for Submariners

by Hamilton 1:1 Communications, LLC

Migraine I SSR Conversion - Radar Picket

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Towards the end of the Second World War, the Navy started kicking around the idea of using submarines as early warning radar platforms, which would extend the much needed radar coverage for surface formations. In addition to the early warning, it was thought that the boats would help to direct friendly aircraft towards enemy contacts.

Early on, it was thought that these radar pickets would operate in pairs or at least close enough so that their radar coverage would overlap each other. This redundancy would come into play if one of the boats had to dive in order to evade enemy aircraft, the other boat would take over until the other boat could surface again and resume coverage of the threat axis.

The first boats to undergo the conversion to a radar picket were Requin (SS-481) and Spinax (SS-489), the latter of which was still on the building ways in Portsmouth. Both boats were mounted with high-powered SR-2 search radars, located on its own mast abaft the conning tower and SV-2 height finders were then installed on the deck further aft. Homing beacons, acting as reference points for combat air patrols, were also installed on deck.
The radar equipment and the associated electronics for the newly developed CIC were then located in the after torpedo room. Because the four torpedo tubes had not been removed it resulted in a seriously cramped compartment and required the after tubes to be reloaded externally. Additional air conditioning and an extra motor-generator were also part of the conversion. If routine maintenance in the compartment had been difficult before, it was now a serious pain in the ass. ("MIGRAINE", as in excruciatingly painful headaches)

Although both the Requin and Spinax were relatively successful in their new roles, from the very start the conversion showed flaws that were hard to ignore or overlook. Because of the submarines’ low silhouettes, the effective range of the radars was seriously handicapped and breaking seas over the deck aft caused nightmares with the SV-2 height finders.

But in spite of these flaws, the Navy’s need for radar picket vessels forced them to continue the development of the program and BuShips tagged the follow-on program as Project MIGRAINE. You got to love it.

MIGRAINE I Conversions:

The conversions of TIGRONE (SS-419) and BURRFISH (SS-312) saw the crew’s mess and galley modified into the CIC, with the tubes being removed in the ATR so that it could be used for berthing. Two tubes were removed in the FTR to make room for more equipment and storage. The AN/BPS-2 search radar was moved to a mast on the after part of the conning tower, with the height finder just abaft that on its own mast.

USS Burrfish (SSR-312) Balao Class

USS Burrfish (SSR-312) Migraine I

USS Burrfish (SS-312) was launched 18 June 1943 by Portsmouth Navy Yard, and commissioned 14 September 1943.

Burrfish arrived at Pearl Harbor from her last war patrol 13 May 1945. On 16 May she was ordered to return to the United States for major overhaul and arrived at Portsmouth Navy Yard 19 June. On 12 October 1945 she reported to New London, Conn., for inactivation and was placed out of commission in reserve 10 October 1946.

On 2 November 1948 Burrfish was recommissioned and assigned to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard for conversion to a radar picket submarine. Her designation was changed to (SSR-312) on 27 January 1949 and her conversion was completed in November 1949.

On 5 June 1956 Burrfish sailed from Norfolk to New London where she reported for inactivation. She was placed out of commission in reserve 17 December 1956.

Burrfish received five battle stars for her World War II service.

Boats Converted:

USS Burrfish (SS-312) (Balao)
USS Tigrone (SS-419) (Tench)
(This is a B&W image created using four color for density)




312' length
27' 4” Beam
1,525 tons Surfaced Displacement
2,410 tons Submerged Displacement


4 x 21” TT Bow
1 x 40mm Deck Gun (Removed later


SS Radar
SV-1 Radar
SV-2 Radar
AN/BPS-2 Radar
YE-2 Homing Beacon