USS West Virginia (SSBN-736)

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USS West Virginia (SSBN-736)
USS West Virginia (SSBN-736) underway in 1989.
USS West Virginia (SSBN-736), during alpha sea trials off the United States East Coast in 1989.
United States
NamesakeThe State of West Virginia
Ordered21 November 1983
BuilderGeneral Dynamics Electric Boat, Groton, Connecticut
Laid down24 December 1987
Launched14 October 1989
Sponsored byMrs. Erma Byrd
Commissioned20 October 1990
HomeportKings Bay, Georgia
  • Montani Semper Liberi
  • ("Mountaineers are Always Free")
Nickname(s)The Silent Mountaineer
Statusin active service
General characteristics
Class and typeOhio-class ballistic missile submarine
  • 16,764 long tons (17,033 t) surfaced[1][2]
  • 18,750 long tons (19,050 t) submerged[1]
Length560 ft (170 m)
Beam42 ft (13 m)[1]
Draft38 ft (12 m)
SpeedGreater than 25 knots (46 km/h; 29 mph)[5]
Test depthGreater than 800 feet (240 m)[5]

USS West Virginia (SSBN-736) is a United States Navy Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine. She has been in commission since 1990. She is the third U.S. Navy ship to be named for West Virginia, the 35th state, and the 11th of 18 Ohio-class submarines.

Construction and commissioning[edit]

USS West Virginia (SSBN-736) at Port Everglades, Florida, on 4 May 1994.

The contract to build West Virginia was awarded to the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics Corporation in Groton, Connecticut, on 21 November 1983 and her keel was laid down there on 24 December 1987. She was launched at Electric Boat in Groton Connecticut on 14 October 1989, sponsored by Mrs. Erma Byrd, wife of United States Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, and commissioned on 20 October 1990, in the dry-dock of the Kings Bay Georgia Submarine Base, with Captain J. R. Harvey in command of the Blue Crew and Captain Donald McDermott in command of the Gold Crew.

Service history[edit]

West Virginia is based at Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, Georgia.[6]

On 29 December 2008, Captain Daniel Mack, commander of Submarine Squadron 16/20, relieved West Virginia's commanding officer, Commander Charles "Tony" Hill, of command "due to a loss of confidence" in Hill's ability to command. Captain Stephen Gillespie was assigned as West Virginia's temporary commanding officer.[6]

In September 2010 the approximate 300 Sailors assigned to the two crews that alternate patrols on West Virginia merged into one crew of about 110 sailors during the overhaul and refueling, which was done at the Norfolk Navy Shipyard (NNSY) in Portsmouth, Virginia, beginning in early 2011.[7] Commander Adam D. Palmer relieved Commander Steven K. Hall as commanding officer of West Virginia during a change of command ceremony 9 September at Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth, Virginia.[8] Commander Joseph W. Coleman relieved Commander Palmer during a change of command ceremony 25 November 2014 at St. Mary's Waterfront in St. Mary's, Georgia.[9]

On 24 October 2013, West Virginia departed Norfolk Naval Shipyard after a thirty-month refuel and overhaul. On 3 November 2013 she returned to her homeport of Kings Bay, Georgia.[10]

Community Support[edit]

West Virginia's Blue and Gold crew members regularly return to the state of West Virginia to participate in parades, community service projects and initiatives. West Virginia's commissioning crew established a relationship with the West Virginia Children's Home (WVCH) in 1990. WVCH Director Carson Markley, who attended the ship's commissioning, appreciates the special bond between the ship and the WVCH.[11]

The children at the West Virginia Children's Home have generally been neglected, abused and feel that no one cares for them. The crew of USS West Virginia almost immediately, upon arriving at the home, began to show concern and a real understanding for not just a few, but all the kids they come into contact with,

— Carson Markley.[11]

West Virginia in fiction[edit]

  • In Tom Clancy's 1994 novel Debt of Honor, West Virginia is one of several submarines sent to deal with a Japanese invasion of the Northern Mariana Islands. She is used as a "slow-attack" submarine, relying on her stealthiness and her torpedo tubes in combating Japanese forces.
  • In one scenario of the History Channel series Doomsday, West Virginia and her crew are (briefly) the last surviving remnant of Earth after it is destroyed by a rogue planet, momentarily kept preserved in ocean water sucked off the planet.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "SSBN-726 Ohio-Class FBM Submarines". Federation of American Scientists. 9 February 2000. Retrieved 25 October 2021.
  2. ^ a b c Frost, Peter. "Newport News contract awarded". Daily Press. Archived from the original on 27 April 2009. Retrieved 27 September 2011.
  3. ^ "US study of reactor and fuel types to enable naval reactors to shift from HEU fuel". Fissile Materials. 10 April 2020. Retrieved 25 October 2021.
  4. ^ "Validation of the Use of Low Enriched Uranium as a Replacement for Highly Enriched Uranium in US Submarine Reactors" (PDF). DSpace@MIT. 30 June 2015. Retrieved 25 October 2021.
  5. ^ a b "Submarine Frequently Asked Questions". Chief of Naval Operations Submarine Warfare Division. Archived from the original on 13 July 2013. Retrieved 27 September 2011.
  6. ^ a b Tighman, Andrew (4 January 2009). "Boomer CO fired over personnel problems". Military Times. Archived from the original on 21 May 2011.
  7. ^ "USS West Virginia Combines Crews". Navy News Service. 17 September 2010. NNS100917-07.
  8. ^ Copeland, Kevin (14 September 2011). "USS West Virginia Changes Command". The Periscope. Archived from the original on 20 October 2014.
  9. ^ "West Virginia Blue changes command". Kings Bay Periscope. 3 December 2014. Archived from the original on 17 June 2016. Retrieved 20 May 2016.
  10. ^ "USS West Virginia returns".
  11. ^ a b Clifford, MCS1 Kimberly (1 August 2010). "West Virginia Supports Her Namesake". Navy News Service. NNS100110-01.