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AGSS-569 Albacore

The experimental submarine Albacore (AGSS-569) introduced the distinctive teardrop shape hull, which has influenced all follow-on submarine designs. This design provided for major advances in noise reduction, underwater speed and the use of low carbon (HY-80) as a structural steel. She also tested the first fiberglass sonar dome, installed in 1953.

She made 27 knots at a time when no other submarine could do much better than 18 knots submerged. Modified in the 1960s, Albacore could make speeds submerged similar to the top speeds of destroyers - around 35 knots - better than any contemporary nuclear submarine. She contributed not only her hull form and speed to most of the U.S. nuclear submarine fleet, beginning with the Skipjack class of 1958 (which temporarily took away Albacore's speed record), but many other essential elements of her technology as well.

Innovatons included:

  • Body of Revolution Hull with Propeller Mounted on Axis
  • Low L/D Ratio of 7.5:1
  • HY-80 Steel
  • Stern Plane Placement Forward of Propeller
  • Counter-Rotating Propellers
  • Underwater Dive Brakes
  • Towed Sonar Arrays
  • Silver-Zinc Batteries
  • Sound Dampening Technology
  • High Pressure Hydraulic System
  • Fly-Around-Body Antenna Deployment System
  • Light Wright Radial Diesel Engines
  • "X" Shaped Stern
  • Dorsal Rudder
  • Single Stick "Aircraft" Type Controls
The auxiliary general submarine USS Albacore (AGSS-569) served as a sea-going test platform from 1953 to 1972. Albacore's teardrop-shaped hull was the prototype for the Navy's nuclear powered submarine force and was the first boat optimized for submerged performance. USS Albacore, a 1837-ton auxiliary submarine, was built at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. Intended to test a radical new "teardrop" hull form in high-speed underwater operations, she was commissioned in December 1953. Over the next two years, she conducted underwater performance and tactical tests in the western Atlantic area. These were so successful that nearly all U.S. Navy submarines designed after the mid-1950s had hull shapes based on that introduced by Alabacore.

The albacore is a small tuna found in temperate seas throughout the world. It is easily distinguished from other tuna by its pectoral fin. Albacore usually weigh between 40 to 80 pounds. The fish are also noted as rapid swimmers. Albacore is a popular food fish and is one of the most valuable for canning purposes. The albacore is also a fine sporting fish and struggles violently when hooked. The first Albacore retained her former name; subsequent ships were named for the fish.

The third Albacore (AGSS-569) was laid down by the Portsmouth (N.H.) Naval Shipyard on 15 March 1952; launched on 1 August 1953; sponsored by Mrs. J. E. Jowers, the widow of Chief Motor Machinist's Mate Arthur L. Stanton, lost with the second Albacore (SS-218); and commissioned on 6 December 1953, Lt. Comdr. Kenneth C. Gummersqn in command.

USS Albacore, (AGSS-569), is constructed of welded low-carbon STS steel to a novel design developed from research begun in 1944 into hull forms based on "bodies of revolution." Hull forms of this design have a round cross section everywhere along their length. Albacore is 203.1 feet long, 27.1 feet in beam, displaces 1692 tons surfaced and 1908 tons submerged. A narrow deck forward and aft of the sail allowed line handlers a safe working space. The sail is placed about one third of Albacore's length from her bow. All deck fittings were designed to retract into the hull to minimize underwater drag.

Beginning at the bow belowdecks, Albacore was fitted with a sonar array outside the pressure hull but inside the outer hull, crew quarters over auxiliary machine space no. 1, officers' quarters over the forward battery space, the control room over auxiliary machinery compartment #2, crew's quarters over the after battery space, the propulsion machinery compartment housing two "pancake" diesel generators and two large electric motors, auxiliary machinery space, after trim tank, tailplanes, and screws. Three hatches give access to the interior of the hull. The forward escape trunk opens into the forward crew compartment. The control room hatch enters the sail, and the aft escape trunk connects the engineroom and the deck aft of the sail.

The test and evaluation program for Albacore was composed of five phases. In each phase different control surface and propeller arrangements were fitted. For nearly two decades, from 1953 to 1972, Albacore was used as a test platform to validate design features and techniques that made possible the advances in speed, maneuverability, and depth capability enjoyed by today's Submarine Force. During that period, Albacore went through five design phases and a series of corresponding underwater trials that revolutionized undersea warfare on a step-by-step basis. Built at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and commissioned on Dec. 5, 1953 with the Latin motto Praenuntius Futuri, or "Forerunner of the Future," Albacore would soon demonstrate the aptness of that particular choice.

During the early 1970s, Albacore was again modified to participate in the research and development Project SURPASS. However, ongoing problems with her diesel engines prevented this employment. The submarine was decommissioned in the latter part of 1972 and thereafter was kept in the Reserve Fleet at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. USS Albacore was towed to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in April 1984 and turned over to a private organization. In her new role as a museum, she was opened for public visits in 1985 and remains on display to the present day.

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 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.

The experimental Diesel-electric submarine, USS Albacore, (AGSS- 569), represents a revolution in naval architecture. Albacore was designed to be a true submarine, in which surface characteristics are subordinated to underwater performance. Her hull form was developed through a series of wind tunnel and hydrodynamic studies at the David Taylor Model Basin and the Langley Aeronautical Laboratory. Albacore was much quieter, faster, and more maneuverable than any earlier submarine and through a series of tests of various configurations she provided the model for all future United States Navy and most foreign submarines. Equipment developed and tested aboard Albacore was fitted on every subsequent United States Navy submarine.

Antisubmarine excerises conducted with Navy surface forces forced warship designers to radically alter their estimates of submarine performance and thus the design of all vessels intended to counter them. Even the steel alloy of her hull was developed for her specifically and has been used in all U.S. submarine construction since. The hull form pioneered by Albacore, now wedded to the revolutionary nuclear power plant of the otherwise conventional USS Nautilus, allowed sustained underwater performance and gave rise to the first true submarine.

As a ship memorial in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, Albacore is unusual in that she is preserved on dry land, mounted on huge concrete cradles in an excavated, permanent "dry dock." There, her enormous whale-shaped hull is completely and dramatically visible. Her smoothly curved blackhull, with its impressive fins, evokes the image of some great sea creature, rather than a ship.

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Page last modified: 21-02-2016 20:16:28 ZULU