for Submariners

by Hamilton 1:1 Communications, LLC

USS Seawolf (SSN-575)
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USS Seawolf (SSN-575)


USS Seawolf (SSN-575), a unique submarine, was the third ship of the United States Navy to be named for the Seawolf, the second nuclear submarine, and the only U.S. submarine built with a liquid metal cooled (sodium) nuclear reactor.

Comparison to Nautilus

was technologically more advanced than her predecessor, USS Nautilus (SSN-571). Carrying a superheated steam power-plant, rather than a traditional satrurated steam plant, reduced the size of the machinery spaces nearly 40%. Her liquid-sodium cooled reactor was more efficient than a water-cooled one, and quieter, but posed several safety hazards for the ship and crew. The phrase "Blue Haze" was often associated with the boat, even though there was only one sodium coolant leak ever noted, and that was while she was fitting out in the yards.

Although fully armed, Seawolf, like the first nuclear submarine, Nautilus, was primarily an experimental vessel. Seawolf was originally thought of publicly as a 'hunter-killer' sub, but in fact was intended to be a one off test platform for the LMSR reactor and future sonar platforms. Her future uses, however, would include covert operations in foreign waters, the likes of which were never envisioned by Admiral Rickover.

Initial construction

Seawolf's keel was laid down 7 September 1953 She was launched on 21 July 1955 sponsored by Mrs. W. Sterling Cole, and commissioned on 30 March 1957 with Commander R. B. Laning in command.

Like all of the original nuclear subs, the project manager at Electric Boat was the General Manager of the company, in this case, the ubiquitous Bill Jones. During the parallel construction of the first nuclear submarines, the Navy, the Atomic Energy Commission, it's independent labs, and the shipyard all worked together to learn together.

For the yard, the Power Plant Project manager was a separate function on these original nukes. Dennis B. Boykin III would lead EB's power plant installation, and return to the project two years later for the conversion. His counterpart at the Office of Naval Reactors, Gardner Brown, did the same.

Lieutenant James Earl "Jimmy" Carter, the only U.S. President to qualify is submarines, was to be her Engineering Officer, but had resigned his commission upon the death of his father in 1953.

Seawolf returned to Electric Boat Company in Groton, Connecticut on 12 December 1958, for conversion of her power plant from a S2G sodium-cooled LMFR to a S2Wa PWR. She was out of commission until 30 September 1960. The Office of Naval Reactors had determined that the one-off superheated steam power-plant was too difficult to maintain, since the super-heaters were rarely operational. Constructed of rolled steel (vice forged steel), the super-heaters were usually unable to produce in sufficient quantity to operate the plant at full capacity.


General Dynamics, Electric Boat Division
Groton, Connecticut
3260 tons surfaced
4150 tons submerged
350 feet (103 m)
28 feet (8.5 m)
23 feet (7 m)
23 knots (43 km/h) surfaced,
19 knots (35 km/h) submerged
Sodium cooled nuclear reactor,
Converted in a pressurized water cooled reactor,
Twin Steam Turbine
6x 21 inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes