57-Year Old SSBN Finally Retires

Long the last remaining boat of her class still afloat, the Moored Training Ship Sam Rayburn (MTS 635) was originally commissioned 2 December 1964 as SSBN-635, part of the James Madison-class of Cold War-era fleet ballistic missile (FBM) submarines.

USS Sam Rayburn (SSBN-635) c. 1964, with her missile hatches showing their “billiard ball” livery

A member of the famed “41 for Freedom” boats rushed into service to be the big stick of mutually assured destruction against the Soviets, Rayburn was named for the quiet but determined WWII/Korea War speaker of the House, Samuel Taliaferro Rayburn.

After carrying Polaris SLBMs on a rotating series of deterrent patrols from the East Coast and Rota, Spain, Rayburn had her missile compartment removed in 1985 as part of the SALT II treaty and decommissioned, transitioning to her role as an MTS.In the meantime, all of her sisters were disposed of through recycling by 2000, leaving Rayburn to linger on in her training role. Similarly, MTS Daniel Webster (MTS-626), originally a Lafayette-class FBM decommissioned in 1990, has been in the same tasking.

However, all things eventually end. As the MTS role is now transitioning to a pair of recently sidelined 1970s-construction Los Angeles-class attack boats– La Jolla (SSN/MTS 701) and San Francisco (SSN/MTS 711)Webster and Rayburn are ready for razorblades.

Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) recently welcomed the Rayburn in advance of her inactivation, from where she will be towed to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard for recycling

Navy Photo 210405-N-XX785-003 by Danny De Angelis

USS Sam Rayburn has proudly served the U.S. Submarine Force and Navy Nuclear Propulsion Program since 1964, and we now welcome it to America’s Shipyard,” said Shipyard Commander Captain Dianna Wolfson. “Performing the first inactivation of a Moored Training Ship will develop another important facet in our service to the Fleet, and we look forward to excelling in our mission as one team.”

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