The second ship to be named for this type of whale found in the Atlantic, the USS Finback SSN-670 was a Sturgeon-class submarine. These vessels were powered with nuclear energy and designed as fast attack subs. In addition to multiple missiles and torpedoes, these boats featured improved intelligence-gathering equipment and the ability to surface through ice. Though they were phased out in the 1990s, Sturgeon-class submarines played a large part in the U.S. Navy between 1960 and 2004.
Service in the U.S. Navy
Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company out of Virginia won the contract to build the Finback, and construction began on June 26, 1965. She was launched nearly a year and a half later, on December 7, 1968, under the sponsorship of Mrs. Charles F. Baird, wife of the Under Secretary of the Navy at the time. The submarine received her commission on February 4, 1970, helmed by Commander Robert C. Austin.
As part of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet, the Finback won the Marjorie Sterett Battleship Fund Award in 1986. This commendation is presented every year to one ship from the Atlantic Fleet and one from the Pacific. Though the award often goes to the ship with the highest score in the Battle Efficiency Awards, this is not always the case, and the award often rotates through the various types of ships. The small monetary award is put into the ship’s recreation fund.
Eventually, Sturgeon-class ships began to be replaced by newer Los Angeles-class submarines, and the Finback was taken out of commission and struck from the Naval Register on March 28, 1997. Like many other nuclear-powered subs that were no longer needed, she was delivered to the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Washington for their recycling program. Her recycling was completed on October 31.
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.