SSN 21 Seawolf
The first of a revolutionary of a new class of fast attack submarines, the Seawolf, was christened June 24, 1995 at the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics Corporation in Groton, Conn.
Seawolf was commissioned during a ceremony on Saturday, July 19, 1997, at Electric Boat Shipyard in Groton, Conn.
Seawolf is the first "top to bottom" new attack submarine design since the Skipjack-class in the early 1960s.
Seawolf is named in commemoration of two previous submarines, SS-197 and SSN 575. The name comes from a solitary fish with strong, prominent teeth and projecting tusks which give it a savage look.
On July 5, 1996 the Seawolf completed its initial sea trial and returned to Electric Boat in Groton. The test program included first underwater submergence, acoustics trials, engineering inspections and at-sea training for the crew.
After a period of post-construction testing, additional modifications, and depot level repairs, Seawolf departed in June 2001 on her first deployment. She sailed with a relatively inexperienced crew - 11 of her 14 officers and 65 percent of the enlisted Sailors would deploy for the first time in their careers on what would prove to be a multi-theater and multi-mission assignment.
Pre-deployment workups for Seawolf prepared the ship for independent operations in the North Atlantic to test the crew's ability to use multiple sensors and to train on the tasks of undersea and surface warfare and intelligence gathering. The plan for the second half of the deployment, although unknown at the time of departure, was to support carrier battle group operations in the Mediterranean Sea. This turned out to be a unique and exciting opportunity. The ship would need to adjust to a tactical and philosophical approach quite different from that of independent operations, and even the skipper confessed his own lack of battle group experience. But events across the Atlantic Ocean scuttled those plans.
The terrorist attacks of 11 September forced an early underway from a planned upkeep in Faslane, Scotland and accelerated the submarine's passage through the Straits of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean Sea.
The ship sortied from Scotland, moved halfway back to the East Coast to await the arrival of the USS Theodore Roosevelt battle group, and earned a certification to conduct strike operations. Soon after, urgent orders sent the submarine directly to the Mediterranean to increase the number of Tomahawks and launch platforms in the theater of operations.
As Seawolf waited for potential orders for Operation Enduring Freedom, while additionally providing support to the Theodore Roosevelt Battle Group, she played a role in her first NATO exercise, Destined Glory 2001. The ship enjoyed a chance to test its stealth abilities against a NATO force diesel submarine, closing to extremely close range before Seawolf "lit her up" with active sonar to make the most of the training period. The submarine also got valuable contact-management team training at Gibraltar, with at least 30 additional warships adding to the tight traffic in the busy doorway to the Mediterranean.
Seawolf later met up for the first time with the submarine tender USS Emory S. Land (AS-39) in La Maddalena, Italy, to trade some of the submarine's torpedo payload for cruise missiles, take on another 60 days' worth of food, and conduct minor voyage repairs. Then she set off to use her exceptional stealth and agility in support of the war on terrorism.
Seawolf sent out fewer casualty reports for material failures during 2001 than the average boat on the waterfront. The boat makes maximum use of commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) equipment, a key principle of the Submarine Force's modernization plan, and that the few material problems discovered during this deployment would help determine maintenance and spare-part requirements for future operations of this ship and the other two Seawolf-class submarines. The true impact of the cruise, is how the ship delivered on the Submarine Force's new message of plug-and-fight, multi-mission capability, including independent and battle group operations in two global theaters.
One side effect of having a small class of submarines was insufficient pre-deployment logistical support; Seawolf's crew and the New London repair activities spent thousands of man-hours in planning for the potential need of critical parts to meet the deployment schedule.
On October 30, 2002 USS Seawolf returned to Electric Boat for a three-week repair period, the second time a Navy submarine had docked at the shipyard under the terms of a leasing agreement announced earlier in 2002. Under this agreement, the Navy is leasing docking space from EB.
Although the ship will be docked at EB, the repair job will actually be managed by the Naval Submarine Support Facility at the sub base. This arrangement is similar to the one that brought USS Memphis (SSN 691) to Groton for a longer-term availability.
The first Seawolf (SS 197) was commissioned in 1939 and patrolled in the Pacific Ocean. It earned 13 battle stars during World War II, sank 17 enemy ships, and was lost in action in December 1944.
The second Seawolf (SSN 575) was commissioned in 1957 and was the second nuclear powered submarine to enter naval service - the first being USS Nautilus. Nautilus logged more than 13,700 nautical miles without surfacing from August to October 1958, demonstrating to the world the independence and sustained submerged capability of nuclear-powered submarines. SSN 575 operated with USS Enterprise beginning in April of 1964 as part of the world's first nuclear-powered task force and served with distinction until decommissioning in March 1987.
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