One of the most interesting submersibles ever to not take up a slot on the U.S. Navy List was Deep Submergence Vessel NR-1, a nuclear-powered testbed for Rickover built by Electric Boat in the 1960s.
The 400-ton 147-foot vessel, typically referred to as Nerwin during her uncommissioned existence was only retired in 2008 and may or may not have performed several classified Cold War-era missions.
Defueled and scrapped, some of her components were later put on display at the Submarine Force Library and Museum in Groton and now the U.S. Naval Undersea Museum at Keyport has her salvaged control room.
“It’s a proud moment for us to be able to present this to the museum,” PSNS Commanding Officer Capt. Howard Markle told the Kitsap Sun on the occasion of its transfer to the museum last week. “We’re grateful for their willingness to accept it for eventual display, and we’re especially thankful for their commitment to educating the community — and our Navy family — on the men and women, the vessels, the mission and the legacy of our Navy’s undersea warfighters.”
Making friends and influencing people with some M118 Demo Charge, aka Flex-X (the military version of Detasheet or Primasheet, a PETN-based rubberized sheet explosive) via this 1960s Army training film
As a bonus, here is a period piece on electric priming, because you really need one to have the other
In April 1964, Allied Air Forces Central Europe, (or AAFCE also AIRCENT), was turning 13 and the NATO/OTAN members behind the group held Operation 7-Up, a tactical weapons meet at RAF Wildenrath, West Germany that cumulated with a breathtaking international formation showcasing some of the best tin of the day.
The Lockheed F-104 Starfighter, the famously dangerous “rocket with a man in it” was obviously the F-16 of its day and the Belgians, Canadians, Dutch, and Germans all showed up with some. Add to this lot the newly-fielded F-105 Thud, RAF Canberras and Gloster Javelins, and French Mirage IIIC’s (the French only withdrew their troops from NATO in 1966), and it is some very sweet period air power. It was an important milestone as, some 19 years after WWII, likely few of the participants had fought in the great conflict and fewer still had cut their teeth in piston-driven fighters, as they were flying what could be considered at least second-generation combat jets.
And this guy
And with that being said, here is a classic Bundeswehr clip from 1969 showing German F-104s being stopped via a Hakenfang (arrester hook)
In the late 1950s, the U.S. Navy commissioned two classes of what were termed at the time, Destroyer Leaders, a type of “super destroyer” larger than the late-WWII designed Gearing-class tin cans (3,500-tons, 390-feet, 36.8kts on 60,000 shp worth of GE steam turbines and 4 boilers, 3 twin 5″/38s) and an offshoot of the testbed Mitscher-class destroyers (4,855-tons, 490-feet, experimental steam plants, 2×5-inch singles).
They were beautiful, rakish ships. Almost cruiser-like you could say:
These two new Destroyer Leaders classes, the 9-ship Leahy and 9-ship Belknap classes, were much larger (7,800-8,000 tons, 547-feet) and, though they packed 85,000shp as a benefit of their four 1200psi boilers, were slower at 32-34kts. However, they did carry giant twin-rail RIM-2 Terrier Mk 10 missile launchers in place of most of the guns carried by their predecessors.
These 18 DLGs, augmented by two unique nuclear-plant vessels on similar hulls (Bainbridge and Truxtun) with pressurized-water D2G reactors were completed in just under eight years, with the first laid down 3 December 1959 and the last of the 20 ships commissioned 27 May 1967– surely a remarkable shipbuilding achievement when compared to FY2018, that’s for sure.
To this were added two California-class nuclear DLGN’s in the early 1970s and a planned four-ship group of Virginia-class vessels. In all, 26 DLG/DLGNs.
As these 26 mega destroyers came online, the Navy also was rapidly moving away from their remaining WWII-era light and heavy cruiser fleet.
By 1974, the Navy had just eight cruisers in commission: Long Beach (CGN9), Little Rock (CL-92/CLG-4/CG-4), Oklahoma City (CL-91/CLG-5/CG-5), Springfield (CL-66/CLG-7/CG-7), Albany (CA-123/CG-10), Chicago (CA-136/CG-11), Columbus (CA-74/CG-12), and Newport News (CA–148). However, naval analysts were quick to point out that the Soviets had a whopping 40~ “cruisers” ranging from the dated 16,000-ton all-gun Sverdlovs and similar 14,000-ton Chapayevs to the smaller 7,000-ton Krestas and 9,000-ton Kara-class missile boats.
The solution to close the “cruiser gap”? Redesignate the 26 DLG/Ns to CG/CGNs and call it a day.
Thus, our super destroyers magically in 1975 became cruisers, which, when compared to the Karas and Krestas that Moscow called cruisers in their own right, they certainly were. So presto-chango, abracadabra, boom– 26 “new” cruisers.
By the 1980s, the Ticonderoga-class Aegis cruisers (based on a destroyer hull– the Spruance) were being cranked out to add more missiles and battlespace management to the fleet. By Nov. 1992, some 27 Ticos were in commission (or at least launched) which, along with our 26 frocked DLG/Ns and the old Long Beach, gave the Navy a proud total of 54 cruisers of all sorts in service, which proved to be the high water mark of the post-1945 Navy.
Further, the old DLGs had been slated for the New Threat Upgrade (NTU) which shelved old sensors like the AN/SPS-40 in place of the much more capable SPS-48E & 49(V)5, upgraded tracking and engagement systems and provided the ability to sling modern Standard missiles, making them more deadly than they had ever been.
Then, the Cold War thawed.
On Christmas Day 1991, the Soviet hammer and sickle flag was lowered for the last time over the Kremlin. The Red Fleet soon became sidelined and within months the newly reformed Russian Navy began to wither.
The Peace Dividend was duly cashed in and the U.S. Navy’s surface assets were on the chopping block. Just as the Knox-class fast frigates were stacked up in mothballs due to their manpower intensive steam plants (when compared to gas turbine FFG7s), the Clinton administration put a hit out on the Navy’s non-carrier surface assets (psst, the nuclear cruisers) as well as the Leahy/Belknaps.
The first to go, the venerable Leahy herself, was decommissioned along with her sister Worden on 1 October 1993. By 30 July 1999 the last of the active batch of 26 ships envisioned to be DLG/Ns, USS South Carolina (CGN-37), was decommissioned although she had just had her reactor re-cored and was good for another 18 years of service!
Almost as soon as they were stricken these once fine flagships were scrapped, recycled or sunk as targets with the last vestiges erased by 2007.
The great cruiser slaughter took just under six years. To boot, by 2005 the first five Ticos– those armed with Mark-26s rather than VLS launchers– were mothballed. Just 22 of 54 cruisers remained.
Still, though they were retired with life left in them and miles left unsailed, they held the line during the Cold War and stood ready to weather a Red Storm that never rose.
Vale to the days of steam, twin-armed Mk.10s, and the iron cruisermen who sailed them.
(U.S. Navy Museum Number: 428-GX-USN 1172664) Soviet strike bomber Tupolev Tu-22M (Russian: Туполев Ту-22М; NATO reporting name: Backfire) Photograph received by U.S. Naval Intellegence, July 1978.
Though the type first flew in 1969 and was operational by 1972, it’s existance was not widely known in the West until it popped up over the Baltic on an excercise in 1980 during the international heartburn over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the footage appeared on state-run TV.
Raptor Aviation has a Polish-made Lim-5, which was a licensed variant of the Soviet Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-17 attack aircraft designed to use an afterburner, up for grabs in a “Make Offer” sale. Located in the U.S., the Warsaw Pact combat aircraft was made in 1960 but has had the same owner in the West for the past 23 years and has been refurbished.
The Polish-produced fighter, NATO designation Fresco-D, is kinda rare as the line just numbered about 500~ out of a total MiG-17 production worldwide of over 10,000.
This particular specimen was active in the Polish Air Force until 1966 when it was pulled and transferred to a mechanic training school where it sat until 1993 and was subsequently sold to a collector in the West– and it is now up for grabs.
Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger
Warship Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017: I’d like to be back on my horse
Here we see the Balao-class diesel-electric fleet submarine USS Tilefish (SS-307) returning to San Diego on 5 December 1958 for inactivation. You may not recognize her in the photo, but she was always ready for her closeup.
A member of the 128-ship Balao class, she was one of the most mature U.S. Navy diesel designs of the World War Two era, constructed with knowledge gained from the earlier Gato-class. U.S. subs, unlike those of many navies of the day, were ‘fleet’ boats, capable of unsupported operations in deep water far from home.
Able to range 11,000 nautical miles on their reliable diesel engines, they could undertake 75-day patrols that could span the immensity of the Pacific. Carrying 24 (often unreliable) Mk14 Torpedoes, these subs often sank anything short of a 5000-ton Maru or warship by surfacing and using their 4-inch/50 caliber and 40mm/20mm AAA’s. The also served as the firetrucks of the fleet, rescuing downed naval aviators from right under the noses of Japanese warships.
We have covered a number of this class before, such as Rocket Mail slinging USS Barbero, the carrier-sinking USS Archerfish, the long-serving USS Catfish and the frogman Cadillac USS Perch —but don’t complain, they have lots of great stories.
Laid down at Mare Island Navy Yard in Vallejo, California, on 10 Mar 1943, USS Tilefish was the first and only naval vessel named for homely reef fish found in the world’s oceans.
Commissioned just nine months later on 28 Dec 1943, Tilefish completed her trials and shakedown off the California coast and made for the Western Pacific in early 1944.
Her first war patrol, off Honshu in Japanese home waters, was short and uneventful.
Her second, in the Luzon Strait, netted a torpedo hit on the 745-ton Japanese corvette Kaibokan 17 south of Formosa on 18 July.
Her third patrol, in the Sea of Okhotsk and off the Kuril Islands, resulted in sinking a sampan in a surface action, as well as two small cargo ships, a larger cargo ship and the 108-ton Japanese guard boat Kyowa Maru No.2. Tilefish also picked up a Russian owl in these frigid waters, which was duly named Boris Hootski with the ship’s log noting, “He is now official ship’s mascot and stands battle stations on top of the tube blow and vent manifold.”
She closed the year with her fourth patrol in the Kurils and Japanese home waters with sinking the Japanese torpedo boat Chidori some 90 miles WSW of Yokosuka.
Early 1945 saw her fifth patrol which sank a small Japanese coaster and effectively knocked the IJN minesweeper W 15 out of the war. She also plucked LT (JG) William J. Hooks from the USS Hancock (CV-19) of VF-80 out of the water after he had to ditch his F6F at sea off Amami Oshima in the Ryukyus.
After refit on the West Coast, Tilefish completed her sixth patrol on lifeguard station off the Ryukyus where she ended the war, being ordered back to California on 7 September.
In all, Tilefish received five battle stars for World War II service. Her tally included 7 vessels for a total of 10,700 claimed tons– though many were disallowed post-war by JANAC. Her six patrols averaged 48 days at sea.
While most of the U.S. submarine fleet was mothballed in the months immediately after WWII, Tilefish remained in service. She even managed a sinkex in August 1947 against the crippled Liberty tanker SS Schuyler Colfax, at 7,200-tons, Tilefish‘s largest prize.
When the Korean War kicked off in 1950, Tilefish made for the region.
As noted by DANFS:
“From 28 September 1950 through 24 March 1951, the submarine operated out of Japanese ports conducting patrols in Korean waters in support of the United Nations campaign in Korea. She made reconnaissance patrols of La Perouse Strait to keep the Commander, Naval Forces Far East, informed of Soviet seaborne activity in that area.”
Tilefish received one battle star for Korean service.
The next nine years saw her conducting regular peacetime operations and exercises including a goodwill visit to Acapulco; a survey mission with four civilian geophysicists on board from the Hydrographic Office of Eniwetok, Wake, and Midway; and other ops.
These “other ops” included filming some scenes for the 1958 Glen Ford WWII submarine flick Torpedo Run, which were extensively augmented by scale models, and more extensive shoots for Up Periscope, a film in which James Garner, a Korean war Army vet and Hollywood cowboy, plays a frogman ordered to photograph a codebook at an isolated Japanese radio station.
The film was an adaption of LCDR Robb White’s book of the same name.
Garner was not impressed by the Tilefish.
As related by a Warren Oaks biographer, Garner, bobbing along on the old submarine offshore at 9-kts in groundswells, said, “You know something? I’d like to be back on my horse.”
After her brief movie career and service in two wars, Tilefish was given a rebuild at the San Francisco Navy Yard and was decommissioned in May 1960.
Tilefish was then sold to Venezuela, which renamed her ARV Carite (S-11). As such, she was the first modern submarine in that force. She arrived in that country on 23 July 1960, setting the small navy up to be the fifth in Latin America with subs.
As noted by El Snorkel (great name), a Latin American submarine resource, Tilefish/Carite was very active indeed, making 7,287 dives with the Venezuelan Navy over the next 17 years. She participated in the Argentine/Dominican Republic/Venezuelan -U.S. Quarantine Task Force 137 during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and intercepted the Soviet tug Gromoboi in 1968.
In 1966, she was part of the Greater Underwater Propulsion Power Program (GUPPY) conversion program and (along with 20 other boats), was given the very basic Fleet Snorkel package which provided most ofthe bells and whistles found on the German late-WWII Type XXI U-boats– which would later prove ironic. This gave her expanded battery capacity, steamlined her sail conning tower fairwater into a so-called “Northern or North Atlantic sail”– a steel framework surrounded by thick fiberglass– added a snorkel, higher capacity air-conditioning system, and a more powerful electrical system and increased her submerged speed to 15 knots while removing her auxillary diesel. A small topside sonar dome appeared.
However, during this time, her most enduring exposure was in helping film Murphy’s War, in which a German U-boat (U-482) hides out in the Orinoco River in Venezuela after sinking British merchant steamer Mount Kyle, leaving Peter O’Toole as the lone survivor on a hunt to bag the German shark. The thing is, she looked too modern for the film after her recent conversion.
For her role, Carite was given a far-out grey-white-black dazzle camo scheme and, to make her more U-boat-ish, was fitted with a faux cigarette deck after her tower complete with a Boffin 40mm (!) and a twin Oerlikon mount (!!). Her bow was fitted with similarly faked submarine net cutting teeth.
Her “crew” was a mix of U.S. Peace Corps kids working in the area (to get the proper blonde Germanic look) with Venezuelan tars at the controls.
The movie, filmed in decadent Panavision color, shows lots of footage of the old Tilefish including a dramatic ramming sequence with a bone in her teeth and what could be the last and best images of a Balao-class submarine with her decks awash.
By the mid-1970s, Tilefish/Carite was showing her age. In 1972, the Venezuelans picked up more two more advanced GUPPY II conversions, her Balao-class sister USS Cubera (SS-347), renaming her ARV Tiburon (S-12) and the Tench-class USS Grenadier (SS-525) which followed as ARV Picua (S-13) in 1973.
Once the two “new” boats were integrated into the Venezuelan Navy, Tilefish/Carite was decommissioned on 28 January 1977 and slowly cannibalized for spare parts, enabling Cubera and Grenadier to remain in service until 1989 when they were replaced by new-built German Type 209-class SSKs, which still serve to one degree or another.
According to a Polish submarine page, some artifacts from Tilefish including a torpedo tube remain in Venezuela.
Although she is no longer afloat, eight Balao-class submarines are preserved (for now) as museum ships across the country.
Please visit one of these fine ships and keep the legacy alive:
-USS Batfish (SS-310) at War Memorial Park in Muskogee, Oklahoma.
–USS Becuna (SS-319) at Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
–USS Bowfin (SS-287) at USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park in Honolulu, Hawaii.
–USS Clamagore (SS-343) at Patriot’s Point in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. (Which may not be there much longer)
–USS Ling (SS-297) at New Jersey Naval Museum in Hackensack, New Jersey. (Which is also on borrowed time)
–USS Lionfish (SS-298) at Battleship Cove in Fall River, Massachusetts.
-USS Pampanito (SS-383) at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park in San Francisco, California, (which played the part of the fictional USS Stingray in the movie Down Periscope).
–USS Razorback (SS-394) at Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum in North Little Rock, Arkansas.
However, Tilefish will endure wherever submarine films are enjoyed.
Displacement, surfaced: 1,526 t., Submerged: 2,424 t.
Length 311′ 10″
Beam 27′ 3″
Draft 15′ 3″
Speed surfaced 20.25 kts, Submerged 8.75 kts
Cruising Range, 11,000 miles surfaced at 10kts; Submerged Endurance, 48 hours at 2kts
Operating Depth Limit, 400 ft.
Patrol Endurance 75 days
Propulsion: diesels-electric reduction gear with four Fairbanks-Morse main generator engines., 5,400 hp, four Elliot Motor Co., main motors with 2,740 hp, two 126-cell main storage batteries, two propellers.
Fuel Capacity: 94,400 gal.
Complement 6 Officers 60 Enlisted
10 21″ torpedo tubes, six forward, four aft, 24 torpedoes,
one 4″/50 caliber deck gun,
one 40mm gun,
two .50 cal. machine guns
10 21″ torpedo tubes, six forward, four aft, 24 torpedoes,
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