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After four and a half years of service, including 1,020 days of submerged operations, the first U. S. fleet ballistic missile submarine is now undergoing her first overhaul.
Between her commissioning on 30 December 1959, and her return to the yard in June 1964, the USS George Washington (SSBN-598) met every commitment assigned to her including 15 2-month deterrent patrols with her battery of 16 Polaris missiles at the ready-
Now, with 28 additional Polaris-armed submarines in commission, the pioneer George Washington is being refueled for the first time and modified to carry missiles which will double her striking range.
While in the yard the George Washington will be fitted with a new Polaris launching system and new sonar; her fire control and communications equipment will be modified; and her navigation equipment will be improved. The overhaul will be thorough with no compartment left untouched. The yard work, which will take place at General Dynamic’s Electric Boat yard in Groton, Connecticut, where the submarine was built, is expected to take more than a year.
The main modification to the George Washington will be refitting her to fire the 2,500- nautical-mile, A-3 version of the Polaris missile. As built, the George Washington was armed with 16 of the 1,200-mile, A-l Polaris missiles- With the longer-range weapon the submarine will have considerably more sea room in which to maneuver and still keep her missiles zeroed in on assigned targets.
A new missile firing system is being installed to launch the A-3s. The submarine’s original system used compressed air to eject the missile from its tube and propel it to the surface where the Polaris rocket engine ignited. The new launcher will have a small) solid-propellant rocket motor mounted inside the submarine’s missile compartment near
the base of the missile launching tube. When this small rocket fires, its exhaust gas will run through a water chamber converting the yater to steam. The steam will then be fed 'nto the base of the launch tube, forcing the ^'3 missile out of the tube and up through the water. This gas-steam launcher, which ls being built into newer Polaris submarines, does away with the complex valves, piping, and the large steel flasks of compressed air needed in the older launching system.
Additional equipment will negate most of this reduction in weight in the George Wash- lngton, and the submarine will retain a submerged displacement of about 6,700 tons. (The submarine’s over-all length of 381 feet, ^ inches, and beam of 33 feet will not change.)
The George Washington's Mark 80 Fire Control System which directs her Polaris missiles ydl be modified to mesh with the Mark II ‘nertial guidance system in the A-3 missiles, this Mark II guidance capsule, smallest of the ballistic missile guidance packages in U. S. '''capon systems, is about the size of a basket- Tdh It is about one-third the size and weight of its predecessor, the Mark I, which is used j? the A-l and A-2 models of the Polaris.
(The space and weight made available in the A-3 missile because of this reduced guidance Package has been used to help increase the tthssile’s range.)
During her overhaul the George Washington ''all also have major modifications made to ttcr hydraulic and power distribution systems. Dull surfaces will also be streamlined to improve sonar performance. Castings, valves, flanges, and auxiliary equipment will be inspected radiographically in keeping with the Current submarine safety programs (SUBSAFe).
Improvements in habitability have also been included in the 598 overhaul. Where Practicable, there will be aisles at least two and a half feet wide which are free of fixed equipment in all living spaces. Existing laundry equipment will be replaced by two automatic washers and two tumbler-type dryers.
Repainting of living spaces and other niceties will add to the “livability” for the submarine’s 12 officers and 127 enlisted men.
The George Washington’s four sister submarines, the USS Patrick Henry (SSBN-599), USS Theodore Roosevelt (SSBN-600), USS Robert E. Lee (SSBN-601), and USS Abraham Lincoln (SSBN-602) will undergo similar overhauls when they are relieved on deterrent patrols by newer submarines.
The next class of five Polaris submarines, led by the USS Ethan Allen (SSBN-608), can expect a similar overhaul program as the submarines feel the wear and tear of continual operations. However, the Ethan Allen, which was commissioned on 8 August 1961, and her four sister submarines are fitted to fire the 1,500-nautical-mile, A-2 version of the Polaris and their first overhauls will not give them the A-3 capability. Current plans call for 28 submarines to be armed with the A-3 missile and 13 with the A-2 when the entire undersea Polaris force is operational in 1967.
As the Polaris submarines come in for their overhauls they will also have their reactor cores replaced. This nuclear “refueling” for the George Washington comes after she had reportedly traveled more than 100,000 miles. Improved fuel cores will give the submarines an even greater unrefueled range.
The 598 overhaul program should do much to give the first five Polaris submarines, rushed into the Fleet several years ahead of schedule, the benefits of technological improvements during the seven years since the George Washington’s keel was laid down. These benefits will considerably upgrade the U. S. strategic retaliatory capability.