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Originally commissioned as ballistic missile submarines, the two remaining members of this class of submarine have been converted to special operations attack submarines, with a capacity for carrying and delivering special operations forces added.

The ‘boomers’ converted to dual DDS carriers are huge compared to STURGEON SSNs. On the SSBN the SEALs and crew can be berthed without ‘hot racking’ - three men sharing two bunks on a rotating basis. Enough exercise equipment can be loaded for the SEALs (and crew) to maintain the physical conditioning required for mission success. Mission planning, briefings, and operations can be conducted with minimum crew disruption. Submarine crew training and casualty drills can be conducted with minimum impact on the SEALs. Both the submarine crew and SEAL teams can better maintain operational proficiency.

USS KAMEHAMEHA (SSN 642) is a BENJAMIN FRANKLIN class fleet ballistic missile submarine, built in 1965, recently completed conversion to a drydeck shelter/swimmer delivery platform. USS KAMEHAMEHA is now a very capable attack submarine with extensive modifications to enable her to conduct missions in support of special warfare operations.

In March of 1994 USS JAMES K. POLK (SSN 645) completed a 19-month conversion from ballistic missile submarine to attack/special warfare submarine at Newport News Shipbuilding. She then changed homeports to Norfolk where she was a mainstay at Submarine Squadron SIX. As the only dual dry-deck shelter submarine in the U.S. Atlantic Fleet, POLK made three deployments to the Mediterranean Sea. The submarine held its inactivation ceremony 08 January 1999 at Naval Station Norfolk after nearly 33 years of service.

The inactivation of the POLK leaves the KAMEHAMEHA (SSN 642) as the Navy's only former ballistic missile submarine equiped with Dry Deck Shelters (DDSs).


Displacement 8,250 tons submerged
Length 425 feet
Beam 33 feet
Speed 25+ knots submerged
Depth Greater than 800 feet
Complement 143 (approx.)
Horizontal Tubes Four Tubes
Vertical Tubes 12 Vertical Launch System Tubes
Special Operations 2 Dry Deck Shelers
2 SEAL Delivery Vehicle [SDV]
Unit Operating Cost
Annual Average
~$13,000,000 [source: [FY1996 VAMOSC]


Name Number Builder Homeport Ordered Commissioned Decommissioned
Kamehameha SSN 642 Mare Island NSYPearl Harbor 01 Aug 196212 Dec 1965
James K. Polk SSN 645 Electric BoatNorfolk 01 Nov 196216 Apr 1966 08 Jan 1999

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Maintained by Robert Sherman
Originally created by John Pike
Updated Sunday, January 02, 2000 12:44:32 PM