The USS Omaha (SSN-692) was a nuclear-powered fast attack submarine that served the U.S. Navy from the late 1970s until 1995. She was a member of the Los Angeles class, the most numerous nuclear-powered submarine class in the world, and was the third naval ship to be named for the city of Omaha, Nebraska.
The USS Omaha was constructed by the Electric Boat Division of the General Dynamics Corporation in Groton, Connecticut. The contract to build her was awarded in January 1971, and her keel was laid down two years later in January 1973. She was launched in February 1976, sponsored by Mrs. Roman L. Hruska, the wife of a conservative Nebraska senator, and commissioned on March 11, 1978 with Ted A. Hamilton commanding.
The Omaha measured more than 360 feet in length and had a displacement of roughly 6,000 tons when full. She traveled at a speed of 32 knots while submerged and carried a complement of 12 officers and 98 enlisted men. She was armed with four torpedo tubes for Mk-48 torpedoes, Harpoon and Tomahawk missiles. The cost to build her was approximately $900 million.
The USS Omaha was an important part of the U.S. Navy’s submarine fleet from her commissioning in 1978. She spent some time in the waters of the South Pacific, specifically the Philippines, at the Naval Station at Subic Bay, and in Singapore.
The Omaha was decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on October 5, 1995. She was laid up at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington, where she was scheduled to enter the Nuclear Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program in October 2007.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Omaha (SSN-692)
People in the armed forces constantly risk their lives in the line of duty. Unfortunately, for people who served in the U.S. Navy for much of the 20th century, the dangers of combat and mechanical failures were compounded by another, unseen hazard – exposure to asbestos.
Asbestos was used in the construction of all submarines starting in the 1920s; the mineral’s long, crystalline fibers were considered vital to control high temperatures and reduce the threat of fire aboard its ships. In 1922, the Navy laid out guidelines for how asbestos should be used in constructing submarines. South African chrysotile asbestos was to be used in gaskets, insulation, packing and tape, while transvaal amosite asbestos was the choice for other types of lightweight insulation.
Products that contained asbestos were relatively safe when they were new and intact. But as they aged, they grew brittle and began to crack, releasing asbestos-laden dust into the air. That dust contained tiny slivers of asbestos that, once inhaled, would become lodged in a person’s lungs and make breathing difficult. Eventually – as much as 50 years later, in some cases – these individuals have been diagnosed with asbestos-related diseases like asbestosis and mesothelioma cancer.
Ironically, it has come to light that the Navy may have known asbestos was harmful; in the early 1920s, at the same time the Navy was mandating use of the mineral on its vessels, naval officials included asbestos in a medical bulletin listing substances known to be hazardous to human health.
If you think your health may have been compromised by exposure to asbestos aboard a submarine, learn about your health options – and your legal rights – today.Sources
Wikipedia – USS Omaha (SSN-692)
Navy Site – USS Omaha (SSN-692)
NavSource Online – USS Omaha (SSN-692)
Wikipedia – Los Angeles Class Submarine
“Asbestos and Ship-Building: Fatal Consequences”