TULLIBEE was decommissioned on June 25, 1988, after 28 years of service and 350,000 nautical miles or cruising.
Thus, as her first skipper, I think it is time to reflect on some significant aspects of TULLIBEE design and operations. She had the smallest crew — originally six officers and fifty enlisted, and with her smaller reactor plant producing 2500 hp, she was the slowest (about 16 knots) — but quietest at that time. Displacing 2640 tons, she was 272 feet long and had a diameter of 24 feet.
She was the first to have the new family of sonars with a spherical bow array and torpedo tubes at the side of the ship.
She had many operational firsts — much of which was classified as she developed new ways of using sonar and ship quieting.
One very challenging problem was the introduction of nuclear submarines to the Submarine Base, New London. We did have growing pains developing the support function.
One of the most interesting aspects of calling the Sub Base home was the challenge of making landings with a single screw ship whose whole bow area was very tender. We would head directly into an ebb current and deliberately touch the hard side of the boat (aft the torpedo tubes) against the corner of the pier, then use high power screw bursts alternating ahead and backing with standard maneuver. At first we used tugs but were weaned away from them. In getting underway, we oftentimes dropped the stern anchor and let the current turn us.
A real ticklish situation was that of letting Junior Officers make landings. I solved that problem by becoming the Conning Officer talker. He could give any order he wanted. If I considered it safe, it went through the 7 MC exactly as he said it with the telephone talker repeating the 7 MC order. If I considered it to put us in an unsafe condition, I automatically assumed the Conn with my order. It was quiet and provided freedom to the Conning Officer without any countermanding orders.
TULLIBEE had a turbo-electric drive which has the promise of the quietest propulsion system available. The rotating machinery generators and main motors are individually sound isolated and decoupled and can be run at various speeds, rather than a great mass rotating at the harmonics of the basic speed of the main shaft. The main motor can be supplied from the battery much more effectively than the emergency propulsion motor found on geared turbine ships. The turbo electric drive was an operational delight in quick response. The only mass to be reversed was the main motor and it was extremely fast, from full power ahead (200 rpm) to full power backing was a matter of seconds. Emergency backing under simulated stern plane failure was outstanding, and coming into a pier was so much easier. I remember Admiral Jack McCain being on the bridge coming into Norfolk. Swearing, Jack yelled out “You’ll never stop it; you are going to ram it.” After a one bell landing he said “Dammit Skipper, I never thought you could stop the SOB.” A heavy immediate back bell with the wash against the rudder made landing much easier than the slower response experienced in a gear driven ship.
With such a small crew, personnel management had top priority. With our assigned 50 people, we could stand watch and man battle stations. We were weak in in-port maintenance. We solved that problem by adding a training allowance. In effect, we had a four section crew — of which only three sections went to sea at one time. The section remaining in port took care of schools, training, and leave. In addition, people were assigned to Squadron or Sub Base activities, when ship’s requirements had been fulfilled. During in-port periods, all personnel worked on the ship — all four sections. The crew loved it — we had a 100J reenlistment rate for three years.
On board utilization was unique. We would use a person’s ears on sonar for a period of time, then rotate him to ship control or another station utilizing his eyes or mechanical members. In this manner, we attempted to maintain fresh physical senses in the various jobs.
We did a lot of ship control experimentation. One of our standard transit conditions was to run with the stern planes on zero in emergency control. The depth control was in automatic using sail planes only and one person for ship control. If there were to be any failure of the automatic control, the stern planes could immediately override any effect of erratic sail plane operation.
I think we were very fortunate in what Admiral Rickover permitted us to do. I qualified Chief Petty Officers to the same standards as Engineering Officers of the Watch. They were subjected to the same examinations and questions by the Naval Reactors team as were the ship’s officers. They passed with flying colors and became our mainstays underway. The only times we had an officer in maneuvering were battle stations and special sea details.
Sonar research and development, trial equipment and operational tests were to consume much of TULLIBEE’s early employment. Lessons learned were factored into new construction and I had a great time developing sonar improvements for FBM’s while building HENRY L. STIMSON (SSBN 655). Much effort went into developing a good noise environment in the hydrophone locations. Material changes were made in ships plating and structure to change natural frequencies outside of a listening band and to change the Q factor of resonances. Our own sonar was used to monitor all shipboard noises and take action to reduce their effect on the sonars.
TULLIBEE was used to learn many characteristics of the inertial navigation systems.
The spherical array was used in many different modes to develop vertical angle techniques, using bottom echoes and bathy thermoenvironmental observations. The third dimension had arrived in sonar.
One interesting operation took place in Exuma Sound when the sound measuring ship had a line caught in her screw as a tropical storm set in. She was drifting toward shore. TULLIBEE surfaced, took a tow line forward and kept the ship off the beach by towing while backing down for over two hours.
In the operational area, questioned the slower speed of knots. In my experience with the found that to be a real problem.
people often TULLIBEE — 16 ship, I never
There are three kinds of speeds:
- Strategic Speed used to position the ship in the ocean in deployment. High speed makes more radiated noise and diminishes the capability of ships sonar. TULLIBEE did not suffer major reduction of sonar efficiency at her higher speeds.
- Tactical Speed — to approach targets, to determine target actions, and to close to weapon range. This speed can be utilized for passive ranging. Tactical speed becomes less necessary where effective weapons are available. A good weapon makes the need to close the target with a ship and crew unnecessary. It was necessary in the days of the Hark 1~ torpedo, with its 5000yard range; but with long range detection and classification, effective, long range weapons should negate the need to jeopardize the boat and crew by closing the target, unless necessary for other reasons.
- Escape Speed — to be used in departing contact area — or to try to outrun a weapon fired at the boat. If long range weapons are used as above, the need for escape speed is diminished.
TULLIBEE’s slower speed would result in slower — but quieter — deployments. With good weapons, it should not be a factor in tactics. It is questionable whether it would be a handicap in escape speed.
A NAVAL SUBMARINE LEAGUE LIBRARY
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