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USS Ray (SSN-653)

The USS Ray (SSN-653) was a “hunter-killer” submarine, a member of the nuclear-powered, fast attack Sturgeon class. She was the second U.S. Navy ship whose namesake was the ray, a marine fish characterized by a flat body, large pectoral fins and a whip-like tail.


The Ray was constructed at Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company at Newport News, Virginia. The contract to build her was awarded in March 1963, and her keel was laid down in January 1965. She was launched in June 1966; Mrs. Thomas H. Kuchel, the wife of California Senator Thomas H. Kuchel, sponsored her. The Ray was commissioned on April 12, 1967, under the leadership of Commander Albert L. Kelln. The 292-foot-long Ray displaced 4,600 long tons and was propelled by a S5W nuclear reactor, two steam turbines and one screw.

Naval History

Following her commissioning in April 1967, the Ray took part in shakedown training and sonar testing based out of her home port of Norfolk, Virginia. The following October, she went on her first deployment, conducting operations in the Atlantic Ocean for just over two months. The Ray deployed to the Atlantic two more times in 1968, from April to June and again from November to December.

For the first half of 1969, the Ray participated in attack submarine training and fleet exercises off the east coast of the United States as well as in the Caribbean Sea. In June, she deployed on a special operation before traveling to Holy Loch, Scotland. She returned to Norfolk in August and remained there in training and operations for the remainder of 1969 and most of 1970. At the end of 1970, the Ray entered Norfolk Naval Shipyard at Portsmouth, Virginia for an overhaul, remaining there for 14 months.

When her overhaul was complete, the Ray took part in two North Atlantic Treaty Organization exercises in 1972 – “Strong Express” and “Escort Deep.” She returned to Norfolk the following December. In February 1973, the Ray traveled to the Mediterranean Sea for a cruise, which lasted until mid-summer.

The Ray experienced a setback in September 1977, when – reportedly due to a combination of equipment failure and crew inexperience – the ray struck a coral mountain while submerged in the Mediterranean Sea. She suffered significant damage: Her sonar equipment was destroyed and her auxiliary diesel engine was damaged. She spent a year in repairs at Charleston Naval Shipyard in Charleston, South Carolina.

In 1986, the USS Ray made history when she met up with the USS Hawkbill (SSN-666) and USS Archerfish (SSN-678) for the first tri-submarine surfacing at the North Pole.

The Ray went on a six-month Mediterranean cruise in 1989 as part of the USS Forrestal (CVA-59) aircraft carrier battle group, participating in various exercises and operations. During the trip, she operated in the Gulf of Sidra, a territorial area unrecognized by the United States that formed the boundary of Libyan waters. She also visited ports in Italy, France and Gibralter before returning to Charleston and entering dry dock for repairs.

In March 1993, the Ray was decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register. She was scrapped beginning March 15, 2002 as part of the Nuclear-Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Washington. Scrapping was completed July 30, 2003.

Asbestos Risk on the USS Ray (SSN-653)

They probably thought nothing of it at the time, but the men who served aboard the USS Ray were likely exposed to asbestos on board the ship. Asbestos was used in many industries and products – including aboard submarines – for most of the 20th century. Unfortunately, exposure to airborne asbestos can cause serious, irreversible diseases like emphysema, asbestosis and mesothelioma cancer.

Mesothelioma is a relatively rare disease, which can make it difficult to diagnose; it can also take decades – as long as 50 years in some cases – for symptoms to begin to appear in the human body, so the cancer is often times quite advanced by the time it is detected. Therefore, it is vital to find a doctor who is knowledgeable about the disease.

There is no known cure for mesothelioma, though there are treatments, including surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. The chemotherapy drugs Alimta® and Cisplatin have also proven to be promising in some patients. If you suspect you or someone you love may have been exposed to asbestos, take steps to educate yourself about mesothelioma’s risk factors and treatment options. Request a mesothelioma information packet today.



Wikipedia – USS Ray (SSN-653)

Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships – USS Ray (SSN-653)

Naval Vessel Register – USS Ray (SSN-653)

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