Resources for Patients and their Families

USS Philadelphia (SSN-690)

The USS Philadelphia (SSN-690) was a nuclear-powered fast attack submarine, the third sub in the U.S. Navy’s Los Angeles class. Commissioned in 1977, she was the sixth naval ship to be named for the Pennsylvania “City of Brotherly Love.” (The first American “Philadelphia” was a gondola built in 1776 by Benedict Arnold on Lake Champlain and sunk in the Battle of Valcour Island.)


The contract to build the USS Philadelphia was awarded in January 1971 to the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics Corporation in Groton, Connecticut, where her keel was laid down in August 1972. She was launched in October 1974, sponsored by Mrs. Hugh Scott, and was commissioned on June 25, 1977 under Commander Robert B. Osborne.

The Philadelphia measured 361 feet in length, weighed more than 6,000 tons full, and was propelled by a S6G nuclear reactor. She held a complement of 12 officers and 98 enlisted men.

Naval History

The USS Philadelphia’s service spanned three decades and eight presidents, from the Cold War to the War on Terror. Many of her deployments were to the Mediterranean Sea, including her first mission in 1979. Later deployments would take her to the Western Pacific, as well as the Eastern and North Atlantic.

The Philadelphia won numerous awards throughout her service, including the Southwest Asia Service Medal for outstanding operations in 1991 during Operation Desert Storm. In 2004, the long-serving Philadelphia became the fourth nuclear submarine ever to make 1,000 dives. The following year, on September 5, 2005, off the coast of Bahrain in the Persian Gulf, the Philadelphia collided with a Turkish merchant ship, MV Yasa Aysen, on its way in for a port visit. No injuries were reported, and damage to both vessels was minor.

The Philadelphia was decommissioned in Groton, Connecticut on June 25, 2010 – the submarine’s 33rd birthday. Plans call for the submarine to be recycled as part of the Nuclear-Powered Submarine Recycling Program at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington, though no completion date has beet set.

Asbestos Risk on the USS Philadelphia (SSN-690)

Asbestos – a mineral that grows in nature and possesses intrinsic insulating and fireproofing qualities – was widely used aboard U.S. Navy vessels to help safeguard against fire. On submarines like the USS Philadelphia, the substance was used to cover pipes, to fireproof engines and boiler rooms, and in the inner workings of pumps, among other places. Crewmembers who worked in the mechanical areas of the submarines were often in very close proximity to the toxic materials – though they weren’t the only ones. Asbestos was also found in places like sleeping quarters and cooking areas; virtually no part of the vessel was completely safe.

It may come as no surprise, then, that today, people who worked on, repaired and built ships are one of the groups most highly affected by asbestos exposure. Tragically, many of these people have been or will be diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease like mesothelioma cancer, an inoperable type of cancer caused by asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma most often occurs in the lining of an affected person’s lungs, but it can also occur in the lining of the abdominal cavity. It generally takes between 20-40 years for symptoms of mesothelioma to begin to present; when they do appear, they often resemble the symptoms of other diseases, so diagnosing mesothelioma can be difficult.

Sadly, there is no cure for mesothelioma; treatment generally consists of making the patient as comfortable as possible. But there are options available. Because mesothelioma is relatively rare, it is important to find health professionals who are very familiar with the disease. And because people were frequently exposed to asbestos on the job, or while using products they rightfully assumed were safe, patients and their families may also have legal rights that should be explored.

If you think you or a loved one may have been exposed to asbestos aboard a U.S. Navy submarine, learn more about your rights by requesting a mesothelioma information packet today.



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