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USS Narwhal (SSN-671)

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Awarded:28 July 1964
Laid down:17 January 1966
Launched:9 September 1967
Commissioned:12 July 1969
Fate:donated as a museum and memorial
Stricken:1 July 1999
General Characteristics
Displacement:4948 tons light, 5293 tons full, 345 tons dead
Length:92.3 meters (303 feet)
Beam:10 meters (33 feet)
Draft:9.4 meters (31 feet)
Powerplant:S5G reactor
Complement:12 officers, 95 men
Armament:four 21-inch torpedo tubes
USS Narwhal (SSN-671), a unique submarine, was the third ship of the United States Navy to be named for the narwhal, a gray and white arctic whale that averages 20 feet in length, each of the males of which have single, long, twisted tusk. Her keel was laid down on 17 January 1966 by the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics Corporation, in Groton, Connecticut. She was launched on 9 September 1967 sponsored by Mrs. Glynn R. Donaho, and commissioned on 12 July 1969 with Commander W. A. Matson in command.

Much of Narwhal's design was based on the Sturgeon class of attack submarine, but her powerplant and engineroom was unlike any other. Elements of her propulsion were incorporated in later ship classes, especially the Ohios, but no other submarine has used all of Narwhal's innovations, which included a natural circulation reactor plant, scoop seawater injection, and a directly-coupled main turbine. The result was the quietest submarine of her era.

Narwhal was fitted with a "turtleback" structure just forward of her rudder that may have been used for remote-controlled underwater vehicles, or for housing an experimental towed sonar array.

Little information about Narwhal's career is available. It was not an uneventful career; it included a very heavy deployment rate interrupted only by three overhauls (two involving reactor refueling). Those deployments earned Narwhal a Navy Unit Commendation for a 1972 deployment, and Meritorious Unit Commendations for operations in 1971, 1977 and 1979. She also earned five Battle Efficiency "Es," four Engineering "Es," and awards of the Anti-Submarine Warfare "A," the Communications "C" and the Supply "E."

Narwhal sustained minor damage on 22 September 1989 when Hurricane Hugo hit Charleston, South Carolina. The boat was moored with nine double wires and two three-inch ship's lines in preparation for the storm. All but one of the lines parted during the first half of the storm, and the boat drifted into the Cooper River. Tugboats and Narwhal's crew tried unsuccessfully to move the submarine back to the pier before the second half of the storm. As the storm resumed, Narwhal submerged in the river and rode out the remainder of the hurricane with only part of her sail exposed.

Narwhal was deactivated, while still in commission, on 16 January 1999 in Norfolk, Virginia. She was decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 1 July 1999, and entered the Navy's Nuclear Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program in Bremerton, Washington on 1 October 2001.

See USS Narwhal for other ships of the same name.


This article includes information collected from the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.