Named after the author and poet who wrote what would become the lyrics to “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the USS Francis Scott Key SSBN-657 was a ballistic missile submarine of the Benjamin Franklin class. These submarines had quieter machinery than their predecessors and were part of the first 41 fleet ballistic missile submarines. They originally carried Polaris A-3 ballistic missiles, but exchanged them for Poseidon C-3s when the technology improved. The Francis Scott Key was eventually converted to be able to use Trident-I (C-4) missiles. In the 1990s, the Benjamin Franklin submarines were phased out in favor of the more advanced Ohio-class submarines.
Service in the U.S. Navy
Launched on April 23, 1965, the Francis Scott Key was sponsored by Mrs. Marjory Key Thorne and Mrs. William T. Jarvis. The sub was commissioned on December 3, 1966, with Captain Frank W. Graham in charge of one crew and Lieutenant Commander Joseph B. Logan in charge of the other. The two crews were referred to as Blue and Gold, and each was composed of 120 men.
This sub was capable of traveling at speeds of up to 20 knots and could dive to a depth of 1,300 feet. She was 425 long and displaced 8,382 tons of water when submerged. Her nuclear reactor could produce 11,185 kilowatts of energy and was used to power two geared steam turbines. She featured 16 ballistic missile tube and four 21-inch torpedo tubes.
After 27 years of service, the USS Francis Scott Key was decommissioned on September 2, 1993, with Commander Carl D. Olson as her final commander. She was then sent to the Nuclear-Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program in Bremerton, Washington.
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.