USS Darter (SS-576)

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USS Darter
USS Darter, with the forward torpedo cradle raised (the three distinctive shark-fin domes are the PUFFS sonar).
United States
Name: USS Darter
Awarded: 30 June 1954
Builder: General Dynamics Electric Boat, Groton, Connecticut
Laid down: 10 November 1954
Launched: 28 May 1956
Commissioned: 20 October 1956
Decommissioned: 12 December 1989
Struck: 17 January 1990
Fate: Sunk as a target, 7 January 1992
General characteristics
Class & type: Submarine
  • 1,620 long tons (1,650 t) surfaced
  • 2,372 long tons (2,410 t) submerged
Length: 283 ft 3 in (86.33 m) o/a
  • 27 ft (8.2 m) overall
  • 25 ft (7.6 m) waterline
Draft: 19 ft (5.8 m)
Propulsion: Diesel-electric
  • 15.5 kn (17.8 mph; 28.7 km/h) surfaced
  • 16 kn (18 mph; 30 km/h) submerged
Test depth: 700 ft (210 m)
Complement: 10 officers, 75 men
Armament: 8 × 21 in (530 mm) torpedo tubes, (six forward, two aft)

USS Darter (SS-576), a unique submarine based on the Tang class, but incorporating many improvements, was the second ship of the United States Navy to be named for the darter (fish), a type of small American fresh-water fish closely related to the perch.

The contract to build Darter was awarded to the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics Corporation in Groton, Connecticut on 30 June 1954 and her keel was laid down on 10 November 1954. She was launched on 28 May 1956 sponsored by Mrs. G.L. Russell, and commissioned on 20 October 1956, with Lieutenant Commander Ralph R. Blaine in command.

Designed with sophisticated acoustic, electronic and fire control gear, Darter was intended to serve as a new generation of post-war ASW submarines, similar to USS Tang (SS-563). Darter was used to experiment with numerous innovations including a three-man helmsman-planesman station using aircraft-style stick controls.

Service history

Upon commissioning Darter operated on various training exercises in the Atlantic, both locally from her home port of Newport, Rhode Island, and on cruises to the West Indies, to Canada and Europe on NATO operations. Following an overhaul at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in 1959 she changed homeport to Charleston, South Carolina on 1 August 1959 and began training missions in support of the newly commissioned fleet ballistic submarines, providing ASW services for surface units in the West Indies and off Key West, Florida and serving as a platform for various CNO projects. In between these regular operations, Darter deployed to the Mediterranean for cruises in 1963 and 1967. She also received a major modernization overhaul at Charleston Naval Shipyard in 1965, receiving a 16-foot hull extension, new engines, new safety gear (SUBSAFE) and better electronic gear.

Shifting homeports again in 1971, she moved to San Diego, California, Darter made four Western Pacific (WestPac) deployments in support of 7th Fleet operations. While on one of these in 1978, the head valve failed to close while snorkeling, and the ship had to emergency surface among U.S. surface units participating in an antisubmarine warfare exercise. On 8 May 1979, Darter changed homeport again to Sasebo, Japan, where she operated as a forward-deployed submarine. She spent a decade there; conducting numerous joint operations with the Japanese, Korean, Thai, Malaysian, British and Australian navies, a number of special operations exercises and other operations throughout the Western Pacific.

In 1982 she underwent an overhaul at the U.S. Naval Base Subic Bay. In September 1985, Darter was submerged when the submarine collided with the merchant ship (tanker) Kansas Getty and its anchor chain near Pusan, Korea. Darter suffered some damage and was repaired at Sasebo, Japan. The tanker was undamaged.

Darter was decommissioned in Pearl Harbor on 1 December 1989 after serving over 33 years in the US Navy. Her career was one of the longest for a US Navy submarine.

She was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 17 January 1990. On 7 January 1992, ex-Darter was sunk as a target by USS Tautog (SSN-639) off Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.


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