Kings Bay - SWFLANT

Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base

GEORGIA ranks 2nd in number of nuclear warheads deployed, a rise from 11th place in 1992, and 12th place in 1985. The Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay is the homeport for the Navy's Atlantic-based Trident II-equipped (Ohio class) ballistic missile submarine force subordinate to the Submarine Forces Atlantic Fleet (SUBLANT). The base is just north of the Florida-Georgia border, about 40 miles north of Jacksonville, Florida.

The W88 and W76 warheads for the ten assigned submarines are nominally "stored" at the base, even though half of those submarines are at sea (or in overhaul) at any one time. The Strategic Weapons Facility Atlantic (SWFLANT) is responsible for storage, handling, and maintenance of nuclear weapons at Kings Bay. Because the number of W88 Trident II warheads manufactured was not sufficient to arm all ten of the Trident II capable submarines, W76 Trident I warheads from retired Atlantic fleet Poseidon submarines also arm the force.

The Army began to acquire land at Kings Bay in 1954 on which it planned to build a military ocean terminal which would be used to ship ammunition in event of a national emergency. Construction began in 1956 and was completed two years later at a cost of $11 million. The most prominent feature of the terminal was a 2000 footlong, 87 foot-wide concrete and steel wharf, with three parallel railroad tracks, enabling simultaneous loading of several ammunition ships. A 10 mile-long, 200 foot-wide channel, dredged by the Army to 32 feet provided access between the bay and the ocean via the St. Marys channel. Elsewhere the Army built 47 miles of railroad track. The base was never activated.

In 1975 there were negotiations between the U.S. and Spain over the continued basing of ballistic missile submarines at Rota, Spain. The resulting 1976 treaty called for withdrawal of the Navy squadron by July 1979. Some sixty sites along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts were evaluated as a replacement and by the summer of 1976 the number was reduced to five: Narragansett Bay, RI; Cheatham Annex, VA; Charleston, SC; Mosquito Lagoon, FL; and Kings Bay, GA. Kings Bay was chosen to be the support base for Squadron Sixteen in November 1976, with initial homeporting of the submarines and crews in Charleston, SC. The relocation occured in July 1979 with a submarine tender (USS Canopus, AS-34), a floating dry dock (USS Oak Ridge, ARDM-1), and eight SSBNs. This modest four year effort cost $125 million.

In May 1979 Kings Bay was selected as the permanent east coast Trident homeport, refit site, and training base for Ohio-class SSBNs. This major decade-long effort cost several billion dollars. On March 29, 1990 the Navy declared the USS Tennessee (SSBN 734) operational as it went on its first patrol from Kings Bay, carrying Trident II SLBMs. On September 6, 1997 the 18th and last Ohio-class submarine (the USS Louisiana) was commissioned, the tenth to be based at Kings Bay.

Strategic Weapons Facility Atlantic

Strategic Weapons Facility Atlantic, or SWFLANT, provides strategic missiles and strategic weapons system support to the fleet ballistic missile fleet.

SWFLANT is responsible for assembling the D-5 missile and processing missile guidance and launcher subsystem components. Components are shipped to Kings Bay from more than 1,800 suppliers and subcontractors throughout the country.

The command maintains a work force of approximately 150 military personnel, 150 government employees and more than 650 contractor personnel. SWFLANT's contractors include Lockheed Martin Missiles and Space, Westinghouse Electric Corp. and Vitro Corp.

The work force consists of engineers, administration and management personnel, supply and accounting technicians, maintenance personnel, equipment operators, and safety and quality assurance specialists.

Construction of the 24 buildings in the SWFLANT complex began in 1985 and was completed in 1994. The facilities include administration buildings, supply warehouses, a calibration laboratory, processing buildings (including two missile assembly buildings), two vertical missile packaging buildings (where the D-5 missile is made ready for delivery to the submarine), inspection buildings and explosive handling wharves, referred to as EHWs.

EHW-1, which is 144 feet tall, is the tallest building in Camden County and rises at its pinnacle to 161 feet above the water. A second EHW was completed in 1994. In addition, SWFLANT has 66 missile motor magazines and four small ordnance magazines in its 800-acre complex for storage of rocket motors, missiles and other ordnance components.

The D-5 missile has three rocket motor stages powered by solid-fuel propellant and weighs more than 130,000 pounds. The D-5 is the latest in a line of fleet ballistic missiles, which began with the Polaris A-1 in 1960. The D-5 has a greater range, payload, and accuracy than its predecessors, since it incorporates many state-of-the-art technological advances in electronics and rocketry. The D-5 is the heart of the Trident weapons system, which also includes the submarine, support equipment and shore facilities. The system is designed to be America's seaborne deterrent to strategic war.

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