Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

USS Triton (SSRN-586)

(insert image and caption here)
Laid down:29 May 1956
Launched:19 August 1958
Commissioned:10 November 1959
Fate:submarine recycling
Struck:30 April 1986
General Characteristics
Displacement:5800 tons surfaced, 7900 tons submerged
Length:447 feet
Beam:37 feet
Draft:23.5 feet
Power Planttwo S4G reactors
Speed:20.5 knots
Depth:700 feet
Complement:159 officers and men
Armament:six (four bow, two stern) 21-inch torpedo tubes
USS Triton (SSRN/SSN-586), a unique vessel, was the second submarine and the fifth ship of the United States Navy to be named for Triton, a Greek demigod of the sea who was the son of Poseidon and Amphitrite. Her keel was laid down on 29 May 1956 in Groton, Connecticut, by the Electric Boat Division of the General Dynamics Corporation. She was launched on 19 August 1958 sponsored by Mrs. John Will, and commissioned on 10 November 1959 with Captain Edward L. Beach in command.

Triton was designed in the mid-1950s as a radar picket submarine able to operate at high speed, on the surface, ahead of a task force, providing intelligence information, electronic surveillance, and to control fighter aircraft interception. Triton would then submerge to avoid attack and operate as a fully operational submarine. To achieve this high speed, Triton was designed with two reactor propulsion plants (the only United States nuclear submarine ever to have been thus built), a knife-like bow, and a high reserve buoyancy. She was the last submarine to have a conning tower (a water-tight compartment built into the sail). She was also the last American submarine to have twin screws or stern torpedo room.

Until the commissioning of the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines, Triton was the longest submarine ever built by the Navy. Her length presented Electric Boat with many problems during her construction. She was so long that her bow obstructed the slipways railway facility used for transporting material around the yard, so the lower half of her bow was cut away and re-attached just days prior to her launch. Similarly, the last 50 feet of her stern had to be built on an adjoining slipway and added before she was launched. Her sail was found to be too high to go under the scaffolding, so the top 12 feet of the sail were cut away and re-attached later.

Triton put to sea on her shakedown cruise on 15 February 1960, bound for the South Atlantic. She arrived in the middle Atlantic off St. Peter and St. Paul Rocks on 24 February to commence a history-making voyage. Having remained submerged since her departure from the east coast, Triton continued on south towards Cape Horn, rounded the tip of South America and headed west across the Pacific. After transiting the Philippine and Indonesian archipelagoes and crossing the Indian Ocean, she rounded the Cape of Good Hope and arrived off the St. Peter and Paul Rocks on 10 April -- 60 days and 21 hours after departing the mid-ocean landmark. Only once did her sail break the surface of the sea, when she transferred a sick sailor to heavy cruiser Macon (CA-132) off Montevideo, Uruguay, on 5 March. She arrived back at Groton, Connecticut, on 10 May, having completed the first submerged circumnavigation of the earth. Triton received the Presidential Unit Citation and Captain Beach received the Legion of Merit from President of the United States Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Following her post-shakedown availability, Triton assumed her duties as a radar picket submarine in August 1960. She was then deployed to European waters with the Second Fleet to participate in NATO exercises. She climaxed the deployment with a port visit to Bremerhaven, West Germany.

For the first half of 1961, Triton conducted operational patrols and training exercises with the Atlantic Fleet. During this period, the rising threat posed by Soviet submarine forces increased the Navy's demands for nuclear-powered attack submarines with antisubmarine warfare (ASW) capability. Accordingly, upon the demise of the Navy's radar picket submarine program, Triton was redesignated to hull classification symbol SSN-586 on 1 March 1961 and entered the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in June 1962 for conversion to an attack submarine. Her crew complement was reduced from 172 men to 159. The Navy had no plans to use her radar picket capability, but she still carried her BPS-2 search radar and could have fulfilled this role. She was overhauled and refueling at Groton, Connecticut, from September 1962 to January 1964.

In March 1964, upon completion of this overhaul, Triton's home port was changed from New London, Connecticut, to Norfolk, Virginia. On 13 April 1964, Triton became the flagship for the Submarine Force, Atlantic Fleet, and served in that role until relieved by submarine Ray (SSN-653) on 1 June 1967. Eleven days later, Triton was shifted to her original home port of New London.

Because of cutbacks in defense spending, Triton's scheduled 1967 overhaul was cancelled indefinitely, and the submarine -- along with 60 other vessels -- was scheduled for inactivation. From October 1968 through May of 1969, the submarine underwent preservation and inactivation processes and was decommissioned on 3 May 1969. On 6 May, Triton departed New London under tow and proceeded to Norfolk where she was placed in the inactive fleet. She remained berthed at Norfolk into 1980.

Triton received both a Presidential Unit Citation and a Navy Unit Commendation during her service with the fleet.

On 30 April 1986, ex-Triton was stricken from the Naval Vessel Registry and the hulk was tied up at Bremerton, Washington, awaiting her turn through the Nuclear Powered Ship and Submarine Recycling Program.

See USS Triton for other ships of the same name.


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