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Definitions of “beam,” “draft,” “displacement”

1959: George Washington Class (U.S.)
First Nuclear-Powered, Ballistic Missile Subs


US George Washington Class
George Washington on June 3, 1960
Photograph courtesy U.S. Navy

Nuclear ballistic missile submarines were some of the most important deterrents in the Cold War. Created to attack land-based targets with nuclear weapons, the subs’ long-range missiles kept them beyond the reach of normal antisubmarine defenses. Their mobility made them difficult to catch and allowed them to threaten a broad sweep of locations.

The George Washington class was followed, beginning in 1963, by the similar but larger Lafayette and Benjamin Franklin classes.

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Length: 382 ft (116 m)

Beam: 33 ft (10 m)

Draft: 29 ft (9 m)

Displacement: approx. 6,700 tons

Propulsion: 1 pressurized-water nuclear reactor, 1 propeller

Crew: 112

Armament: 16 Polaris missile tubes, 6 torpedo tubes

First Sub Commissioned: December 30, 1959

Maximum Speed: 25 knots (29 mph/46 kph)