Sunday, June 04, 2006

Submarines, Always Silent & Strange

The pictured submarine was part of an unflattering jingle (familiar to all submariners in the latter days of diesel boats) alluding to the fabled unavailability for sea duty of these Tang-class subs: Harder, Darter, Trigger, Trout, always in, never out. This sub appeared as the fictitious nuclear submarine USS Neptune diving and surfacing in the opening credits of Gray Lady Down. She later became a UUV for NAWCAD.

Harder (SS-568) was decommissioned in 1973, sold to Italy in 1974 and served as Romeo Romei until 1988, when decommissioned and then scrapped. Darter (SS-576) was decommissioned in 1989, and sunk by Tautog (SSN-639) as a target in 1992. Trigger (SS-564) was decommissioned in 1973 and transferred to Italy, where she served as Livio Piomarta until decommissioned in 1986. Ex-Trout, shown in the photo, is still "out" as of 2006!

Trout was extensively overhauled in 1978. With new engines, batteries, and in excellent materiel readiness, she was decommissioned, struck from the Naval Vessel Register, sold to the Shah of Iran, and renamed Kousseh. Her Iranian transfer crew abandoned her in New London, following the Iranian revolution (March 1979), however. Kept at Philadelphia while finances were resolved, she reverted to US ownership in 1992. In 1994, ex-Trout was sold for scrap to the PEO USW and moored at Newport, RI. She was then acquired by the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) Key West Detachment as a remotely controlled submersible sonar target ship, an underwater acoustic target for ASW research and development, operational testing, and training.

Ex-Trout has been on hold since March 2004 at INACTSHIPS in Philadelphia, where she will depart as a gift (Nigeria, perhaps), as a submarine memorial, as scrap, as a target, or ___? Regarding AGSS-555 (USS Dolphin), here an anonymous commenter asked why spend 40+ mil on a boat to fix it up and then decom it a couple of years later? I can think of several good reasons now, can you?

Pieces of particular submarine histories will remain mysterious by necessity. Suppose for instance that AGSS-555 was configured to be an AIP simulator (in San Diego) before the SSK Gotland became available (in San Diego)? Good contingency planning, but instant surplus. What a thought.

We live in a world where submarines are almost always silent and strange, but not uniquely. Consider this, for example, from the UK's Independent News and Media Limited:
A British-built "spy in the sky" is already in service with the US Immigration Department, patrolling the Mexican border where millions of illegal workers cross into the US every year.


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