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USNS Sioux, USNS Grapple Complete Successful Tow of Decommissioned Nuclear Submarine

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS080603-02
Release Date: 6/3/2008 6:16:00 AM

By Laura M. Seal, Military Sealift Command Public Affairs

BREMERTON, Wash. (NNS) -- Military Sealift Command (MSC) fleet ocean tug USNS Sioux (T-ATF 171) completed the successful tow of decommissioned nuclear submarine ex-USS Hyman G. Rickover (SSN 709) to the Pacific Northwest May 30.

Sioux is one of two MSC ships that towed the 360-foot ex-Rickover more than 10,000 miles from Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility in Bremerton, Wash.

The journey began April 8, when the 255-foot rescue and salvage ship USNS Grapple (T-ARS 53) departed Kittery with ex-Rickover in tow. Grapple and ex-Rickover traveled 3,600 miles to the Panama Canal where, in accordance with Panamanian law, a canal pilot and tugboats guided ex-Rickover through the locks April 24-25. Grapple escorted ex-Rickover through the canal to the Pacific Ocean where the 226-foot Sioux resumed the submarine tow and continued the journey to Bremerton. Sioux and ex-Rickover stopped in San Diego, May 13-23.

"We really enjoy towing submarines," said Capt. Brad Smith, Sioux's civil service master. "When it came to Rickover, it was a pleasant tow. There was good weather, and it was uneventful, which is everything you hope for when doing a mission like this."

Sioux and Grapple are both crewed by civil service mariners working for MSC-20 aboard Sioux and 24 aboard Grapple. Grapple also carries a small military detachment, and for the tow, a seven-person crew of Navy submariners also rode the MSC ships to monitor ex-Rickover and respond to any tow-related problems.

Ex-Rickover is the 22nd of the Los Angeles-class attack submarines and the only one not named after a U.S. city. Ex-Rickover was commissioned on July 21, 1984, commenced inactivation March 1, 2007 and was decommissioned Dec. 17, 2007. The submarine's reactor was de-fueled at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. Named in honor of Hyman G. Rickover, the Father of the Nuclear Navy, ex-Rickover played an instrumental roll in submarine operations during the height of the Cold War.

U.S. Navy guided-missile frigate USS Carr (FFG 52), the guided- missile destroyer USS Pickney (DDG 91) and the guided-missile frigate USS Rodney M. Davis (FFG 60) provided force protection escorts from Maine to Panama, from Panama to San Diego and from San Diego to Bremerton, respectively.

While in Bremerton, ex-Rickover will go through a dismantling program overseen by the Navy. The submarine will remain moored at the shipyard until it is dry-docked for dismantlement and disposal, which is currently scheduled for 2016.

Grapple is one of MSC's four rescue and salvage ships, and Sioux is one of four fleet ocean tugs. These ships tow other ships, lift heavy objects like downed aircraft and deploy divers for rescue and salvage operations.

For more news from the Military Sealift Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/MSC/.

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