USS Albacore off the coast of Rhode Island
|Ordered:||24 November 1950|
|Builder:||Portsmouth Naval Shipyard of Kittery, Maine|
|Laid down:||15 March 1952|
|Launched:||1 August 1953|
|Sponsored by:||Mrs. J. E. Jowers, the widow of Chief Motor Machinist's Mate Arthur L. Stanton, lost with the second Albacore (SS-218)|
|Commissioned:||6 December 1953|
|Decommissioned:||9 December 1972|
|Struck:||1 May 1980|
|Status:||Donated as a museum and memorial in Portsmouth, New Hampshire|
|General characteristics - Final Phase 4 Configuration|
205 ft 4.75 in (62.6047 m)Length between perpendiculars 200 ft 0 in (60.96 m)
|Beam:||27 ft 3.75 in (8.3249 m)|
Forward 19 ft 1 in (5.82 m) Aft 22 ft 3 in (6.78 m)
|Propulsion:||Two 7,500 shp, counter-rotating electric motors, Two 1,000 bhp/817 kW diesel/electric generators|
|Range:||Varied with configuration|
|Complement:||5 officers, 49 men|
USS Albacore (AGSS-569) was a unique research submarine that pioneered the American version of the teardrop hull form (sometimes referred to as an "Albacore hull") of modern submarines. The revolutionary design was derived from extensive hydrodynamic and wind tunnel testing, with an emphasis on underwater speed and maneuverability. She was the third ship of the United States Navy to be named for the albacore.
Her keel was laid down on 15 March 1952 by the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard of Kittery, Maine. She was launched on 1 August 1953, sponsored by Mrs. J. E. Jowers, the widow of Chief Motor Machinist's Mate Arthur L. Stanton, lost with the second Albacore (SS-218), and commissioned on 6 December 1953 with Lieutenant Commander Kenneth C. Gummerson in command.
The effectiveness of submarines in World War II convinced both the Soviets and the United States Navy that undersea warfare would play an even more important role in coming conflicts and dictated development of superior submarines. The advent of nuclear power nourished the hope that such warships could be produced. The effort to achieve this goal involved the development of a nuclear propulsion system and the design of a streamlined submarine hull capable of optimum submerged performance.
Late in World War II, committees on both sides of the Iron Curtain studied postwar uses of atomic energy and recommended the development of nuclear propulsion for ships. Since nuclear power plants would operate without the oxygen supply needed by conventional machinery, and since techniques were available for converting carbon dioxide back to oxygen, submarine designers turned their attention to vessels which could operate for long periods without surfacing. Veteran submariners visualized a new type of submarine in which surface performance characteristics would be completely subordinated to high submerged speed and agility. In 1949 a special committee began a series of hydrodynamic studies which led to a program within the US Bureau of Ships to determine what hull form would be best for submerged operation. The David Taylor Model Basin in Maryland tested a series of designs. The best two—one with a single propeller and the other with dual screws—were then tested in a wind tunnel at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia. To avoid Navy interference, Admiral Momsen directed the Bureau of Ships to design an unarmed sub for speed, and told the Navy that the sub would be a practice target for aircraft carriers' subs. The single-screw version was adopted, and construction of an experimental submarine to this design was authorized on 25 November 1950. The hull of the Albacore utilized HY-80 high-strength steel with a yield strength of 80,000 psi (550 MPa), although this was not initially used to increase the diving depth relative to other US submarines. HY-80 remained the standard submarine steel through the Los Angeles class. Other components were made from high-tensile steel (HTS). This ship was classified as an auxiliary submarine (AGSS-569) and named Albacore.
Following preliminary acceptance trials, the new submarine departed Portsmouth on 8 April 1954 for shakedown training. She began the first cycle of a career in which she experimented extensively with a given configuration and then returned to Portsmouth for extensive modifications to evaluate different design concepts, to help the Navy develop better hull configurations for future submarines. On this initial cruise, she operated out of New London, Connecticut, before sailing for Key West, Florida, to conduct operations out of that port and in Cuban waters. She returned to Portsmouth on 3 July for more than a year of trials in cooperation with the David Taylor Model Basin. Throughout these operations, she underwent repairs and modification to eliminate technical problems. It was found during these early sea trials Albacore could operate at the same maximum speed as the older modernized Guppy-type submarines with half the shaft horsepower.
The submarine departed Portsmouth on 12 October 1955 and sailed via Block Island for Key West, where she arrived on 19 October 1955 to commence antisubmarine warfare evaluation and to provide target services to the Operational Development Force's Surface Antisubmarine Development Detachment. On 4 November 1955, Admiral Arleigh Burke, Chief of Naval Operations, embarked on Albacore for a brief demonstration cruise. Lord Mountbatten accompanied Admiral Burke on the cruise. On 19 November 1955, Albacore sailed for a rendezvous point off the Bahamas where she conducted special operations until 24 November 1955 and then returned to Portsmouth.
From December 1955 to March 1956, Albacore underwent stern renewal. Until this time, her propeller had been surrounded by the rudder and stern plane control surfaces. With her "new look", she resembled a blimp, with her propeller aft of all control surfaces.
Operation with her new stern configuration started in April 1956, and continued until late in the year. In May, Albacore visited New York City and participated in the television production Wide, Wide World, during which she submerged, with an underwater camera mounted on her forecastle, the first live telecast of a submarine while diving.
In November 1956, Albacore reentered the shipyard for engine conversion. She departed New London on 11 March 1957, for operations out of San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The submarine returned to Boston, Massachusetts, on 2 April 1957 and operated locally out of Boston and Portsmouth until entering the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard early in 1958 for an overhaul which lasted until June.
The ensuing tests emphasized sound reduction and included extensive evaluation of Aqua-Plas, a sound-damping elastic which had been applied to the ship's superstructure and tank interiors. In October 1958, her bow planes were removed to further reduce noise. The submarine ended the year with a fortnight's run to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and back to serve as a target ship for Canadian warships.
In 1959, a newly designed 14-foot propeller was installed and tested. Albacore sailed south late in May and, after operating in the British West Indies for two weeks, proceeded to Key West to serve as a target for the Surface Antisubmarine Development Detachment. After returning north, she spent much of the remainder of 1959 and most of 1960 undergoing widely varied tests for the David Taylor Model Basin. One of the more unusual tests consisted of evaluating a concave bow sonar dome.
Subsequent post-1959 design went into the Barbel-class submarine design, of which three boats were produced.
On 21 November 1960, the ship entered Portsmouth for a major overhaul and conversion in which she received: a new, experimental, "X"-shaped tail for increased control; 10 dive brakes around her hull, a new bow which included modified forward ballast tanks, new sonar systems, and a large auxiliary rudder in the after part of her sail. Following the completion of this work in August 1961, she operated along the east coast learning the effect of her new configuration and equipment upon her capabilities and performance.
In 1962, she received a newly developed DIMUS sonar system and, on 7 December 1962, work began on her fourth major conversion which included the installation of concentric contra-rotating propellers, a high-capacity silver-zinc battery and a larger main motor. New radio equipment, BQS-4 and BQR-2 sonars, an emergency recovery system, and a new main ballast tank blow system were also added. After the work was completed in March 1965, Albacore prepared for deployment to Florida waters to study the results of her changes. She returned to Portsmouth on 8 October 1965 and continued to evaluate her capabilities under the new configuration. On 1 August 1966, she reentered the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard to replace the silver-zinc battery and to shorten the distance between the contra-rotating propellers—work which lasted into August 1967.
Standardization and machinery tests in the Gulf of Maine during September were followed by evaluation of towed sonar arrays off Port Everglades, Florida, in October and November. Then came acoustics trials in the Tongue of the Ocean, a deep channel in the Central Bahama Islands.
On 1 January 1968, the submarine returned to Portsmouth for a modification of her propulsion system which kept her in the navy yard until 19 April. Then, following a month of trials in the Gulf of Maine, she headed south for evaluation of her new MONOB I and AUTEC systems and of Fly-Around-Body (FAB) Phase I equipment in the Tongue of the Ocean. She returned to Portsmouth on 24 August 1968 for AUTEC deinstrumentation and installation of FAB Phase II equipment. Then, following evaluation of this new gear in the Gulf of Maine, the Albacore returned to Portsmouth on 30 September and went into reduced operating status pending the results of further studies on the feasibility of using her thereafter for further research.
The ship remained for the most part inactive until 2 February 1970, when she began an overhaul in drydock and modifications to prepare her for Project SURPASS, researching the use of polymer mixed with fresh water to reduce drag, sponsored by the Naval Ship Research and Development Center at Carderock, Maryland. The ship left drydock on 16 April 1971, commenced sea trials on 22 July 1971, and completed them in August 1971. Early in October, she operated off Provincetown, Massachusetts, to calibrate her sonar and radar equipment.
USS Albacore (Submarine)
USS Albacore on display in April 2018
|Location||Portsmouth, New Hampshire|
|Architect||Portsmouth Naval Shipyard|
|NRHP reference #||89001077|
|Added to NRHP||11 April 1989|
|Designated NHL||11 April 1989|
After frequent diesel engine failures had caused repeated delays in her operations, her deployment in support of Project SURPASS was canceled, and preparations for her deactivation were begun. She used the General Motors EMD 16-338 lightweight, compact, high-speed "pancake" engine. These had also been used on the Tang-class submarine, but were replaced on them due to problems, and their "pancake" engines were used as spare parts (the engines were not replaced on Albacore due to space constraints). The unreliability of the engines and lack of spares led to the decommissioning of Albacore as further cannibalized parts became unavailable.
A dockside retirement ceremony was held at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard on 1 September 1972, attended by Rear Adm. J. Edward Snyder, who delivered comments on behalf of Robert A. Frosch, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research and Development, referring to Albacore as "the submarine that gave its body to science." Albacore was decommissioned on 9 December 1972 and laid up at the Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility in the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. Her name was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 1 May 1980.
Operational history of the Albacore consisted of five phases (and an unrealized sixth phase):
A non-profit group, the Portsmouth Submarine Memorial Association, was formed to bring the Albacore back to Portsmouth and place her on permanent display, designed to be on dry land so the entire submarine would be visible. The Albacore was towed back to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in April 1984, by an Army Reserve tugboat in a journey of 575 miles (925 km) that took 70 hours.
In May 1985, she was moved across Portsmouth Harbor towards a permanent display site. The move was difficult, as a railway trestle had to be removed and a temporary cut, large enough to float her through, had to be made across a four-lane road. During the move, the Albacore struck bottom three times, followed by a catastrophic derailment of the temporary marine railway that had been constructed to bring her out of the water. The Albacore was left grounded in mud, short of her final resting place. Months later, a temporary cofferdam was constructed, she was re-floated, and on October 3, 1985, she was successfully placed in her permanent display cradle. After significant volunteer work to prepare her for display, the Albacore opened to the public on August 30, 1986.
Albacore's service as an active experimental submersible for more than two decades steadily increased the Navy's knowledge of both theoretical and applied hydrodynamics which it used in designing faster, quieter, more maneuverable and safer submarines. The Navy's effort to build hulls capable of optimum operation while submerged was wedded to its nuclear propulsion program in the submarine Skipjack which was laid down in the spring of 1956, and these two concepts have complemented each other in the design of all of the Navy's subsequent submarines.
Albacore is located at Albacore Park, 600 Market Street, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and is open to the public. She is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was designated a National Historic Landmark on April 11, 1989. In 2005, the United States Submarine Veterans of World War II inducted the Albacore into the Submarine Hall of Fame. In 2016, the basin area around the submarine at Albacore Park was completely reconstructed.
Other US Navy research submarines:
|journal=(help) and Accompanying 1 photo, from 1988. (124 KB)
Chapter 9, The Quest for Speed
Harold Whitehouse said he was the only one with a camera aboard the USS Albacore, almost 35 years ago, when it was nudged by tugboats en route to its current location off the Route 1 Bypass.
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