A Lafayette-class ballistic missile submarine, the USS Daniel Webster SSBN-626 was originally ordered in February of 1961. The Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics Corporation won the contract and began construction on the sub in December of the same year. She was ready to be launched on April 27, 1963, and received her first commission nearly a year later on April 9, 1964, under Commander Marvin S. Blair.
Service in the U.S. Navy
In order to counteract the effect of “porpoising,” in which a sub’s hydrodynamics made it rock back and forth while in motion, the Daniel Webster was fitted with diving planes near the bow above the hull. Because of these additions, she was known as “Old Funny Fins.” However, the fins reduced speed and efficiency, though they kept the sub stable, and so were removed during her first overhaul.
The Daniel Webster, which could hold two crews of 13 officers and 130 enlisted men each, was the first Lafayette-class submarine to be retrofitted with a Poseidon missile system. This was the second ballistic missile system employed by the U.S. Navy, following Polaris. Poseidon missiles were propelled by a two-stage solid fuel rocket and had a 4,600 kilometer range and offered improved accuracy and payload capacity over Polaris.
After 26 years in the Navy, the USS Daniel Webster was placed out of commission on August 30, 1990, and converted into a training ship docked at Charleston Naval Shipyard in South Carolina. She remains at this shipyard with the designation MTS-626 (moored training ship) to the present day.
Asbestos in Navy Ships
Although an essential component of the naval fleet, especially throughout conflicts of the last century, submarines also pose a lasting health risk to soldiers serving on them. However, these risks extend beyond the inherent dangers that existed while operating the vessels during military conflicts. Unfortunately, products containing asbestos were also common aboard submarines because of the material’s high resistance to heat and fire. Despite its value as an insulator, asbestos fiber intake can lead to several serious health consequences, including mesothelioma, a devastating cancer without cure. Furthermore, the enclosed environment of submarines put servicemen at an even higher risk of exposure. Current and former military personnel who came into contact with or served on submarines should seek immediate medical attention in order to detect possible health consequences associated with asbestos exposure.