The Seawolf was the second nuclear powered submarine built for the U.S. Navy, authorized about one year after the first nuclear submarine, the Nautilus (SSN-571) in July 1952. Her contemporaries, the Sailfish (SS-572) class were completed with diesel engines.
Preliminary development work had involved the investigation of many concepts. Of these, only two - the pressurized water and the liquid metal (sodium) - were of sufficient interest from a naval standpoint to warrant a prototype and shipboard installation. The pressurized water concept was first applied to Nautilus; the liquid sodium concept to the Navy's second nuclear powered sub - Seawolf.
As with Nautilus, the development of the Seawolf liquid sodium plant involved the construction of a land prototype" plant. Known as the Submarine Intermediate Reactor, this was built at the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory at West Milton, NY.
Seawolf's keel was laid 15 Sep 1953, and she was launched 21 Jul 1955. However, trouble developed in her reactor and she was not ready for her sea trials until January 1957. After acceptance, USS Seawolf (SSN 575) operated as an active unit of the Atlantic Fleet and on 6 Oct. 1958, completed record-breaking 60-day submerged run, traveling a distance of more than 13,000 miles submerged with completely sealed atmosphere.
Seawolf was equipped with the BPS-15 radar, BQS-4 sonar, and Mk101 torpedo fire control system.
Although she was able to operate satisfactorily for almost two years on her sodium-cooled reactor, technical and safety considerations indicated that the concept be dropped. In December 1958, the sodium-cooled reactor was removed and was replaced with a pressurized water plant similar to that in Nautilus. When she shut down her sodium plant for the last time, she had steamed a total of 71,000 miles, of which 57,000 were submerged.
With her new pressurized water plant installed, Seawolf was recommissioned on 30 Sep 1960. In May 1965, she was refueled for the first time since the installation of her pressurized water reactor. On this core she had steamed more than 160,000 miles, of which more than 130,000 were submerged.
She was deactivated in 1987.
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