Originally built as an Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine (SSBN), the USS Florida was converted to a cruise missile submarine and her designation changed to SSGN-728. Construction began on this submarine in 1976. Her crew was assembled in 1980 and she was launched on November 14, 1981.
Service in the U.S. Navy
Though the crew had moved onboard by January 21, 1983, the sub did not receive her commission until June 18. Like other Ohio-class vessels, the Florida was built to hold two crews, designated as Blue and Gold crew, each of which serves a 70-90 patrol rotation. At the initial commissioning, the Blue Crew was commanded by Captain William L. Powell and the Gold Crew by Captain George R. Sterner.
After her shakedown cruise, the Florida began her first strategic deterrent patrol out of Bangor, Washington, on March 25, 1984. Between that date and 2002, the sub completed 61 of these patrols and won five Battle Efficiency “E” awards. She was also given the Marjorie Sterrett Battleship Fund Award in 1991. However, during this period, her skipper was fired for allegedly creating a negative command climate.
In July of 2003, the Florida ported at Norfolk Naval Shipyard for conversion, which was completed in 2006. Her new home port became the Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Georgia, though she was recommissioned at a ceremony at Naval Station Mayport in her namesake state.
While serving as a part of Operation Odyssey Dawn near Libya, the Florida fired at least 90 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Libyan planes, helping to create a no-fly zone to keep Moammar Gadhafi from attacking a rebel base in Benghazi. This marks the first time any Ohio-class submarine has seen combat.
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.