Ship History

USS Will RogersUSS Will Rogers (SSBN 659)

The USS Will Rogers (SSBN 659) was the Navy’s 68th nuclear powered submarine and the 41st of its Fleet Ballistic Missile submarine fleet. The ship was 425 feet long with a beam of 33 feet and displaced approximately 8,000 tons submerged.

Will Rogers began her waterborne career on 21 July, 1966 when she was launched at General Dynamics Corporation’s Electric Boat Division at Groton, Connecticut. About seven months later she set out on her first series of sea trials under the direction of Vice Adm. H. G. Rickover, acting for the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission and the U.S. Navy, to test operation of the nuclear power plant and handling characteristics of the ship. Immediately after successful completion of first sea trials, further sea trials were undertaken to test the complex weapon system and other intricate pieces of equipment installed on the ship. The Will Rogers was placed in commission on 1 April, 1967, with Captain R. Y. Kaufman as Commanding Officer.

During April through July, 1967, the Will Rogers underwent further testing and training, including sound trials and torpedo weapons system testing. This period culminated in the successful firing of a Polaris Missile on 31 July, 1967 in the Atlantic Test Range off Cape Kennedy. On 22 September, 1967, Will Rogers departed New London, Connecticut for Charleston, South Carolina for her final load out. In October, 1967, she departed on her first Polaris Deterrent Patrol.

Since that first patrol, the USS Will Rogers has successfully completed over 72 Fleet Ballistic Missile Deterrent Patrols and has also completed 1,002 dives (more than any other SSBN) in her long and distinguished career.

The Fleet Ballistic Missile Submarine

Fast, silent and virtually immune to surprise attack, the Will Rogers combined the almost unlimited endurance of nuclear power with the deterrent might of 16 C-3 Poseidon missiles having an explosive capability greater than all the bombs of World War II. These missiles had a range of about 2,500 nautical miles and were housed in 16 launching tubes located just aft of the sail.

Manned by alternate crews (Blue and Gold – while one was at sea, the other would be ashore training), the ship was on duty almost constantly with address unknown, an underwater mobile missile launching platform hidden and virtually indestructible. Under U.S. control at all times, the FBM (Fleet Ballistic Missile) system has provided and continues to provide the United States with a powerful deterrent force to those who might start a global war.

In order to provide for maximum crew comfort during the 60 to 70 day patrols, the ship was equipped with over 600 tons of air conditioning equipment. Special atmospheric purification equipment removed irritants from the air and maintained the proper balance of oxygen, carbon dioxide and other atmospheric elements, and electrolytic oxygen generators permitted the submarine to manufacture all of its oxygen from sea water.

USS Will Rogers (SSBN 659) Statistical Data

Keel Laid …. 29 March, 1965
Launched …. 21 July, 1966
Commissioned …. 1 April, 1967
Sponsored By …. Mrs. Hubert H. Humphrey
Built By …. General Dynamics Electric Boat Division
Poseidon Conversion Completed …. Feb. 1974 at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard
Length …. 425 Feet
Hull Diameter …. 33 Feet
Displacement …. 8,000 tons (submerged)
Missile Tubes …. 16

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