USS Kentucky (SSBN-737)

USS Kentucky (SSBN-737), is a United States Navy Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine which has been in commission since 1991. She is the third U.S. Navy ship to be named for Kentucky, the 15th state.

USS Kentucky (SSBN-737)
USS Kentucky (SSBN-737)
United States
Namesake: U.S. state of Kentucky
Ordered: 13 August 1985
Builder: General Dynamics Electric Boat, Groton, Connecticut
Laid down: 18 December 1987
Launched: 11 August 1990
Sponsored by: Carolyn Pennebaker Hopkins
Commissioned: 13 July 1991
Homeport: Bangor, Washington
Motto: Thoroughbred Of The Fleet
Honors and
Status: in active service
General characteristics
Class and type: Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine
  • 16,764 long tons (17,033 t) surfaced[1][2]
  • 18,750 long tons (19,050 t) submerged[1]
Length: 560 ft (170 m)
Beam: 42 ft (13 m)[1]
Draft: 38 ft (12 m)
  • 1 × S8G PWR nuclear reactor[1]
  • 2 × geared turbines[1]
  • 1 × 325 hp (242 kW) auxiliary motor
  • 1 × shaft @ 60,000 shp (45,000 kW)[1]
Speed: Greater than 25 knots (46 km/h; 29 mph)[3]
Test depth: Greater than 800 feet (240 m)[3]

Construction and commissioning

The contract to build Kentucky was awarded to the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics Corporation in Groton, Connecticut, on 13 August 1985 and her keel was laid down there on 18 December 1987. She was launched on 11 August 1990, sponsored by Carolyn Pennebaker Hopkins, who used a custom blend of Kentucky bourbon whiskey, mixed for the occasion, rather than the traditional bottle of champagne to christen Kentucky. She was commissioned on 13 July 1991, with Captain Michael G. Riegel commanding the Blue Crew and Captain Joseph Henry commanding the Gold Crew.

Service history

On 19 March 1998 south of Long Island, New York, Kentucky collided with the attack submarine USS San Juan (SSN-751) while the two submarines were conducting a joint training drill prior to deployment. One of Kentucky's stern planes was slightly damaged; San Juan's forward ballast tank was breached, but San Juan was able to surface and return to port. No personnel suffered any injuries. Kentucky returned to patrol the next day.

In both 2001 and 2002, Kentucky's Gold Crew won first place in the United States Atlantic Fleet in the Captain Edward F. Ney Memorial Award Submarine Afloat Galley competition for outstanding food service.

In 2005, both the Blue and Gold Crews of Kentucky were appointed Kentucky Colonels by Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher.

Kentucky was awarded the Battle Efficiency Award (Battle "E") for Submarine Squadron 17 for 2006 and 2009.

Kentucky's Gold Crew was awarded a Captain Edward F. Ney Memorial Award Honorable Mention for food service in 2007.

Kentucky's Blue and Gold Crews were awarded the Omaha Trophy for service as the best ballistic missile submarine in 2009.[4]

On 12 October 2011, Kentucky had only her periscope above water, when she turned onto a new course that was blocked by the Totem Ocean ship Midnight Sun. The submarine came into close contact of about 800 meters with the freighter near British Columbia at the Juan de Fuca Strait.[5]

The ship has been featured in both the History Channel's Modern Marvels "Mega Meals" episode in 2010 and in the Smithsonian Channel's Mighty Ships in 2011.

In January 2012 USS Kentucky entered her Engineering Refueling Overhaul (ERO) at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.[6]

On 7 November 2015, an unarmed missile launched from Kentucky during a test caused buzz on social media as it was mistaken for a UFO or meteor. The launch was also widely reported by the Southern California broadcast media.[7][8]

On 13 March 2016, following completion of her ERO, Kentucky deployed for the boat's first strategic deterrent mission since 2011.[9]


  1. "Ohio-class SSGN-726". Federation of American Scientists. Retrieved 23 September 2018.
  2. Frost, Peter. "Newport News contract awarded". Daily Press. Retrieved 27 September 2011.
  3. "Submarine Frequently Asked Questions". Chief of Naval Operations Submarine Warfare Division. Retrieved 27 September 2011.
  4. "USS Kentucky Awarded Omaha Trophy". U.S. Strategic Command. Retrieved 29 August 2019.
  5. Fellman, Sam (21 December 2011). "Near-miss cited in firing of sub CO". Navy Times.
  6. "Submarine Squadron 19". Commander, Submarine Group 9. Archived from the original on 17 June 2013. Retrieved 17 June 2013.
  7. "Naval missile test off California creates streaking light". Yahoo News. 8 November 2015.
  8. "Everybody lost it when a Navy missile lit up the night sky over the West Coast". Yahoo Finance. 8 November 2015.
  9. "USS Kentucky ballistic-missile submarine returns to active duty after 40-month overhaul". Northern Kentucky Tribune. Retrieved 17 March 2016.
  • This article includes information collected from the Naval Vessel Register, which, as a U.S. government publication, is in the public domain. The entry can be found here.
  • Photo gallery of USS Kentucky (SSBN-737) at NavSource Naval History
  • "Welcome Aboard" pamphlet provided to USS Kentucky tour visitors.

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