Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 (ish) 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, Mar. 27, 2019: Tehran’s Tangs
Here we see a P-2H Neptune of Patrol Squadron (VP) 16 as it flies over the Tang-class submarine USS Trout (SS-566), near Charleston, S.C., May 7, 1961. While Trout‘s lines look fine for her era, don’t let them fool you, as she is not one of Rickover’s sleek nukes but is rather a 1940s-designed smoke boat– and one with an interesting story.
By late 1945, the U.S. Navy got the bad news that the Germans had been way ahead of them in terms of diesel-electric submarines. The innovations out of Hamburg and Kiel such as in hull/tower design, battery trunks, torpedo propulsion and the use of a snorkel by Hitler’s late-war “Elektroboot” Type XXI-class U-boats directly led to the American Greater Underwater Propulsion Power Program (GUPPY) that made similar modifications on the USN’s vast flotillas of WWII-produced Gato, Balao, and Tench-class diesel boats. This was in large part due to both captured plans and reverse-engineering a pair of trophy Type XXIs, U-2513, and U-3008, through 1949.
Ex-German submarine U-3008 underway at sea on 15 April 1948 in USN service, note the similarity to the Trout. National Archives 80-G-442933
As a result, the old fleet boats came to an end when the Tench-class submarine USS Grenadier (SS-525) was commissioned in Feb. 1951. A slew of sisters (SS-526 through SS-549) were canceled. Then came several experimental subs to include the smallish three-ship Barracuda-class “hunter-killer” SSKs optimized for ASW, and the one-off research submarines USS Dolphin (AGSS-555), Albacore (AGSS-569) and Mackerel (AGSS-570).
During this period, came the six-ship Tang-class laid down in 1949/50 at Electric Boat and Portsmouth Naval Shipyard that were “GUPPY” from the keel up rather than modified. A nominal seventh vessel of the class, USS Darter (SS-576), was built to an improved design and is largely considered a single-ship class.
The six-pack was all named for famous and very successful WWII submarines– Tang, Trigger, Wahoo, Trout, Gudgeon and Harder— and were all completed by November 1952 as the first practical Cold War-era U.S. Navy sub design. Some 292-feet long and 2,700-tons submerged, they were a tad shorter than the big fleet boats that brought Japanese shipping to its end (Tenches went 311-feet) but were much faster (17.4-knots vs 8.75 knots, submerged) and could dive deeper (700 feet test depth rather than 400 feet). In short, they were the equivalent of diesel Fast Attack boats.
Interestingly, the design included both front and rear torpedo tubes, an old-school WWII call-back, although the arrangement was more 1950s. Besides the half-dozen primary 21-inch tubes forward, the class had a pair of 19-inch torpedo tubes aft for the then-planned Mk 37 ASW torpedo as well as the capability to carry eight MK-49/57 mines.
Note the stubby tubes. Designed in 1946, the downright cute 1,400 Mk37 acoustic torpedo entered service in 1955 and became the primary ASW torp of the Navy for a large part of the Cold War. It’s 330-pound warhead and contact exploder was deemed enough to crack a pressure hull.
How about that six berth/two torp storage
Our direct subject, USS Trout was laid down on 1 Dec. 1949 at EB and at her launch she was sponsored by the widow of LCDR Albert H. Clark, the last commanding officer of the first USS Trout (SS-202), who was lost on the boat’s 11th war patrol in 1944 along with 80 other souls.
Commissioned 27 June 1952, the new Trout was assigned to SubRon 10 out of New London for the rest of the decade and was hard at work in ASW exercises and NATO support.
Notably, in March 1959, DANFS says “During submerged exercises in polar waters in company with [sister ship] Harder (SS-568), Trout sailed 268 miles beneath Newfoundland ice floes, setting a distance record for conventionally powered submarines.”
Her skipper in 1960 was LCDR William James Crowe Jr. (USNA 1947). Notably, Crowe went on to become a full admiral, was CINCPAC, CinCAFSOUTH, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under both Presidents Reagan and George H. W. Bush. He was aboard during the Cuban Missile Crisis, where Trout was front-and-center.
As noted by a reunion group for her crews, the 1960s saw her deploy to the Med three times and was utilized in a variety of OPFOR events as a simulated enemy sub– the Soviets also used the Type XXI design as a basis for their huge 200-unit Project 613 (NATO Whiskey-class) vessels. Trout’s group’s history says for example:
-She assisted the surface Anti-Submarine Forces by simulating an unfriendly unit penetrating U.S. waters.
-She also assumed the role of enemy while hindering major fleet amphibious exercises.
-During the latter part of 1965 TROUT participated in a mine laying exercise with several other submarines that Were Opposed by “enemy” aircraft and surface ships. This was followed by an exercise that required TROUT to make an undetected submerged transit through waters controlled by “enemy” ships, planes and submarines.
USS Trout (SS-566) at Genoa Italy, 31 December 1967. She completed three Med deployments including during the Six Day War.
In July 1970, she was assigned to the Pacific Fleet during the Vietnam-era, which yielded two Westpac deployments, in 1972 and 1975, “primarily providing submarine services during ASW exercises conducted by warships of the United States, South Korean, or Nationalist Chinese navies.”
West Coast – SubRon 3 (San Diego) from 1970 to 1976. Via Art’s Trout page
A successful boat that earned a number of Battle “E”‘s, by 1978 she was pushing 25-years of age and, like the rest of her class, was eclipsed by the Navy’s obsession with sexy SSNs such as the new Los Angeles-class vessels then on the ways. Sisters USS Trigger (SS-564) and USS Harder (SS-568) had already been removed from the fleet in 1973-74, sent to become the Italian Navy’s Livio Piomarta and Romeo Romei, respectively.
Transferred to Philadelphia, Trout decommissioned and struck from the Navy list on 19 December 1978. Like Trigger and Harder, she was intended for foreign transfer. But first, let’s talk about the Shah.
The Iran connection
With the British Royal Navy withdrawing from the Persian Gulf in the early 1970s, Shah Pahlavi, flush with OPEC cash, decided to step up and build the Great Imperial Iranian Navy.
Within the decade, the IIN acquired two U.S. Sumner-class and one British Battle-class destroyers, four British Vosper-class missile corvettes, 12 French La Combattante-class patrol boats, a dozen cutting-edge British hovercrafts, and a fleet of helicopters, ballooning in strength from 6,000 to 28,000 personnel with the help of American and European companies and experts. Then came the big steps: ordering four Spruance-class destroyers (completed as the Kidd-class DDGs) from Litton-Ingalls, and three surplus Tang-class diesel submarines while negotiating with France and Germany for additional frigates and Type 209 subs, respectively.
As part of this, Tang was to be acquired and renamed IIS Dolfin (SS-100), Trout would be Kousseh “Shark” (SS-101) and Wahoo would become Nahang “Whale” (SS-102). As they could submerge over their masts in anything deeper than 60 feet of seawater, they made sense in the shallow Gulf.
In the summer of 1978, the trio began an extended $75 million Tehran-funded overhaul at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard which replaced their engines, batteries, communication gear and firing control systems to essentially roll back the odometer to create “new to you” boats.
Trout/Kousseh was the first sold and turned over to the IIN on 19 December 1978, and the yard was in the process of switching over the data plates and plaques to Farsi when her new Iranian crew, with U.S. ship riders, took her out on the Delaware River for a turnaround. To commemorate the new bubbleheads, the yard even produced a version of the U.S. Navy’s submarine Dolphin badge, modified with a Persian crown, for the Iranians.
Then came the Iranian Revolution and the Shah fled to Egypt on 16 January 1979– less than a month after Trout was turned over. The submarine, at New London with a skeleton crew-in-training who wasn’t feeling it, as a result, became a de facto unit of the Navy of the Islamic Republic of Iran. She was subsequently abandoned by her legacy Iranian crew in March 1979 and towed back to PSNY.
Embargoed from final transfer to Tehran by the Carter administration, Trout/Kousseh was put back in the custody of the yard and sealed for the next 13 years as the Iranians fought it out with Washington to get the ship they paid for along with other Shah-era arms such as Hawk missiles, Cobra gunships, and F-14 Tomcats. She was regularly inspected, her interior spaces dehumidified, and her hull electrified to retard rust and crust. Even then, she had something of a museum-like quality to her.
Meanwhile, Tang was transferred to Turkey as TCG Pirireis (S 343) and Wahoo was cannibalized for parts and sold for scrap in 1984. The last of the class in U.S. service other than Trout, USS Gudgeon (SS-567), was sold to the Turks as TCG Hızırreis (S 342) in 1987.
Finally, in 1992, the near-pristine although 40-year-old Trout was returned to U.S. Navy custody in 1992 for her value in scrap (reportedly $20,000) and two years later was transferred for use an experimental hull and acoustic target sub at NAWCAD Key West. In short, to give Big Blue’s P-3s and SH-60s something more SSK-like to test against.
Trout in Key West via Subsailorscom
By that time, Trout was at the end of the line when it came to smoke boats for the Pentagon as the country’s last diesel boats to be built, the three subs of the teardrop-hulled Barbel-class, had all been decommissioned by 1990. Even the “improved Tang” ex-USS Darter was sunk as a target in 1992 off Hawaii. Only the unarmed deep-diving USS Dolphin (AGSS-555) research boat was still in the fleet, and in 1993 was in a life extension program to keep her poking around off San Diego for another decade.
Without a crew, Trout was to spend a solid seven years in the Keys, helping test and vet the next generation of sonar and weapons under the final control of NAVAIR, Marine, and Targets Detachment. However, by 2001, it was decided to put the ghost boat out to pasture and she was sent back to Philadelphia mothballs. A last-ditch effort to save her for a museum was undertaken.
Subvet Michael Wheeler made an appeal in 2003 to take advantage of the opportunity to save Trout, which was apparently still in excellent material shape at the end of her career, no doubt due to the fact she had been reconditioned for the Iranians but never sailed a mile under her own power since then:
I ask that all submariners that can help save this boat from becoming razor blades or the next SINKEX, please step up to the plate. This boat is a virtual time capsule, with the majority of her systems not only intact but operational. Even her batteries are brand-new (without electrolyte)! Imagine what a magnificent display she’d make for some lucky foundation! I’ve been fortunate to have worked aboard several different memorial submarines and visited several others, but I have not as yet seen or worked aboard a memorial boat that approaches the current condition of the Trout. Hell, if they’d let me, I’d take her out and bottom her in 300 feet of water and I assure you that she’d pop right back to the surface when the MBT’s were blown.
Sadly, it was not to be. The Navy eventually tired of Trout altogether and in May 2008 she was towed to ESCO Marine, Brownsville, Texas, where she was cut up for scrap over the course of the next 10 months.
Recycling of Trout (SS-566) at ESCO Marine, Brownsville, Texas. Scrapping was completed 27 February 2009. Via Navsource
As a legacy, she is remembered in several pages and groups and will live on in a certain sense with fans of King of the Hill for eternity. Korean War-era Navy vet Gary Kasner, Hank Hill’s father-in-law, is shown in Season 2, Episode 11 (The Unbearable Blindness of Laying) with a USS Trout II tattoo.
Of her sisters, the two boats sent to the Turks, TCG Pirireis (ex-Tang) and TCG Hizirreis (ex-Gudgeon), are preserved as museum ships in that country. Harder and Trigger, sent to Italy, were scrapped in 1988. Notably, several racked up battlestars for Vietnam service.
Meanwhile, in the Persian Gulf, a frustrated Iran went on to buy three Kilo-class submarines from cash-strapped Russia in the early 1990s: IRIS Tareq (S103), IRIS Nooh (S104), and IRIS Yunes (S105). If you notice, they still recognized the hull/pennant numbers of the three Tangs (S100 – 102) which never made it to the Gulf.
In addition to the Kilos, Iran has purchased an unknown quantity of NorK-made MS-29 Yono-class midget submarines then proceeded to put a Persian Gulf midget into serial production locally as the IS-120 Ghadir-class (with at least 23 in service) and the country is rolling their own indigenous Fateh-class submarines, which aim to be a full-sized boat, though still smaller than their aging Russian Kilos.
Displacement, surfaced: 2,100 t., Submerged: 2,700 t.
Length 292′-8 1/4″
Beam 27′ 3″
Draft 18′, snort depth 50ft.
Height: Top of snorkel/antennas (lowered) from the bottom of the keel, 44 feet
Propulsion: diesel-electric, Fairbanks-Morse Type 3 diesel engines, HP 4500, two electric motors, HP 5600, 2 shafts/propellers
Speed surfaced 20 kts, Submerged 18 kts
Complement 8 Officers 75 Enlisted (Accommodations as designed 10 officers, 8 CPO, 70 crew = 88men)
Sonar (as designed): AN/BQG-4 PUFFS system (3 “sharkfin” domes topside, 18 arrays), BHQ-2E, BQA-8A
Six 21-inch torpedo tubes forward
Two 19-inch torpedo tubes aft for Mk 37 torpedoes
Eight MK-49/57 mines
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