1960s Defense Achievement Timeline, including Navy



  • Five classes of ballistic (Polaris SLBM) missile submarines at sea or launched: George Washington class (built 1958-61); Ethan Allen class (b. 1959-63); Lafayette class (b. 1961-63); James Madison class (b. 1962-64); and Benjamin Franklin class (b. 1963-67)
  • The two-reactor submarine Triton makes its Magellan cruise: 36,000 nautical miles, 83 days submerged (Feb 16-May 10)
  • (Sept 24) America’s first nuclear-powered carrier, the USS Enterprise (the “Big E”), CVN-65 launched; inactivated 2012; decommissioned 2017.



  • IBM completes the world’s first transistorized supercomputer, the IBM 7030, for Los Alamos laboratory for use by Atomic Energy Commission scientists, including Edward Teller. Named “Stretch,” it was 30x faster than Los Alamos’ former machine, and contained 169,100 transistors.
  • The aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk (CV 63) deployed, representing an update of the aging Forestal class. First of four carriers of this new class launched between 1961 and 1968, incl. Constellation (CV 64), the America (CV 66), and the John F. Kennedy (CV 67) – though the Navy considers the latter to be a separate single-ship class.



  • (Jan) Navy SEALS formally established (based on World War II amphibious scouts & raiders training schools): Team One Pacific; Team Two Atlantic.
  • (April) First of a series of DESOTO patrols (DeHaven Special Operations off TsingtaO) by signals-intelligence equipped destroyers of the U.S. Seventh Fleet conducted primarily off the coasts of North Vietnam and southeastern China.



  • Mark 45 anti-submarine torpedo deployed, with an explosive charge of 11 kilotons
  • After two years, MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory creates an artificial ionosphere to ensure military communications in case the Soviet Union cuts undersea cables (Project West Ford or Project Needles); shelved due to advances in satellites.
  • Sturgeon class (SSN 637) of fast-attack nuclear submarines begins production until 1975; follows Thresher [593] (Permit) class built from 1958 to 1967.
  • Nuclear attack submarine USS Thresher lost with 129 crew (April 10) in the Atlantic off Boston.
  • AGM-45 (air-to-ground) Shrike anti-radiation missile developed at Naval Weapons Center at China Lake by joining a seeker head to the body of a Sparrow air-to-air missile; first deployed in Vietnam 1965 on A-4s; then F-4 Phantoms; superseded by AGM-88 HARM missile by Texas Instruments which started production in 1983.



  • Raytheon starts improvement program for the Hawk Missile system, originally deployed by the army in 1959, the Marines in 1960; second major upgrade in 1971.



  • Air Force creates its RED HORSE (Rapid Engineer Deployable Heavy Operational Repair Squadron Engineers) heavy-construction units.
  • The tremendously useful amphibious warfare Austin-class ships built and deployed between 1965 and 1971: combines functions of three different classes of ships – the landing ship (LSD), the tank landing ship (LST), and the attack cargo ship (LKA); used by Marine and special forces units; gradually decommissioned and replaced by newer San Antonio class.



  • University of Colorado UFO Project sponsored by the Air Force (informally known as the Condon Committee) begins a two-year investigation of public testimonials and photographic evidence of extraterrestrial life contacting earth, including unidentified flying objects.





  • Nuclear-propelled submarine Scorpion lost (May); shattered hull found in 10,000 ft. of water near the Azores.



  • First of two command and control ships, the Blue Ridge (LCC 19), launched (Jan. 4); first ship ever designed and built as a command ship (others converted); second ship, the Mount Whitney (LCC 20) launched in Jan. 8, 1970); both are fleet flagships and active.
  • Previously named for naval heroes/leaders (e.g., Bainbridge, Fletcher, Fox), the Navy begins naming large destroyer-type ships (frigates) for states, once reserved for battleships; first of such craft was the USS California, which keel was laid in 1970 in honor of incoming President Nixon’s home state.
  • President Nixon ends, unconditionally, all American offensive biological weapons programs; along with 21 other countries (including the Soviet Union), signs Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) in 1972 after three years of negotiations in Geneva; entered into force March 26, 1975.
  • Navy’s TOPGUN school established (see Military Aviation Timeline)


  • Launch of USS Mystic (DSRV 1), part of the Navy’s Deep Submergence Systems Project in conjunction with Lockheed Missile and Space; to answer need after 1963 Thresher accident. Versatile – transportable by ship, aircraft, truck, or hull of submarine; USS Avalon (DSRV 2) launched in 1971.



  • Construction starts of Tarawa-class of Landing Helicopter Assault (LHA) ships designed for Marine expeditions; results in a class 2X the size of any previous amphibious type, similar to an aircraft carrier of the time; five built to 1980; succeeded by Wasp-class amphibious assault ships.



  • Codenamed ATLAS-1 or “Trestle,” an enormous platform built as part of an eight-year Air Force program to test the radiation hardness of strategic aircraft assets against the EMP effects of a nuclear attack.





  • Electric Boat (General Dynamics Corp.) launches a new type of nuclear-powered fast attack submarine designated the “Los Angeles Class”; also known as the 688 class after the hull number of the USS Los Angeles(SSN-688). Built until 1996; succeeded by the Seawolf class.
  • The first F-14 Tomcats to enter operational service fly off the deck of the USS Enterprise.
  • Creation of Nuclear Navy in law: Title VIII of the DOD Authorization Act passes, a unique piece of legislation that made law that all major Naval combat ships had to nuclear-powered. A Rickover navy was assured.



  • Ohio-class of ballistic missile submarines design completed; SSBN 726, the USS Ohio launched 11/11/1981.
  • The name ship of the second generation of nuclear-powered carriers, the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) commissioned (May 3).
  • Larger Spruance-class destroyers enter service; replace aging World War II Gearing and Allen M. Summer classes (Sept. 20).


Leave a Reply