Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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, Aug. 3, 2022: Albacore Pancakes
Note: on the road again this week enjoying some quiet time at a suppressed AR course at Gunsite, so our Warship Wednesday is a little abbreviated. Will be back to full-length WWs next week!
Above we see the one-of-a-kind research submarine USS Albacore (AGSS-569) as I found her three weeks ago in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, landlocked as she has been in a custom-made display cradle along Market Street since 1985. While not an armed warship, Albacore was the bridge between all of the WWII-era fleet boats turned GUPPY just after the war as a result of lessons learned from advanced German U-boats, and today’s nuclear hunter-killers and boomers.
The third U.S. Navy ship to carry the name, as noted by DANFS:
The effectiveness of submarines in World War II convinced the Navy that undersea warfare would play an even more important role in comping conflicts and dictated the development of superior submarines. The effectiveness of submarines in World War II convinced the Navy that undersea warfare would play an even more important role in coming conflicts and dictated the 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 a committee 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, the Navy’s submarine designers turned their attention to vessels that could operate for long periods without breaking the surface. 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 Bureau of Ships to determine what hull form would be best for submerged operation. The David Taylor Model Basin tested a series of proposed 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, Va. The single-screw version was adopted, and the construction of an experimental submarine to this design was authorized on 25 November 1950.
Commissioned 6 December 1953 after three years of construction at Portsmouth NSY, her motto was Praenuntius Futuri (“Forerunner of the Future”) and she endured in the fleet until 1972 when she retired.
She is very well preserved, including her innovative control room.
I also found her extremely cramped, even more so than the 311-foot fleet boats that I have toured.
Her great handicap across her career was her
GE GM EMD 16-338 “pancake” diesel engines, which stood some 13.5-feet tall and were about as wide as a refrigerator.
Cranky, they were also used on the six postwar Tang-class (SS-563) submarines until they were replaced with more reliable ten-cylinder Fairbanks-Morse opposed-piston 38D 8-1/8 diesels, leaving Albacore to languish with her cakes until she had exhausted all her spares.
Still, Albacore was a pioneer when it came to American sub tech, and the three boats of the follow-on Barbel-class– the last diesel-electric propelled attack submarines built by the U.S. Navy– were only a few feet longer than the test sub. Powered by Fairbanks-Morse diesels, the Barbels remained in fleet service as late as 1990.
Not to mention her features used on SSNs and SSBNs.
If you are in Portsmouth, please swing by the Albacore and pay her a visit.
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