Over the past decades, the US Navy has constantly had special reconnaissance and special ships and submarines capable of obtaining information and solving other special tasks. One of the most notable combat units of this kind was the USS Parche submarine (SSN-683). Over the decades of the secret service, she participated in various operations many times, as a result of which she received the largest number of awards and honors in the history of the American navy.
The beginning of the way
The nuclear submarine USS Parche (SSN-683) was laid down at the end of 1970 and launched at the beginning of 1973. In August 1974, the ship was accepted into the combat composition of the Navy. The submarine was built according to the Sturgeon serial project and did not differ from the boats of the same type. She carried modern sonar equipment, as well as mine-torpedo and missile weapons. The main task of the boat was to search for and defeat underwater and surface targets.
USS Parche became part of the Atlantic Fleet's submarine forces based in Charleston, South Carolina. Already in 1974, the boat entered its first combat service. In the following years, she made several more trips to different areas, incl. to the Mediterranean Sea. As part of the exercises, firing was repeatedly carried out.
In 1976, the command decided to re-equip the USS Parche (SSN-683) combat submarine into a special-purpose ship. In this regard, in the fall, she was transferred to the Mare Island base in California, after which she was put on repair and modernization at a local shipyard. All this predetermined the further fate of the submarine, and also helped her to become one of the most interesting pennants of the US Navy.
The re-equipment of the USS Parche submarine was carried out as part of a secret project with a neutral name Ocean Engineering. The details of such a project are still closed, and only some of its features are known. In particular, we can only speak with confidence about external changes, but it is obvious that the boat has changed inside too.
The most notable innovation was the dummy of the DSRV Simulator underwater vehicle, installed in the aft part of the deck, directly on the emergency hatch. In fact, it was an airlock to ensure the work of the divers. The underwater part of the light hull was modified to receive additional volumes to accommodate special equipment. So, it is known about the installation of thrusters, which made it possible to accurately hold the ship in place.
According to known data, USS Parche has lost its standard torpedo and missile armament. At the same time, some of the torpedo tubes were saved for use with the produced hydroacoustic station, the so-called. Sonar Fish. Obviously, the composition of the onboard electronics has also changed in accordance with the new tasks.
A little later, during the next medium repair, a new noticeable innovation appeared. An additional casing of unknown purpose was placed behind the wheelhouse fence. According to various sources, there were means for supplying air or gas mixture to divers.
The modernization project involved the reorganization of the service. The submarine's crew was significantly reduced due to the abandonment of weapons and a change in tactical role. The remaining submariners were responsible for operating the systems and controlling the ship. At the same time, operators of special systems and combat swimmers appeared on board. Members of such a "composite" crew had different levels of security clearance.
In a new role
In 1978-79.the modernized nuclear submarine USS Parche (SSN-683) was tested and returned to the fleet. It is curious that the submarine still belonged to the Navy, but representatives of the DIA, CIA and NSA were now supposed to participate in its operation, depending on the specific task.
Soon, the submarine received a real mission. In 1979 she was recruited into Operation Ivy Bells. Several years earlier, American intelligence was able to locate the cables of the submarine communication lines of the Pacific and Northern fleets of the USSR. Special recording devices were installed on the cables, which had to be replaced from time to time.
A special submarine was supposed to secretly penetrate into the area where the cable was located and disembark the divers. The task of the latter was to dismantle the installed recording device and install a new one. According to various sources, USS Parche (SSN-683) managed to perform several such flights, but soon the operation was curtailed. In 1980, Soviet counterintelligence learned about the American devices and then dismantled them.
The loss of classified equipment led to the end of the Ivy Bells, but the special submarine continued to operate. She was repeatedly sent to different regions of the World Ocean to hold various events. For obvious reasons, the greatest activity was observed near the sea borders of the USSR.
It is known that from 1980 to 1987, the submarine performed at least 5-6 exits to the sea to solve real problems. Open sources mention the observation of the actions of the USSR Navy, the rise of drowned Soviet missiles and torpedoes, or other operations. At the same time, the details are still classified.
In 1987, the submarine was again put for repair and modernization, which lasted until 1991. The new renovation project involved not only re-equipping the ship, but also rebuilding its main structures. So, the casing behind the wheelhouse and the "underwater vehicle simulator" were removed from the deck. A 100-foot (approx. 30 m) long insert appeared in the bow of the sturdy and lightweight hull.
Apparently, the additional volumes of the hull were used to accommodate the airlock and other necessary units. In particular, the submarine could receive a new GAS Sonar Fish with its own exit camera, as well as other remotely controlled vehicles. It is planned to install new hydroacoustic and radio-electronic equipment.
In 1991-92. submarine USS Parche returned to service. Already in 1993, she again had to change her base. The Mare Island naval base was disbanded, and some of the ships, including the reconnaissance nuclear submarine, were transferred to the Kitsap base. Before and after this, the submarine repeatedly entered combat service and solved unnamed tasks.
Regular outings to the sea for certain events continued until the beginning of the 2000s. In October 2004, the USS Parche submarine was withdrawn from the fleet at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. In the summer of the following year, it was written off and sent for recycling. All the main structures were cut, but the wheelhouse was preserved. After restoration, it was installed as a historical monument in the Naval Museum in Bremerton.
For the time being, the US Navy was left without a submarine for special operations. However, at the beginning of 2005, a new nuclear submarine USS Jimmy Carter (SSN-23), built according to the modified Seawolf project, entered the fleet. She also received an additional section of the hull with a set of special equipment. It is assumed that this submarine solves the same tasks as the USS Parche, but at a new technical level.
For 25 years of service as a special ship, the submarine USS Parche (SSN-683) managed to make several dozen trips to different regions for different purposes. Much of the information about the service of the submarine and its results still remains closed. There is only a few pieces of information that make it possible to compose only the most general picture.
It is known that USS Parche monitored the ships and submarines of a potential enemy. She delivered combat swimmers and divers-engineers to the place of work, and also worked with special underwater equipment.The amount and nature of the information collected are unknown, and this does not allow for accurate estimates. However, it is clear that the data from USS Parche was used most actively by the military, the CIA and the NSA - and made a significant contribution to military construction and other projects.
The great importance of the reconnaissance submarine for national defense has been repeatedly noted with awards and incentives. During her service, the USS Parche was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation 9 times, the Navy Unit Commendation 10 times, 13 Naval Expeditionary Medals and the same number of Combat Efficiency Tapes (Navy E).
As a result, USS Parche (SSN-683) won the most awards in the history of the US Navy. Over the years, individual pennants have been able to come close to her performance, but the record has not yet been broken. This shows that a developed fleet needs not only combat ships, but also special ships - and in peacetime their work is of greater importance.