Naval History and Heritage Command

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Kentucky II (SSBN-737)

1991–

The second U.S. Navy ship named in honor of the 15th state of the Union admitted on 1 June 1792.

The Mississippi Flotilla captured Confederate transport Kentucky at Memphis, Tenn., on 6 June 1862. The Navy Register for 1863 listed her as assigned to the Mississippi Squadron, but no other record of her service in the Union Navy has been found.

The first Kentucky (Battleship No. 6) commissioned under the U.S. colors therefore served from 1900-1922. The keel of Kentucky (BB-66), an Iowa (BB-61) class battleship, was laid at Norfolk Navy Yard, Portsmouth, Va., on 6 December 1944. Construction was suspended on 17 February 1947, however, when she was 72.1 percent complete. Kentucky’s name was stricken from the Navy List on 9 June 1958, and her uncompleted hulk was sold for scrapping to Boston Metals Co., Baltimore, Md., on 31 October 1958.

II

(SSBN-737: displacement 16,926; length 560'; beam 42'; draft 38'; speed 20+ knots; complement 153; armament 24 UGM-133 Trident II D5 submarine launched ballistic missiles and four torpedo tubes for Mk 48 torpedoes; class Ohio)

The second Kentucky (SSBN-737) was laid down on 18 December 1987 at Groton, Conn., by the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics Corp.; launched on 11 August 1990; sponsored by Mrs. Carolyn P. Hopkins, wife of Representative Larry J. Hopkins of Ky.; and commissioned on 13 July 1991, Capt. Michael G. Riegel (Blue Crew) and Capt. Joseph G. Henry (Gold Crew) in command.

Seal

The submarine’s seal is a reflection of the proud heritage of the Commonwealth for which she is named. The colors blue, gold, and white represent both the Navy and Kentucky. The Kentucky rifle is the focal point of the seal, representing the Commonwealth’s rich frontier past. The long rifle symbolizes Kentucky’s role and the proverbial “big stick” should deterrence fail. The horseshoe, a traditional good luck symbol, also represents the Commonwealth’s renowned thoroughbred industry, which produces some of the world’s finest horses. The image of the swift Kentucky thoroughbred also provides the inspiration for the submarine’s motto: “Thoroughbred of the Fleet.” The encircling gold braid represents the close association between the Commonwealth and Kentucky. The submarine silhouette represents the nearly 100 years of submarine heritage and technology to which Kentucky is heir.

Kentucky, manned by her Blue Crew, shifted home ports from New London, Conn., to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Ga., in July 1991. The submarine launched her first test Trident II D5 submarine launched ballistic missile during her demonstration and shakedown operations off Port Canaveral, Fla. (July–September, Kentucky launched the missile in September).

aerial starboard quarter view of Kentucky
This aerial starboard quarter view of Kentucky shows her slicing through the waves while she operates in the Atlantic, January 1992. (F. E. Zimmerman, U.S. Navy Photograph DN-SC-92-06249, Kentucky (SSBN-737) Collection, Ships History, Naval History & Heritage Command)
A close up aerial view of the submarine’s starboard sail
A close up aerial view of the submarine’s starboard sail aptly displays Kentucky’s power as she churns the water, January 1992. (F. E. Zimmerman, U.S. Navy Photograph DN-SC-92-06249, Kentucky (SSBN-737) Collection, Ships History, Naval History & Heritage Command)

Kentucky, manned by her Blue Crew, shifted home ports from Kings Bay to Naval Submarine Base Bangor, Wash., during Patrol 36 (24 August–22 November 2002, she reached the Pacific Fleet on 8 October).

Kentucky, 41-year-old Cmdr. Joseph A. Nosse in command, narrowly avoided colliding with roll-on, roll-off cargo ship Midnight Sun, operated by Totem Ocean Trailer Express, while proceeding at periscope depth through the Strait of Juan de Fuca, during the second dog watch on 12 October 2011. A week later, Paul A. Skarpness, Commander Submarine Squadron 17, relieved Nosse of his command of Kentucky. Lt. Ed Early, Public Affairs Officer Submarine Group 9, explained during a public briefing on 13 December that Nosse’s relief “was related to shortfalls in professional performance that led to leadership’s loss of confidence in his ability to command…Those shortfalls included inadequate leadership and oversight of his crew in the administrative and operational areas.”

Detailed history pending.

Mark L. Evans
25 June 2014

Published: Thu Dec 28 13:47:25 EST 2017