Benjamin Franklin class Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarine converted for special operations support. Commissioned on December 10, 1965 as the second of the Benjamin Franklin class Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarines (SSBN) the USS Kamehameha served as an SSBN through 1992, conducting a total of 63 deterrent patrols. Following her withdrawl from the SSBN fleet, Kamehameha was extensivly modified to support Navy special operations missions. To create additional living space the entire ballistic missile section was removed and turned into living quarters where embarked special operations personnel could rest, train, plan operations, and maintain their equipment in relative comfort (especially when compared to the cramped quarters associated with the much smaller Sturgeon and Los Angeles class Fast Attack Submarines.) In addition, Kamehameha was modified to accommodate two Dry Deck Shelters (DDS) as well as 2 SEAL Delivery Vehicles. With the decommissioning of her sister ship, the USS James K Polk (SSN645) in 1999, the Kamehameha remains the only converted SSBN in active service.
The concept of technical superiority over numerical superiority was and still is the driving force in American submarine development. A number of Third World countries are acquiring modern state-of-the-art non-nuclear submarines. Countering this threat is the primary mission of U.S. nuclear attack submarines.
Their other missions range from intelligence collection and special forces delivery to anti-ship and strike warfare. The Navy began construction of Seawolf class submarines in 1989. Seawolf is designed to be exceptionally quiet, fast well-armed with advanced sensors. It is a multi-mission vessel, capable of deploying to forward ocean areas to search out and destroy enemy submarines and surface ships and to fire missiles in support of other forces.
The first of the class, Seawolf (SSN 21), completed its initial sea trials in July 1996. Attack submarines also carry the Tomahawk cruise missile. Tomahawk launches from attack submarines were successfully conducted during Operation Desert Storm.
In late 1998, the contract was let for building the first of the New Attack Submarine. This class, the Virginia-class fully embraces the new strategic concept in ... From the Sea and Forward... From the Sea. It is the first U.S. submarine to be designed for battlespace dominance across a broad spectrum of regional and littoral missions as well as open-ocean, "blue water" missions. The Virginia-class achieves the right balance of core military capabilities and affordability.
The Benjamin Franklin-class were converted from Fleet Ballistic Missile submarines and carry drydeck shelters. They are equipped for special operations and support SEALs. The former missile spaces have been converted to accommodations, storage, and recreation spaces.