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Submarine radar pickets were born out of experiences encountered during the battle for Okinawa in 1945. A major part of the Japanese defense was directed against destroyer radar pickets and caused losses severe enough to make many destroyer skippers wish that they had a “hatch to close over their heads and submerge”1. When the concept of submarine-based radar pickets was developed, sometime during the middle of 1945 at the height of the fighting around Okinawa, the Navy proposed that 24 submarines be converted to assist in the invasion of the Japanese home islands, planned for November 1945. Although the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended the war, eliminating the need for a costly invasion of Japan, the Navy decided to press ahead and continue the development of the submarine-based radar picket.

Two submarines, GROUPER (SS 214) and FINBACK (SS 230), were given hastily modified versions of radar equipment from surface ships near the end of the war, but the Navy decided to continue to develop the radar picket concept further. After the war, GROUPER and FINBACK reverted back to their normal attack submarine configuration and the Navy decided that two additional submarines would be more extensively modified to develop the radar picket submarine concept further. These two submarines, REQUIN (SS 481), just completing her first year of active service, and SPINAX (SS 489), still under construction, were modified to the early radar picket configuration in 1946. Again given radar equipment modified from surface ship versions, these two submarines retained their normal deck armament of two 5-inch wet-mount guns and 40 mm rapid-fire cannons on the fore and after cigarette decks. Below decks, the already crowded confines became even more crowded, with radar equipment and consoles being distributed throughout the boats. It became so crowded below decks that, according to Mr. Edward Ellsworth of Monongahela, Pennsylvania, who served on REQUIN from 1945.

1Lt. Cmdr. F.J. Ruder, Submarine Conference on 8 December 1948, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, 17 December 1948, p. 31.

to 1948, that “you could hardly get past the maneuvering room”2 into the after torpedo room.

This unsatisfactory arrangement, the cramming of the radar equipment into whatever space was available, along with the overcrowding of the crew spaces with the additional men needed to man the radar equipment and the unsatisfactory performance of the radar equipment, led the Navy to propose and initiate the Migraine Program, a three-phase program in which 10 submarines, including REQUIN and SPINAX would be given enough equipment similar to that in the CIC on an Edsall Class destroyer.

The first phase of the Migraine Program initially involved only one submarine, TIGRONE (SS 419), which was converted in 1949 and later on, BURRFISH (SS 312), converted in 1950. On these two submarines, the after torpedo tubes were removed, creating enough space for the extra personnel needed to man the radar equipment. The consoles for the radar equipment were located in the forward part of the crew’s mess and galley, where the space was available for such equipment. In addition, TIGRONE and BURRFISH also received improved, higher capacity batteries. Topside, both TIGRONE and BURRFISH would retain their open fairwater, with the bridge being shifted to the forward cigarette deck and a 40 mm rapid-fire cannon being placed on the submarine’s deck. The SR-2 air search radar, to be used for long range air search, was located on a mast mounted on the after cigarette deck, aft of the SV radar and snorkel. Located on deck was the SV-2 height finding radar on a mast at about the same level as the SR-2 radar, destined to be used to determine the altitude of aircraft and to assist in controlling guided missiles. The last radar placed on deck was the YE-3 fighter controller beacon, located above the forward engine room, and would be used to direct aircraft flying combat air patrols or to direct those going to and returning from strike missions. In addition, both boats were given a snorkel to allow underwater operation of their diesel engines.

The second phase of the Migraine Program, in 1948, involved the veteran radar pickets REQUIN and SPINAX and would entail an improved arrangement of the radar and the equipment to control them. Below decks, the after torpedo tubes were removed and the air control center relocated to the forward section of the

2 Interview with Mr. Edward Ellsworth in Pittaburgh, PA, 3 July 1993.

stern room (the after section being converted into crew berthing) from its position in the crew’s mess on the Migraine I boats. In addition, two tubes were inactivated in the forward torpedo room and were left in place to be used as storage. Both REQUIN and SPINAX would also receive improved batteries to increase their underwater endurance. Keeping the conning tower profile common to wartime submarines, REQUIN and SPINAX would retain a 40 mm anti-aircraft cannon on the forward cigarette deck. The SR-2 radar was located on the after cigarette deck, in the same position as it was on the Migraine I boats, aft of the SV radar and the snorkel, and would be used for long range air search. The SV-2 radar was removed from its Migraine I mast and placed on deck above the air control center, further reducing its effectiveness. The YE-3 beacon, located on deck above the forward engine room on the Migraine I boats, was moved to a location above the after engine room.

The third and final phase of the Migraine Program commenced in 1953 and was more extensive and was a resolution of the overcrowded conditions on the Migraine I and II submarines. This phase was to involve six thin-skinned Gato Class submarines; POMPON {SS 267), RASHER (SS 269), RATON (SS 270), RAY (SS 271), REDFIN (SS 272), and ROCK (SS 274). These boats were subjected to some major surgery, which entailed being split apart between the control room and forward battery compartment, the space was filled by a 24 foot insert which would contain the air control center. As was the case with the earlier phases of the Migraine Program, the after torpedo tubes were removed and the space given over to crew berthing. Topside, the placement of the radars would be different, as would be the profile of the conning tower. An improved version of the air search radar would be enclosed in a streamlined sail, a possible precursor to the high plastic {fiberglass) sails featured on Guppy m submarines and later fleet snorkels. The improved height finding radar would be located on a mast which would have a thick base, allowing the radar to be accessed from within the submarine.

The tactics envisioned for the various radar picket submarines were to be three-fold and envisioned the radar pickets operating in pairs. The first tactic involved the direction of combat air patrols in their attacks against incoming enemy aircraft. Along this same line, the radar pickets would direct friendly aircraft in their missions against enemy aircraft and either to or from their attacks against enemy surface ships. Operating in pairs was deemed to be necessary so that if one radar picket had to submerge while controlling the CAP, the other radar picket, located within range of the first picket’s radar, could immediately assume control of the CAP and provide constant coverage, never leaving the CAP without direction. This, however, became a problem at one time for REQUIN. While operating in the Aegean Sea during a deployment to the Mediterranean in the early 1950s, Captain Jack Magee (who served aboard REQUIN from 1951 to 1953), wrote in a letter to the author that “One CAP commander refused to be controlled by us in the Aegean Sea because he was afraid that we (REQUIN) would dive out from under him and he would not have direction for an enemy intercept. His boss in the carrier quickly set him straight and we were able to control him for the next couple of hours.”3 Another tactic envisioned for the radar pickets involved being used in association with an amphibious landing. Stationed some distance away from the amphibious force, the radar picket submarines would provide advanced warning of incoming enemy strike aircraft. A third use envisioned by the Navy for radar pickets involved being controlled by the commander of strike aircraft heading out to attack enemy targets.

Radar picket submarines were often at sea much longer than the normal diesel boats in service at the time. Whereas normal boats would be at sea for approximately two to three months, radar pickets were often out twice as long, due to their unique nature. Submarines such as REQUIN and SPINAX operated as radar pickets from 1946 until 1959 and provided early warning training to surface fleet units. The radar pickets were not without their own headaches {appropriate enough, considering the name of the program). One of the main problems was that all of the radar, especially the SV -2 height finding radar and the more advanced BPS-3 height finder {used on the Migraine m boats), were extremely susceptible to flooding and shorting out. The placement of, for example, the SV-2 radar on the deck of the two Migraine II radar pickets made it especially vulnerable to the spray caused by the submarines’ movement through the water. Nevertheless, radar picket submarines continued to provide valuable service to

3Captain Jack E. Magee, USN(Ret.), Letter to the Author dated 1 June 1993, p. 2.

the US Navy and other NATO navies up until 1959, when the Navy phased out the radar picket program, including destroyer-based radar pickets, and the Migraine Program entirely, in favor of airborne early warning aircraft.

Of the 10 submarines converted to the various Migraine configurations, most would become training ships and would be scrapped at the end of their service life. In the case of REQUIN, she was converted to a Fleet Snorkel at the end of the Migraine Program in 1959, receiving the high plastic (fiberglass) sail common to the Guppy m configuration, and would continue in active service until December 1968. After serving as a Naval Reserve Trainer until 1971 , she languished as a tourist attraction in Tampa, Florida until 1990, when she received a new lease on life and was moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. There, REQUIN remains one of the most popular tourist attractions in the area.

Submarine Warfare in World War 11-USS POMPANO (SS 181)“, an exhibit now in the Kentucky Military History Museum, Old State Arsenal, Frankfort, KY. The exhibit examines the role of submarines in the Allied victory with emphasis on the USS POMPANO, designated as the World War II Memorial Submarine of Kentucky. The exhibit runs through August 31, 1995.

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