One of the first fast-attack nuclear-powered submarines to launch missile strikes at al-Qaida targets deep inside an Afghanistan house following the Sept. 11 attacks on America, is on its way to a new homeport.
The 362-foot USS Key West, named after the Southernmost City, is currently heading toward Guam, its new home in the Pacific after a long stint in Hawaii where it most recently underwent a refitting of its weapons systems and engineering systems, said Navy Submarine Force Pacific spokeswoman Cmdr. Christy Hagen.
In Guam, USS Key West will be one of three forward-deployed submarines in the area. Being a forward-deployed submarine in Guam means the Key West will be able to deploy at a moment's notice, Hagen said.
The submarine and its 160-man crew left Pearl Harbor on Sept. 20 and are en route to Guam while taking part in sea exercises.
"The crew has been waiting for this day for a long time," said USS Key West commanding officer Cmdr. Curtis Duncan in a prepared statement. "They know that they are going to a forward-deployed homeport and are excited to be at the tip of the spear as a forward-deployed unit."
The USS Key West is one of the Navy's 43 Los Angeles-class fast-attack nuclear submarines, which are considered the foundation of America's submarine fleet and are some of the deadliest with Tomahawk cruise missiles at their disposal.
"These [Los Angeles class submarines] are the workhorses of the fleet," Hagen said. "[USS] Key West is capable of a variety of missions from being a stealthy, intelligence gatherer to the other offensive end of that spectrum in launching torpedoes and cruise missiles."
Her command staff recently visited Key West in November to better learn about her namesake city and take some mementos back while the submarine was being refitted. The crew took part in the Veterans Day parade on Duval Street and visited local schools.
The Key West Military Affairs Committee built the sailors' parade float -- a replica submarine. It was a task that committee president and Naval Air Station Key West Executive Director Ron Demes told The Citizen in November that it took more than 100 hours to complete.
The committee sent the crew pieces of Key West memorabilia to include in the ship's interior upgrades so lockers can reflect scenes from the island city.
Key West is the third submarine to bear that name. She was built at Newport News, Va. and commissioned in September 1987.