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    Re: conning tower with a memorable number
    From: Frank Reed
    Date: 2009 Nov 9, 16:10 -0800

    Sorry everybody. I know this is off-topic, but I can't resist.
    Thanks for the photo! That's all that's left of USS Hawkbill, SSN 666, 
    launched in 1969 and decommissioned and scrapped in 2000. So far, not a 
    single US nuclear sub has been saved from scrapping except the very first, 
    the USS Nautilus. Around a hundred US nuclear subs have been scrapped since 
    the Berlin Wall fell, just twenty years ago.
    And now a brief interlude on sub jargon... I hope our resident submariner, 
    Byron Franklin, will correct me if I screw anything up. :-)
    The structure from USS Hawkbill in your photo is a "sail" (or a "fin" outside 
    the USA), rather than a conning tower. The conning tower from a purist 
    perspective was the small pressurized compartment mounted on top of the main 
    pressure hull and used for fire control and surface navigation. It was the 
    primary operational center, and this is where the sophisticated 
    electro-mechanical torpedo fire control computers were found during the 
    Second World War. In older boats, the conning tower was usually surrounded by 
    a "fairwater" with various storage compartments, gunmounts, railings, doors, 
    and the supports for the periscopes. Though technically not the conning 
    tower, this external structure was often called the conning tower even by 
    submariners. After the Second World War, the ornate "fairwater," a major 
    source of drag at any speed underwater, was replaced with a clean "sail" 
    which is a relatively simple streamlined fairing. To confuse matters, during 
    a transitional period, some post-war boats also had a small conning tower 
    inside the sail, but in this era, the name was not extended to the external 
    structure -- they had sails with conning towers inside of them. The very 
    large submarine USS Triton launched in 1958 was the last US sub designed with 
    a conning tower. Since then, all subs in the US Navy have had sails without 
    any pressurized compartments within them. Note that these sails are really 
    external structures. They have supports for the periscopes, radar and other 
    masts, some have dive planes projecting out to the sides, and the sails have 
    bridge positions for coastal piloting operations, but the sail is not 
    accessible when the sub is submerged (it floods).
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