U.S.S. Helena
Attack Submarine (SSN-725) -- 1987 -

Historical Sketch
Complied by George Pendergast

U.S.S. Helena, a Los Angles class submarine, was the fourth and last United States vessel named for the capitol city of Montana. Her keel was laid September 16, 1984, at General Dynamics Corporation, Electric Boat Division of Groton, Connecticut. Helena was launched June 28, 1986. Admiral James B. Busey, vice-chief of naval operations, was the principal speaker at the launch ceremonies, and Russell J. Ritter, mayor of Helena, and his wife, Linaire, were among the dignitaries. Helena was commissioned July 11, 1987, with Commander Thomas Moore in command.

The ship completed a rigorous shakedown schedule and returned to Electric Boat shipyard January 5, 1988, for a seven month Post Shakedown Availability (PSA). The PSA was completed in August 1988, and the ship left Groton bound for Pearl Harbor. Helena passed through the Panama Canal September 15, 1988, and then joined the Pacific Fleet four days later.

Operating from Pearl Harbor between 1988 and 1998, Helena rapidly acquired the reputation of a front line attack submarine. She completed a Northern Pacific operation in May 1989 and a six month stint to the Western Pacific in March 1990. Helena participated in RIMPAC 90 and conducted an Operational Test Launch of several Tomahawk missiles. She completed two back-to-back Northern Pacific Operations and Advanced Lightweight Torpedo Testing during 1991.

Helena performed her second Western Pacific deployment in August 1992, ending the year in the Eastern Pacific. During early 1993, in preparation for her third Western Pacific deployment, she was the first submarine to serve direct support of an Amphibious Readiness Group’s deployment certification. Helena put to sea October 1993 as a member of the Independence Battle Group, operating in the Western Pacific, Indian Ocean, and Arabian Gulf before returning in April 1994.

The ship also participated in RIMPAC 94, Prospective Commanding Officer operations and completed her second Selected Restricted Availability. Helena was named the top submarine in Squadron Seven for 1994 and awarded the Battle Efficiency “E”. Other awards included CINCPACFLT Golden Anchor, the Engineering Excellence “E”, the Tactical Operations Excellence “T”, and the Supply Excellence Blue “E” award.

In early 1998, Helena was scheduled to deploy to Portsmouth for an anticipated 12-18 month ($110 million) overhaul and modernization. Upon completion, the ship was to be home-ported in San Diego, California.

Great Falls (Montana) Tribune – launch ceremonies

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U.S.S. Helena
Attack Submarine (SSN-725) – 1987 -

Year 1998 in summary: Helena began the year with visits to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Port Everglades, Florida, and Groton, Connecticut, en route to Kittery, Maine, for overhaul and modernization. She arrived there February 7th and was placed in dry-dock at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard February 26th. The work began March 1998 and was completed a year later.

Year 1999 in summary: Following the yard work, Helena sailed for San Diego, visiting Port Canaveral, Florida, and Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico, arriving there April 23rd. During the year, the ship conducted various exercises in Southern California waters. She also did sound trials to Behm Canal, Alaska, paid a port visit to Esquimalt, British Columbia, Canada, and participated in a NOREASTPAC exercise to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Year 2000 in summary: The first half of 2000 Helena was occupied with sea trials, training, and POM (Pre-Overseas Movement) assignments in Southern California waters. The rest of the year, she participated in WESTPAC 2000 deployment; taking her on exercises to Yokosuka, Japan, Chinhae, Korea, Sasebo, Japan, Guam, and Singapore.

Year 2001 in summary: Helena spent most of the year in Southern California waters, with POM assignments, fleet exercises, sea trials, a VIP cruise, and Midshipmen training. She also made a sound trials cruise north to Astoria, Oregon.

Year 2002 in summary: Twice during 2002, Helena was deployed to the South Pacific for training exercises; making port visits to Guam, Yokosuka, Japan, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Okinawa, Japan, and Chinhae, Korea. During the interim, she did routine exercises in local waters.

Year 2003 in summary: Part of the year, the ship was engaged in target services, sea trials, and POM assignments in Southern California waters. Helena also sailed north to Esquimalt, British Columbia, Canada, for SEAFAC trials. And WESTPAC operations took her to Guam, Saipan, Chin Hae, Korea, Brisbane, Australia, and Yokosuka, Japan.

Year 2004 in summary: Operating most of the year in local waters, Helena provided target services for a host of vessels and a few aircraft; conducted testing for the Chief of Naval Operations, did sea trials, some training, and made VIP cruises. In March, Helena sailed north to Bangor, Washington, where she conducted testing on a special project for the Chief of Naval Operations.

Year 2005 in summary: In 2005, Helena participated in Tactical Readiness Support and Tactical Weapons Proficiency with U.S.S. Ronald Reagan, and participated in a Composite Unit Exercise with U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln—all in Southern California waters. And from March until September, Helena was involved in WESTPAC operations; taking her to Guam, Singapore, Sasebo, Japan, and Yoksuka, Japan.

References: Navy Department – Naval Historical Center

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U.S.S. Helena
Attack Submarine (SSN-725) – 1987 -

Los Angles Class Submarine

· Displacement: 6,080 tons surfaced, 6,927 tons submerged

· Length: 360 feet

· Beam: 33 feet

· Draft: 32.15 feet

· Speed: 15 knots surfaced, 32 knots submerged

· Complement: 133 officers and men

· Armament: Tomahawk missiles from 12VLS-tubes, four 533mm torpedo tubes for MK-48 torpedoes & Harpoon missiles

· Propulsion system: one nuclear reactor

· Propellers: one

· Depth: in excess of 800 feet

· Navigation: GPS – Global Positioning System

· Cost: $900 million

References: skotfred.com & navysite.de

Helena Navy League & U.S.S. Helena Association

The Helena Navy League joined the effort to place the name Helena on a new Navy vessel, an effort that arose out of the U.S.S. Memorial Project. Through the efforts of both the U.S.S. Helena Association and the Helena Council of the Navy League of the United States, a new Los Angles Class nuclear attack submarine was given the name of U. S.S. Helena. The Navy League and the U.S.S. Helena Association also formed the U.S.S. Helena Foundation Inc. It raised more than $35,000.00 in cash donations from the people of Helena and other donors to support the launching and commissioning celebrations for the new submarine. Allen Shumate and Ward Shanahan were Co-chairs of the project.

References: Ward Shanahan letter of June 25, 2007

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(SSN 725)