Unknown Waters: A Firsthand Account of the Historic Under-Ice Survey of the Siberian Continental Shelf by USS Queenfish (SSN-651)

By Alfred S. McLaren | Go to book overview

3
The Advent of the True Arctic Submarine

Queenfish was the first of thirty-seven nuclear-powered attack submarines specially built by the United States for operating within the perennial ice-covered regions of the Arctic and Antarctic on a year-round basis. The design and subsequent construction and outfitting of this unique Sturgeon class was the direct result of the culmination and marriage of two major undersea technological advances in the 1950s, both of whose origins can be traced as far back as the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.1

The first advance was that of the nuclear power plant, developed under the close supervision of Hyman Rickover, then captain (and later rear admiral), beginning in 1951. Nuclear power rendered the submarine capable of operating indefinitely beneath the sea without need to replenish its life-sustaining atmosphere, recharge its batteries, or refuel.2

The second and less well-known advance was the advent of the acoustic suite (consisting of all passive and active sonar equipment used for the detection and classification of potential targets, threats, or navigational hazards) and necessary submarine hull modifications that would enable a submarine to operate safely under the perennial sea ice of the polar regions. This innovation stemmed primarily from the vision and initiative of Dr. Waldo K. Lyon, a physicist then with the U.S. Navy Electronic Laboratory, Point Loma, California. Beginning in 1946, he directed an intensive period of research, development, and testing of submarine under-ice operating techniques and equipment on conventionally powered submarines, involv

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