USS Albacore AGSS-569, a revolutionary hull design
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 development of superior submarines. 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.
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. The single-screw version was adopted, and construction of an experimental submarine to this design was authorized on November 25, 1950. This ship was classified as an auxiliary submarine named USS Albacore AGSS-569.
The submarine departed the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Kittery, ME, on October 12, 1955 and sailed via Block Island, RI, for Key West, FL, where she arrived on October 19 to commence anti-submarine warfare evaluation and to provide target services to the Operational Development Force`s Surface Anti-submarine Development Detachment.
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.
On November 21, 1960 the ship entered the shipyard at Kittery 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.
Fore most of her service years within the US Navy she would enter and exit Portsmouth Naval Shipyard many times for different kinds of modifications, upgrades, conversions, retrofits and overhauls for evaluating and testing different concepts and technologies and undergoing widely varied tests for the David Taylor Model Basin.
The Albacore was decommissioned on December 9, 1972 and laid up at Philadelphia. Her name was stuck from the navy list on May 1, 1980, and she was towed back to Kittery late in April 1984. In 1985, she was dedicated as a Memorial in Albacore Park, Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
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 USS Skipjack SSN-585 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.
Specifications, USS Albacore AGSS-569:
The unique experimental, diesel-electric, boat was laid down by Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Kittery, ME on March 15, 1952; launched August 1, 1953 and commissioned December 5, 1953.
Displacement (srf/sub tons): 1,500/1,850
Dimensions (L*B*D feet): 203`9*27`6*18`6
Propulsion: diesel-electric, 2*General Motors radial diesels, 1*15,000hp Westinghouse electric motor, one shaft
Speed (srf/sub knots): 25/30+
Range (srf/sub miles@knots): not relevant
Diving depth (feet): 600
Complement: 5 officers 47 enlisted