The USS NARWHAL (SSN-671) was the quietest of submarines at the time of her commissioning, the result of a Natural Circulation Reactor (NCR). When commissioned on 12 July 1969, the NARWHAL was the largest "straight" nuclear-powered attack submarine yet built by the US Navy. The new type of reactor enabled her to steam longer, and further than any other submarine then in existence. She was later modified for special missions, and fitted to operate a Remotely Operated Vehicle. She was decommissioned in 1999. USS NARWHAL (SSN-671) was designed and built by the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics Corporation, Groton, Connecticut. The ship was initially assigned to Submarine Development Group TWO at New London, Connecticut.
Literally in a class by herself, USS NARWHAL (SSN-671) was the quietest of submarines at the time of her commissioning. Her quiet performance, was the result of an engineering plant powered by a novel natural circulation reactor, which set the standards of quietness to which U.S. submarine designers work to this day. The design and engineering that went into creating a quiet engineering plant had the fortuitous effect of developing marvelously accessible and maintainable systems and equipment. The USS Narwhal (SSN 671) was built as the prototype platform for an ultra-quiet natural circulation reactor design. This allowed for operation with the large water circulating pumps, a major source of radiated noise, secured. The transitional hull design had elements carried over from the STURGEON class, while prototyping some features of the LOS ANGELES class hull design. She was similar to the Sturgeon design in other respects. Her Sturgeon-class state-of-the-art combat suit was the best in the world as she entered the fleet.
NARWHAL's propulsion plant prompted a belief among some submariners, including a number of engineering duty officers, that the plant should be adapted and adopted to be the heart of a major attack class to follow the Sturgeons. The urgent need to regain the speed lead being wrested by the Soviets, however, combined with ever-present budget considerations to focus SSN construction on a surer bet: the Los Angeles-class. NARWHAL used new engineering technology and several other innovations that led to advances in the submarine development program, laying important groundwork for the LOS ANGELES and OHIO class submarines which followed her. NARWHAL remained unique - she was truly a one ship class.
According to some reports Narwhal was employed for intelligence collection, and was fitted with a structure, called a "turtleback" -- just forward of her rudder that some have suggested may possibly be for remote-controlled underwater vehicles. However, a more prosaic explanation suggest that the big bulge on her stern is a casing for TB-23 towed array fitted with the new BQQ-5D sonar.
During her career, Narwhal was highly decorated, receiving the Navy Unit Commendation, three Meritorious Unit Commendations and five Battle Efficiency "E" awards. She has conducted 17 deployments to all corners of the world. Most recently, during her 1998 deployment to the Mediterranean, Narwhal was underway 86 percent of the time, conducting numerous international exercises and two extended operations of vital importance to national security.
After commissioning, NARWHAL was assigned to Submarine Detachment TWO in New London CT. She made her first deployment in the summer of 1970 and was eventually assigned to Submarine Squadron TWO in New London. In November 1979, NARWHAL was reassigned to Submarine Squadron FOUR in Charleston SC which was her home until she was transferred to Submarine Squadron SIX in Hampton Roads during October 1994.
USS Narwhal was inactivated on 16 January 1999 at Naval Station Norfolk, and She will began the decommissioning process at Newport News Shipbuilding later in the month. Newport News Shipbuilding is the only private source with the knowledge, experience, and facilities required to prepare for and accomplish the defueling and inactivation of SSN 671.
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