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The Lafayette class of submarine was an evolutionary development from the Ethan Allen class of fleet ballistic missile submarine, slightly larger and generally improved. This class, together with the George Washington, Ethan Allen, James Madison, and Benjamin Franklin classes, composed the "41 for Freedom," the Navy's primary contribution to the nuclear deterrent force through the late 1980s. The James Madison and Benjamin Franklin classes are combined with the Lafayettes in some references.

USS Woodrow Wilson
Lafayette-class submarine USS Woodrow Wilson
Class overview
Name: Lafayette class
Operators:  United States Navy
Preceded by: Ethan Allen class
Succeeded by: James Madison class
Built: 1961–1964 [1]
In commission: 1963–1994 [1]
Completed: 9
Retired: 9
Preserved: 1 (As Training Vessel)
General characteristics
Type: Nuclear-powered Ballistic Missile Submarine

Surfaced: 7,325 long tons (7,443 t)

Submerged: 8,251 long tons (8,383 t)[2]
Length: 425 ft (130 m) [1][3]
Beam: 33 ft (10 m) [1][3]
Draft: 28 ft 6 in (8.69 m) [3]
  • 16 knots (30 km/h) surfaced
  • 21 knots (39 km/h) submerged[2]
Test depth: 1,300 feet (400 m)[2]
Complement: Two crews of 14 officers and 126 enlisted[2]
Armament: 16 Polaris A2/A3 or Poseidon C3 missiles, 4 × 21 inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes, 12 torpedoes[2]



The first eight submarines initially deployed with the Polaris A-2 missile, later being refitted with the longer ranged Polaris A-3, with USS Daniel Webster (SSBN-626) having the A-3 missile from the start.[4] In the mid-1970s all were upgraded to carry the Poseidon C3 missile; their missile tubes were slightly larger than the Ethan Allen and George Washington classes and Poseidon was designed to take advantage of this.[2] Unlike twelve of the similar James Madison and Benjamin Franklin classes, none of the Lafayette-class submarines were refitted with Trident I (C4) missiles.

The Lafayettes and their successors were equipped with a hovering system to manage trim more effectively when firing missiles; this increased the missile rate of fire from one per minute to four per minute.[2]

Daniel Webster was originally built with diving planes mounted on a "mini-sail" near the bow, leading to her nickname "Old Funny Fins". This configuration, unique to US submarines, was an attempt to reduce the effect of porpoising. While successful, the "mini-sail" required to contain the operating mechanism reduced hydrodynamic efficiency and lowered her overall speed. During a mid-1970s overhaul these unusual planes were removed and standard fairwater planes were installed.[5]


The Lafayettes were decommissioned between 1986 and 1992, due to a combination of SALT II treaty limitations as the Ohio class SSBNs entered service, age, and the collapse of the Soviet Union. One (Daniel Webster) remains out of commission but converted to a Moored Training Ship (MTS-626) with the missile compartment removed. She is stationed at Nuclear Power Training Unit Charleston, South Carolina, along with USS Sam Rayburn (MTS-635).[6]

Boats in classEdit

Submarines of the Lafayette class:[6][7]

Name and hull number Builder Laid Down Launched Commissioned Fate
Lafayette (SSBN-616) General Dynamics Electric Boat 17 January 1961 8 May 1962 23 April 1963 Decommissioned 12 August 1991. Disposed of through Ship-Submarine Recycling Program, 1992
Alexander Hamilton (SSBN-617) General Dynamics Electric Boat 26 June 1961 18 August 1962 27 June 1963 Decommissioned 23 February 1993. Disposed of through Ship-Submarine Recycling Program, 1994
Andrew Jackson (SSBN-619) Mare Island Naval Shipyard 26 April 1961 15 September 1962 3 July 1963 Decommissioned 31 August 1989. Disposed of through Ship-Submarine Recycling Program, 1999
John Adams (SSBN-620) Portsmouth Naval Shipyard 19 May 1961 12 January 1963 12 May 1964 Decommissioned 24 March 1989. Disposed of through Ship-Submarine Recycling Program, 1996
James Monroe (SSBN-622) Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Co. 31 July 1961 4 August 1962 7 December 1963 Decommissioned 25 September 1990. Disposed of through Ship-Submarine Recycling Program, 1995
Nathan Hale (SSBN-623) General Dynamics Electric Boat 2 October 1961 12 January 1963 23 November 1963 Decommissioned 3 November 1986. Disposed of through Ship-Submarine Recycling Program, 1994
Woodrow Wilson (SSBN-624) Mare Island Naval Shipyard 13 September 1961 22 February 1963 27 December 1963 Decommissioned 1 September 1994. Disposed of through Ship-Submarine Recycling Program, 1998
Henry Clay (SSBN-625) Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Co. 23 October 1961 30 November 1962 20 February 1964 Decommissioned 5 November 1990. Disposed of through Ship-Submarine Recycling Program, 1997
Daniel Webster (SSBN-626) General Dynamics Electric Boat 28 December 1961 27 April 1963 9 April 1964 Decommissioned 30 August 1990. Converted to Moored Training Ship (MTS-626) with missile compartment removed.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "SSBN-616 Lafayette-Class FBM Submarines" from the FAS Archived 2012-10-23 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Friedman, Norman (1994). U.S. Submarines Since 1945: An Illustrated Design History. Annapolis, Maryland: United States Naval Institute. pp. 199–203, 244. ISBN 1-55750-260-9.
  3. ^ a b c "USS Lafayette (SSBN 616)" from the
  4. ^ Polmar 1981, p.21.
  5. ^ Daniel Webster at
  6. ^ a b Gardiner and Chumbley 1995, p.612.
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-07-28. Retrieved 2012-10-18.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link) California Center for Military History (dead link 2015-05-05)

External linksEdit