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USS Seawolf (SSN-575)

USS Seawolf (SSN-575), the third [[submarine of the United States Navy named for a solitary fish with strong, prominent teeth and projecting tusks that give it a savage look, was the second nuclear submarine, and the only US submarine built with a liquid metal (sodium) nuclear reactor. The reactor was more efficient than a water-cooled one, but posed several safety hazards for the ship and crew. Although fully armed, Seawolf, like the first nuclear submarine USS Nautilus (SSN-571), was primarily an experimental vessel.

Seawolf's keel was laid down 7 September 1953 by the Electric Boat division of General Dynamics Corporation in Groton, Connecticut. she was launched on 21 July 1955 sponsored by Mrs. W. Sterling Cole, and commissioned on 30 March 1957 with Commander R.B. Laning in command.

Seawolf departed New London, Connecticut, on 2 April for her shakedown cruise off Bermuda and returned on 8 May. Between 16 May and 5 August, she made two voyages to Key West and participated in intensive training exercises. On 3 September, she steamed across the North Atlantic to participate in NATO exercises. The submarine surfaced off Newport, Rhode Island, on 25 September after cruising 6,331 nonstop miles. The next day, President Dwight D. Eisenhower embarked and was taken for a short cruise onboard her.

Seawolf cruised to the Caribbean for an exercise in November. In December, she began an availability period that lasted until 6 February 1958. She then participated in exercises along the east coast until early August.

Seawolf submerged on 7 August and did not surface again until 6 October. During this period, she logged over 13,700 nautical miles. She received the Navy Unit Commendation Award[?] for demonstrating the ability of the nuclear-powered submarine to remain independent of the earth's atmosphere for the period of a normal war patrol. However, problems with her reactor plant required that she be rebuilt with a pressurized-water reactor. Seawolf returned to Groton on 12 December 1958, for refueling and conversion of her power plant. She was out of commission until 30 September 1960.

Seawolf began a three-week period of independent operations on 25 October and returned to fleet operations in November and December. On 9 January 1961, Seawolf sailed to San Juan to participate in local operations. On the 25th, she was ordered to locate and track the Portuguese passenger liner Santa Maria which had been seized by pirates two days earlier. The submarine made contact with the liner off the coast of Brazil on 1 February. After Santa Maria surrendered in Recife, the submarine returned to San Juan and continued east coast operations.

On 7 July, Seawolf began a two-month oceanographic voyage which took her to Portsmouth, England, before returning her to New London on 19 September 1961.

In 1963, Seawolf participated in the search for the lost USS Thresher (SSN 593) and in various local and fleet operations until April 1964. On the 28th, Seawolf stood out of New London en route to the Mediterranean Sea and a three and one-half month deployment with the Sixth Fleet. During the period, she operated with aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVAN-65), guided missile cruiser USS Long Beach (CGN-9)[?], and guided missile frigate USS Bainbridge (DLGN-25)[?] as a part of the world's first nuclear task force. More local east coast exercises followed until 5 May 1965. On that date, the submarine entered the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard for refueling and an extensive overhaul bringing her up to the SUBSAFE standard put in place after the loss of Thresher. This overhaul lasted until September 1966.

Seawolf sailed from Portsmouth on 24 August 1967 for New London which was again her home port. The following month, she sailed to the Caribbean for refresher training and weapons trials. She had to have a propeller replaced at Charleston in early October and then conducted sea trials in the Bahama Islands for the remainder of the month. The end of the year 1967 found her back at her home port.

Seawolf was operating from that port when she grounded off the coast of Maine on 30 January 1968. She was towed back to New London for repairs and did not put to sea again until 20 March 1969, when she began sea trials. The submarine was in the Caribbean during June and July conducting underwater sound and weapons systems tests. Seawolf was deployed with the Sixth Fleet from 29 September to 21 December 1969.

Seawolf operated along the east coast until 9 November, 1970 when her home port was changed to Vallejo, California, and she sailed for the west coast. The submarine transited the Panama Canal on the 17th and changed operational control to Submarine Force, Pacific Fleet. She entered drydock at Mare Island Naval Shipyard on 8 January 1971 for overhaul and conversion to a special project platform and remained there until 21 June 1973, when she moved up the coast to Bangor, Washington[?]. Seawolf returned to Mare Island on 4 September 1973.

In 1974, Seawolf completed post-conversion testing and evaluation period and conducted her first Pacific Fleet deployment, operating independently for a period of three months. For her performance of duty, she was awarded second Navy Unit Commendation[?]. In 1975, Seawolf came under the exclusive direction of Submarine Development Group One, and for outstanding performance in 1974-1975, was awarded a Battle Efficiency "E." In 1976, Seawolf received her second consecutive Battle Efficiency "E" and the Engineering "E" for Excellence. During her second Pacific Fleet deployment, she conducted independent submerged operations for three months and demonstrated superior endurance by remaining submerged for 87 consecutive days, a U.S. Navy record. She received her third Navy Unit Commendation[?].

In 1977, Seawolf received her third Battle Efficiency "E" and her second Engineering "E" for Excellence. During her third Pacific Fleet deployment, she conducted 79 consecutive days of independent submerged operations and received her fourth Navy Unit Commendation[?] and the Navy Expeditionary Medal[?]. In 1978, Seawolf conducted her fourth Pacific Fleet deployment.

In August 1981, Seawolf deployed on her fifth Pacific Fleet deployment. She returned to homeport in October 1981 and received the Navy Expeditionary Medal[?]. In 1983, Seawolf conducted her sixth Pacific Fleet deployment of 76 days and returned to Mare Island Naval Shipyard in May 1983. She was awarded the Navy Expeditionary Medal, another Battle Efficiency "E," another Engineering "E," a Supply "E," and a Damage Control "DC." In 1984, Seawolf conducted a 93-day deployment to the Western Pacific, returned in July, and continued her high operating tempo with numerous local operations. She was awarded her third consecutive Supply "E," a Communications "C," and the Deck Seamanship Award.

In April 1986, Seawolf conducted her last Western Pacific deployment and returned to Mare Island in June of 1986 to prepare for decommissioning. Decommissioned 30 March 1987, Seawolf was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register the following 10 July. The former submarine began the Navy's Ship-Submarine Recycling Program on 1 October 1996 and completed it on 30 September 1997.

See USS Seawolf for other submarines of this name.

General Characteristics

  • Displacement: 3260 tons surfaced, 4110 tons submerged
  • Length: 338 feet
  • Beam: 28 feet
  • Draft: 23 feet
  • Speed: 23 knots surfaced, 19 knots submerged
  • Complement: 101 men
  • Armament: six 21-inch torpedo tubes

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