Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base Chronology

Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base Chronology

Introduction

Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in Georgia is the East Coast homeport for Ohio-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile and guided-missile submarines. It is the only Atlantic fleet base capable of supporting the Trident II (D-5) missile system.

Established in 1978, Kings Bay is home to Submarine Group 10, Submarine Squadrons 16 & 20, Trident Training Facility (TTF), Trident Refit Facility (TRF), and Strategic Weapons Facility Atlantic (SWFLANT) among other strategic submarine and weapons commands. It complements the West Coast Trident base in Bangor, Washington.

Satellite view of Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in 2023.
Satellite view of Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in 2023. (Maps Data: Google @2023)

As one of the most important submarine bases globally, Kings Bay houses over 50% of the active U.S. inventory of thermonuclear warheads on its Ohio-class submarines. Each submarine carries up to 24 Trident II missiles, with up to 16 warheads per missile.

For more interesting information about the base, don’t miss to check our 15 Facts About Kings Bay You Probably Didn’t Know article.

A little of History

Located near Jacksonville, Florida, Kings Bay was selected in 1978 as the preferred East Coast site for the Ohio-class fleet. After environmental impact studies and Congressional approval, major construction began on facilities like the Trident Training Facility.

The first Ohio-class submarine, the USS Tennessee (SSBN 734), arrived in 1989. With the commissioning of the USS Louisiana in 1997(SSBN 742), Kings Bay reached its full capacity of 10 Trident submarines. A key milestone came in 1990 when the Trident II missile completed its first deterrent patrol aboard the USS Tennessee out of Kings Bay.

The majority of the following chronology was extracted from Facts/Chronology: Polaris, Poseidon, Trident, 50th Anniversary:

1970s

30 NOVEMBER 1976

  • The Secretary of the Navy announced that Kings Bay, Georgia, had been identified for further study as the preferred alternative location for the possible construction of an East Coast refit site for Navy Fleet Ballistic Missile (FBM) submarines.

26 JANUARY 1978

  • The Secretary of the Navy announced that Kings Bay, Ga., would be the site of the new Submarine Support Base.

1 JUNE 1979

  • Kings Bay activation began
Aerial photo of Kings Bay in 1979
Aerial photo of Kings Bay in 1979. (U.S. Navy photo)

10 JUNE 1979

  • FBM tender USS CANOPUS (AS 34) departed Rota for Site IV and relieved USS SIMON LAKE (AS 33). AS 33 was to proceed to the Kings Bay, GA, refit site.

1 JULY 1979

  • Formal commissioning ceremony of Naval Submarine Support Base (NAVSUBSUPBASE), Kings Bay.
commissioning ceremony of Naval Submarine Support Base  Kings Bay
The first commanding officer of Kings Bay, Cmdr. Robert Sminkey during the commissioning ceremony on July 1, 1978. (U.S. Navy photo)

2 JULY 1979  

  • The FBM tender refit site at Kings Bay, GA, was activated. The need for this new site arose because the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation with Spain required the withdrawal of Submarine Squadron Sixteen from Rota, Spain, by 1 July 1979.

2 JULY 1979  

  • FBM tender USS SIMON LAKE (AS 33) arrived at Kings Bay to provide POSEIDON (C3) and TRIDENT I (C4) tender service.
The USS Simon Lake (AS 33) arrives at Naval Submarine Support Base Kings Bay on July 2, 1979.
The USS Simon Lake (AS 33) arrives at Naval Submarine Support Base Kings Bay on July 2, 1979. (U.S. Navy photo)

6 JULY 1979  

  • USS JAMES MONROE (SSBN 622) was the first SSBN of Submarine Squadron (SUBRON) 16 to arrive for refit at Kings Bay, GA, having departed on patrol from the former tender site at Rota, Spain.
nuclear-powered strategic missile submarine USS JAMES MONROE (SSBN-622)
The nuclear-powered strategic missile submarine USS JAMES MONROE (SSBN-622) was the first submarine to arrive for refit at Kings Bay on 6 July 1979. (National Archives)

1980s

APRIL 1980

  • The first submarine to be dry docked at Kings Bay, The USS HENRY L. CLAY (SSBN 625)

18 MAY 1981  

  • The Floating Drydock USS OAK RIDGE (ARDM 1) commenced overhaul at Atlantic Drydock Corporation, Ft. George Island, FL. The ship supports SSBN operations at Kings Bay, GA.
USS SIMON LAKE (AS-33) docked at Kings Bay in December 1981
USS SIMON LAKE (AS-33) docked at Kings Bay in December 1981. The SIMON LAKE provided maintenance, repairs, and supplies to the nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) of Submarine Squadron 16 while in port. (National Archives)

1 APRIL 1982

  • The U.S. Naval Submarine Support Base (NAVSUBSUPBASE), Kings Bay, was renamed the U.S. Naval Submarine Base (SUBASE), Kings Bay, GA.

21 MARCH 1983

  • The Director, Strategic Systems Projects, proposed that Strategic Weapons Facility, Atlantic (SWFLANT) be established as a shore facility, in an active development status, effective 1 May 1983.

30 JUNE 1983

  • The responsibility for acquiring the Naval Submarine Base, Kings Bay, was transferred to the Strategic Systems Programs Office (SSPO) because of the disestablishment of Project Management Office No. 2 (PM-2).
Kings Bay Trident Training Facility (TTF) break ground on 4th September 1984.
Trident Training Facility (TTF) break ground on 4th September 1984. (U.S. Navy photo)

4 SEPTEMBER 1984 

  • Groundbreaking ceremonies were held for the TRIDENT Training Facility at Naval Submarine Base, Kings Bay, GA. Construction of the facility was scheduled to be completed in December 1986.

1 JANUARY 1985 

  • SWFLANT groundbreaking began.

30 DECEMBER 1986

  • The DIRSSP established a working group to develop a transition plan for the transfer of the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base and the TRIDENT Refit Facility to the Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet, and the Kings Bay TRIDENT Training Facility to the Chief of Naval Education and Training. The working group was tasked to identify the timing for the transfer and detail the functions, funding, and manpower to be transferred. A completed transition plan was scheduled for 31 March 1987.

30 JANUARY 1987

  • A $22.9 million contract was awarded to Brinderson Corporation of Irvine, CA, to complete the construction of the TRIDENT Training Facility at the Naval Submarine Base, Kings Bay, GA.
Kings Bay Fluckely Hall, Group Ten, and Trident Training Facility being constructed during September 1987.
Fluckely Hall, Group Ten, and Trident Training Facility being constructed during September 1987. (U.S. Navy photo)

4 APRIL 1987

  • A special ceremony was conducted at the U.S. Submarine Base, Kings Bay, GA, commemorating the 2500th SSBN patrol, completed by the USS MARIANO G. VALLEJO (SSBN 658).
The ceremony commemorating the 2,500th deterrent patrol accomplished by the United States Navy fleet of ballistic missile submarines on 4 April 1987.
The ceremony commemorating the 2,500th deterrent patrol accomplished by the United States Navy fleet of ballistic missile submarines on 4 April 1987. The 2,500th patrol was completed by the USS MARIANO G. VALLEJO (SSBN 658) (National Archives)

29 MARCH 1988

  • USS SIMON BOLIVAR (SSBN 641) completed strategic loadout at the Polaris Missile Facility Atlantic (POMFLANT). She was the ninth TRIDENT I Backfit SSBN at sea, completing the squadron of ships at Kings Bay.
Construction of the Kings Bay dry dock in January of 1988.
Construction of the dry dock in January of 1988. (U.S. Navy photo)

15 JANUARY 1989

  • USS TENNESSEE (SSBN 734), the first submarine to carry the TRIDENT II (D5) missile, arrived at her home port of Kings Bay, GA. USS TENNESSEE’s ceremonial arrival marked the beginning of TRIDENT operations in the Atlantic fleet.
USS TENNESSEE (SSBN 734) arriving for the first time in Kings Bay on 15 January 1989.
USS TENNESSEE (SSBN 734) arriving for the first time in Kings Bay on 15 January 1989. (National Archives)

9 SEPTEMBER 1989  

  • USS PENNSYLVANIA (SSBN 735) was commissioned during ceremonies at New London, CT. She joins USS TENNESSEE (SSBN 734) as the second TRIDENT ship to be home-ported at Kings Bay, GA. The principal speaker for the event was the Honorable H. Lawrence Garrett III, Secretary of the Navy.
Kings Bay Trident Refit Facility under construction in 1989
Kings Bay Trident Refit Facility under construction in 1989. (National Archives)

30 SEPTEMBER 1989  

  • The TRIDENT Refit Facility, Kings Bay, GA, achieved its planned Initial Operational Capability.

1990s

19 JANUARY 1990

  • The supervision of the Navy’s newest TRIDENT Submarine Base at Kings Bay, GA, was transferred from its builder, Strategic Systems Programs (SSP), to the Commander in Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, and Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet. This significant event marked the culmination of a long development effort by SSP. The base at Kings Bay is an integral part of the Nation’s strategic modernization program, supporting the operation of TRIDENT submarines carrying the new TRIDENT II (D5) missile. The facility, which will sustain deploying TRIDENT submarines, has a complement of over 31,000 personnel and includes first-class facilities such as a new exchange, commissary, and recreation facilities. Advanced all-weather missile handling and fabrication complexes and refit maintenance facilities were constructed to maximize the TRIDENT SLBM’s at-sea readiness. Kings Bay facilities also include the Navy’s largest single schoolhouse – the TRIDENT Training Facility.

23 MARCH 1990

  • The Strategic Weapons Facility, Atlantic (SWFLANT), Kings Bay, GA, completed the offloading of 24 tactical TRIDENT II (D5) missiles on board USS TENNESSEE (SSBN 734). The loadout and acceptance of the missiles by USS TENNESSEE signaled the achievement of Initial Operational Capability for the TRIDENT II Program. Reaching this key milestone completed a full-scale development program lasting over 6 years.

13 JULY 1991

  • USS KENTUCKY (SSBN 737) was commissioned during ceremonies at Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics, Groton, CT. She would be home-ported at Kings Bay, GA. The principal speaker for the commissioning was the Honorable Larry J. Hopkins, United States Representative, Commonwealth of Kentucky. The ship’s sponsor was Mrs. Carolyn Pennebaker Hopkins.

25 APRIL 1992

  • A special ceremony was conducted at the U.S. Submarine Base, Kings Bay, GA, commemorating the 3000th SSBN patrol, completed by the USS TENNESSEE (SSBN 734). Guest speakers at the celebration included General Colin L. Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Frank B. Kelso II, Chief of Naval Operations, and Vice Admiral Henry G. Chiles, Jr., Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet.
Ceremony for the USS TENNESSEE's completion of the U.S. Navy's 3,000th strategic deterrent patrol.
Ceremony for the USS TENNESSEE’s completion of the U.S. Navy’s 3,000th strategic deterrent patrol. (National Archives)

27 MAY 1993

  • USS MARYLAND (SSBN 738) completed her strategic loadout at Strategic Weapons Facility, Atlantic (SWFLANT), Kings Bay, GA, and deployed. The first patrol began on 22 June 1993.

28 MAY 1994

USS NEBRASKA (SSBN-739) off the coast of the Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Georgia on February 23, 1995.
USS NEBRASKA (SSBN-739) off the coast of the Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Georgia on February 23, 1995. (National Archives)
  • USS NEBRASKA (SSBN 739) completed her strategic loadout at Strategic Weapons Facility, Atlantic (SWFLANT), Kings Bay, GA, and deployed. The first patrol began on 26 June 1994.
Floating medium auxiliary repair dock USS OAK RIDGE (ARDM-1) moored at the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in 1994.
Floating medium auxiliary repair dock USS OAK RIDGE (ARDM-1) moored at the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in 1994. The Oak Ridge completed 50 years of commissioned service in September 1994. (National Archives)

1 JANUARY 1995  

  • POMFLANT became SWFLANT Detachment Charleston (SWFLANT-Det).

19 JUNE 1995  

  • USS RHODE ISLAND (SSBN 740) completed her strategic loadout at Strategic Weapons Facility, Atlantic (SWFLANT), Kings Bay, GA, and deployed. The first patrol began on 3 July 1995.
The USS RHODE ISLAND (SSBN 740) departs from the Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Georgia to begin a patrol mission in the Atlantic Ocean on 8 October 1996.
The USS RHODE ISLAND (SSBN 740) departs from the Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Georgia to begin a patrol mission in the Atlantic Ocean on 8 October 1996. (National Archives)

3 JULY 1996  

  • USS MAINE (SSBN 741) completed her strategic loadout at Strategic Weapons Facility, Atlantic (SWFLANT), Kings Bay, GA, and deployed. The first patrol began on 12 July 1996.

4 AUGUST 1997

  • USS WYOMING (SSBN 742) completed her strategic loadout at Strategic Weapons Facility, Atlantic (SWFLANT), Kings Bay, GA, and deployed. The first patrol began on 19 August 1997.

6 SEPTEMBER 1997

  • USS LOUISIANA (SSBN 743), the 10th TRIDENT II (D5) submarine, was commissioned during ceremonies at the TRIDENT Naval Base at Kings Bay, GA. Like all D5 boats, she was home-ported in Kings Bay, GA.

15 OCTOBER 1998

  • USS LOUISIANA (SSBN 743) completed her strategic loadout at Strategic Weapons Facility, Atlantic (SWFLANT), Kings Bay, GA, and deployed. The first patrol began on 22 October 1998.

2000s

14 JANUARY 2000

  • SWFLANT-Det deactivated and closed.

1 MAY 2002

  • USS ALASKA (SSBN 732) completed the first TRIDENT II (D5) backfit strategic loadout at Strategic Weapons Facility, Atlantic, Kings Bay, GA.

4 DECEMBER 2002

  • The Director of the Strategic Systems Program (DIRSSP) served as primary point of contact for the Navy in planning and conducting the Mighty Guardian V security force-on-force exercises at Naval Submarine Base, Kings Bay, GA. Mighty Guardian V was designed to evaluate the security of SSBNs. The Mighty Guardian V exercises were conducted during October through December 2002 and included both above decks and below decks exercises.

1 OCTOBER 2003

  • The Strategic Weapons Facilities, Atlantic and Pacific, assumed the responsibilities of day-to-day operational control over the security of the waterfront restricted area and tactical control over the terrorist security forces at Naval Submarine Bases, Kings Bay, GA, and Bangor, WA, respectively.

To be continued…

Further reading

Bibliography

  • Facts/Chronology: Polaris, Poseidon, Trident, 50th Anniversary, Strategic Systems Programs, 2005
  • The Kings Bay Periscope, Vol. 43. Issue 29, July 31, 2008, Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay
  • The Kings Bay Periscope, Vol. 43. Issue 27, July 17, 2008, Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay

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Javier Guerrero
Javier Guerrero
Javier is the editor @ Nuclear Companion and loves to investigate and write about the cold war.

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