USS Helena History Back to Helena page
The ship completed a rigorous shakedown schedule following commissioning, then returned to Electric Boat shipyard on 5 January 1988 for a seven-month Post Shakedown Availability (PSA). PSA was completed in August 1988 and the ship left Groton bound for Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. USS HELENA passed through the Panama Canal on the 15th of September 1988 and chopped to the Pacific Fleet four days later as the first Vertical Launch System (VLS) LOS ANGELES class submarine to be stationed in Pearl Harbor.
HELENA operated from Pearl Harbor in October of 1988, rapidly acquiring the reputation as a “front line” fast attack submarine. The ship completed a Northern Pacific operation in May of 1989, and her first six-month deployment to the Western Pacific in March of 1990. HELENA the participated in RIMPAC 1990 and conducted an Operational Test Launch (OTL) of the newly developed Tomahawk Cruise Missile. In the first half of 1991, the ship completed two back to back Northern Pacific Operations and MK50 Advanced Lightweight Torpedo Testing.
HELENA conducted her second six-month Western Pacific Deployment in August of 1992, finalizing the year with an Eastern Pacific Deployment. In 1993, the ship was the first U.S. submarine to serve in direct support of an Amphibious Readiness Group’s deployment certification, as preparations for HELENA’s third Western Pacific Deployment. The ship deployed in October of 1993 as a member of the USS INDEPENDENCE (CV 62) Battle Group operating in the Western Pacific, Indian Ocean, and Arabian Gulf before returning to Pearl Harbor in April of 1994.
In May of 1994, HELENA participated in RIMPAC 1994 and conducted Prospective commanding Officer operations. The remainder of 1994 was spent completing her second Selected Restricted Availability (SRA) at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard. USS HELENA was named the top submarine in Submarine Squadron SEVEN for 1994 and was awarded the Battle Efficiency “E”.
Upon completion of SRA, HELENA conducted local operations in the Pearl Harbor Operations Area in work-up for her fourth Western Pacific deployment, which was conducted from June to December of 1995.
In the year of 1996, HELENA conducted local operations in the Pearl Harbor Operations Area. In early 1997, she completed her deployment work-up and deployed from April to September of 1997, conducting her fifth six Western Pacific deployment.
Immediately following her fifth deployment, HELENA conducted an inter-fleet transfer to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Portsmouth, New Hampshire for a scheduled one-year Depot Modernization Period (DMP). HELENA set the highest standard for conducting a DMP. Commencing in March of 1998 and completing in March of 1999, HELENA became the success story for all subsequent DMPs to follow and was the best DMP in over a decade, Navy-wide. The DMP included the replacement of Reactor Coolant pumps, installation of a completely new Fire Control and SONAR systems, in addition to installation of a microprocessor based reactor plant instrumentation. No previous DMP ever attempted this much work in a one-year availability.
Upon completion of DMP, HELENA conducted a inter-fleet transfer to San Diego, California in March of 1999. In October to November of 1999, HELENA conducted a Northeastern Pacific deployment and was awarded a citation from the Secretary of the Navy for the highly successful prosecution of Russia’s Oscar II Hull 11 as a member of the Third Fleet’s Task Force TWELVE.
On the 26th of June 2000, HELENA departed on her sixth Western Pacific deployment and visited Japan, Korea, Singapore, and Guam. During this period, HELENA participated in the first multi-national submarine rescue exercise, Pacific Reach 2000, with the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force, Republic of Korea Navy, and Republic of Singapore Navy.
In the early 2001, HELENA conducted local training operations and services in the Southern California Operations area. In April and May of 2001 HELENA underwent an intensive upkeep period during which the BQQ-10 ARCI Phase III SONAR System was installed. In June 2001, HELENA conducted an Eastern Pacific deployment and visited Astoria, Oregon. From July to October, HELENA performed local operation in the California Operations Area, participating in a Joint Fleet Training Exercise. USS HELENA was named the top submarine in Submarine Squadron ELEVEN for 2001 and was awarded a second Battle Efficiency “E”.
In early 2002, HELENA completed an intensive upkeep period prior to departing to the Western Pacific for her seventh deployment. From March to May of 2002 HELENA conducted highly successful Under-Ice Exercises and assisted in the training of the USS KITTY HAWK (CV ) Battle Group. HELENA visited Guam, Japan, and Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. From June to August of 2002, HELENA completed installations of a completely new Fire Control system and upgrades to communications equipment.
From 2003 to 2005 HELENA participated in two Western Pacific Deployments conducting operations vital to national security. Wedged in between deployments was a variety of tasking including several maintenance availabilities and joint fleet exercises.
The first half of 2006, HELENA was engaged in a dry-docking upkeep period for repairs. Upon completion she headed north to complete a complex set of sound trials and give the crew some liberty time in Victoria, BC, among other places, before embarking upon a SOUTHCOM deployment in support of national interests later that year.
Much of 2007 was spent preparing for a Pre-Overseas Movement (POM)/Western Pacific Deployment in addition to participation in an Operational Reactor Safeguards Exam, upkeeps, Midshipmen Operations and joint fleet exercises.
HELENA conducted several operations vital to national security and enjoyed several port visits during another deployment to the Western Pacific in 2008. The boat appeared in Okinawa, Japan, Sasebo, Japan, Yokosuka, Japan, Chinhae, ROK, Guam, and Hawaii. At the conclusion of the deployment HELENA successfully completed an Operational Reactor Safeguards Exam and eventually moored in San Diego. USS HELENA was awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation for her deployment performance. Upon returning home, HELENA transitioned to electronic navigation and proceeded to participate in several joint fleet exercises.
The following year, 2009, brought forth an ICEX Deployment in which the HELENA conducted several torpedo exercises with the USS ANNAPOLIS testing its warfare capabilities in the Arctic Environment. 2009 also consisted of preparing for a change of homeport to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, ME where she is currently undergoing an Engineered Overhaul for approximately 18 months.
HELENA was named the top submarine in Submarine Squadron Eleven for 2001 and 2003. HELENA has been awarded the Meritorious Unit Commendation (Three Awards), CINCPACFLT Golden Anchor Award, the Chief of Naval Operations Letter of Commendation, the Battle Efficiency E” (Three Awards), Navy Expeditionary Medal (Seven Awards), National Defense Service Medal (Two Awards), and the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal. Other ship’s awards include the CINCPACFLT Golden Anchor, the SEVENTH Fleet ASW Excellence ward, the Navigation “N” (Two Awards), the Communications Excellence “C” (Two Awards), the Engineering Excellence “E” (Two Awards), the Damage Control “DC”, the Deck Seamanship “D” (Two Awards), the Tactical Operations Excellence “T” (Two Awards), the Supply Excellence “E” Award (Two Awards), and the Medical “M” Award.
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