGN-728 on 25 October 2002. In addition on this date, Cmdr. David M. Duryea relieved Cmdr. Jeffrey T. Powers as the commanding officer (the Gold and Blue Crews combined into a single crew). The submarine launched her first two TLAMs as a (planned) guided missile submarine during a training exercise in the Gulf of Mexico on 14 and 16 January 2003, respectively. She then (20-28 January) took part in Giant Shadow, an experiment including SEALs and unmanned underwater vehicles. Florida completed her conversion from 2 June 2003-April 2006 at Norfolk Naval Shipyard, Portsmouth, Va. The submarine held a ceremony marking her return to service, while moored at Naval Station Mayport, Fla., on 25 May 2006. Florida, Georgia, Michigan, and Ohio achieved their initial operational capability on 1 November 2007. All four guided missile submarines operated at sea simultaneously on 11 March. Florida meanwhile shifted her home port to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Ga.

Florida (SSBN-728) VI 1983-080426-N-1841C-045
Florida sails on her maiden deployment as a guided missile submarine, from Kings Bay, Ga., on 26 April 2008. (U.S. Navy Photograph 080426-N-1841C-045, Commander Submarine Group 7 website)

Fighting raged across Libya between Muammar Qadhafi and rebels opposed to his regime in 2011. The war drove tens of thousands of refugees across the neighboring border, and overburdened UN relief workers revealed that the plight of the fugitives reached a “crisis point.” The UN Security Council thus passed Resolution 1973 authorizing the use of force, including the implementation of a no-fly zone, to end Qadhafi’s attacks against the Libyans. The U.S. froze at least $30 billion worth of Libyan assets, and on the night of 19 March 2011 the Americans, British, Canadians, Danes, French, Italians, and Spaniards launched Operation Odyssey Dawn to destroy Qadhafi’s ability to attack civilians and to impose a no-fly zone. Air strikes and 110 TLAMs pounded more than 20 integrated Libyan air defense systems and airfields.

Florida sailed submerged and undetected until the night of the attacks, and then fired salvoes of TLAMs against Libyan military targets. She launched a total of 93 TLAMs during Odyssey Dawn, marking the first time that an Ohio class guided-missile submarine shot Tomahawks in battle. “My crew displayed their spirit and talents while meeting all challenges head-on,” Florida’s command officer, Capt. Thomas M. Calabrese, reflected. “My chiefs were always out and about certifying the crew’s readiness and my officers put the ship in the right place at the right time to execute assigned tasking.”

“Submarines proved their worth by giving us maximum flexibility in Operation Odyssey Dawn,” Vice Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., Commander Sixth Fleet, and maritime component commander for Odyssey Dawn, explained. “They provided unprecedented intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and terrific firepower, all from the sea. They are critical to winning any war against any adversary today and tomorrow.”

Florida returned to Kings Bay on 29 April 2011. The ongoing NATO air support enabled the rebels to eventually defeat Qadhafi, and they ambushed and killed the dictator as he attempted to flee from Surt on 20 October 2011.

On 22 June 2015, the Navy announced that per NavAdmin 142/15 "FY16 Enlisted Women in Submarines Selections," the service had begun reviewing applications from women, representing 31 different ratings from shore and sea commands worldwide, to fill four chief petty officer (E7 paygrade) and 34 rating conversion billets in the paygrades of E6 and below across the two crews of Michigan (SSGN-727). Sailors from across the fleet applied for the program, and the women were to be selected based upon their performance in their rating to date, as well their desired submarine rating assignments, Michigan's need to fill billets for the boat's planned rotations where appropriate, and lastly, the service's requirements for rating community health, qualifications, commanding officer's endorsements, sea service time, physical readiness testing, and the similarity of the sailors' current ratings to their desired submarine ratings. The women were to complete the standard submarine medical screening process, and then train at the Basic Enlisted Submarine School at Groton. The second group of female sailors were to be assigned to Florida at Kings Bay, Ga.

Detailed history under construction.

Mark L. Evans

24 June 2015

Published: Wed Jun 24 08:20:04 EDT 2015