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USS Parche

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  • USS Parche

    My attempt at deciphering various hints. Thanks to members here who helped get it this far.

    Reasonably comfortable it's broadly correct but waiting for someone to tel me where it's wrong. There are a few things I left out and some artist licence of course.

    Write up
    Covert Shores >

  • #2
    Excellent illustration!


    • #3
      Nice! Chris Nutting made a beautiful model of Parche several years ago. There is a build thread on the forum somewhere. I know he spent a ton of time researching the subject.



      • #4
        I have old once sensitive Navy arrangement drawings of USS Halibut (SSN - 587) (formally SSGN587) showing similar interior arrangements. The same access hatches for special operations and cables for a number rof uses, for ROV cameras, and laying of sea cables. Parche laid a amazing underwater cable from Russia to Iceland covertly underwater!

        This special underwater cable gave the national command authorities a wiretap in real time into the Soviet command structure. This was hoped to be able to have a bug in the same room essentially with Soviet leaders if they were preparing for a nuclear war. The 1980's was a period of dramatic and often game (or war changing) significance. The US Navy lost much secrecy through the Walker family spy fiascos (US Naval Intelligence) and Ronald Pelton (NSA Traitor) , and at this same time, we had these special amazing game changing submarines too.

        Parche holds the record -
        9 Presidential Unit Citations
        10 Navy Unit Commendations
        13 Navy Expeditionary Medals

        Most proudly, it was our local former Mare island NSY that was the specialist in these huge extensive 'Car chopping modifications'. MI NSY did all the reconstruction of Halibut and Parche. Imagine the books and articles still left to be written someday about all this!

        I was aware of these mods on Parche below the water line over a decade ago. The information was from former Mare island yard workers. But what they described they would only give general verbal descriptions and never draw anything down committed on paper. The Parche illustration looks plausible and just about right. It got to a point, where I began to research only foreign submarines as model subjects. Someones model building ego wasn't worth compromising our nation and our service men. It was better to sit on information and just be quietly amazed.

        I imagine the USS Jimmy Carter has similar even more advanced equipment and capability but with all of Parches bulges and bumps all concealed in her extended clean hull.

        Last edited by Reichmuth; 12-03-2016, 02:46 PM.


        • #5
          What a great illustration. I just printed it out.
          You can count on Performer 8 for great results.


          • #6
            Thanks all!

            I now wonder if instead of stegs it had wheels? Or tracks?
            Covert Shores >


            • #7
              Originally posted by Covert Shores View Post
              My attempt at deciphering various hints. Thanks to members here who helped get it this far.

              Reasonably comfortable it's broadly correct but waiting for someone to tel me where it's wrong. There are a few things I left out and some artist licence of course.

              Write up
              A parche upgrade for the Micro-Mir Sturgeon kit was recently made.

              A post from FineScaleModeler:

              Mike Fuller, running a Shapeways shop named Mulsanne's Corner has designed a 3D printed conversion which is used to modify the MicroMir Long-hull Sturgeon into the covert-ops Parche.
              Check out USS Parche SSN-683 Special Ops version 1/350 scale by mike962 on Shapeways and discover more 3D printed products in Ships.

              Looks good but runs almost 80 bucks after shipping.
              there is a great PDF there on how to install etc.


              • #8

                Just joined the Forum yesterday and have been looking around at the various Forum topics. This one caught my eye.

                For many years I have been interested in the Cold War US Special Projects submarines. I've read Sherry Sontag's Blind Man's Bluff several times, as well as CAPT John Maurer's Sea Stories. Several years ago, I ran across this diagram of USS Parche's final configuration at H. I. Sutton's Covert Shores website. I was wondering what his source(s) of information were? Does anyone here in this forum know him personally? Frankly, I have serious misgivings of some of the vessel's below-the-waterline details from an ocean engineering perspective.

                Last edited by GabesDad; 09-08-2022, 10:42 AM.


                • #9
                  You can ask him directly....he is the person that started the thread.
                  If you can cut, drill, saw, hit things and swear a lot, you're well on the way to building a working model sub.


                  • #10
                    It's a guess on his part about "Below the Waterline" details. I do share your concerns about the representation above. My own view is that the representation of the gondola storage area under the hull as being roughly 200 feet long would add a lot of wetted area drag, and I can't imagine what the saturation divers would collect enough material that would require that much storage space. Speaking with one of the Halibut divers back in 2002, they were picking up smaller pieces of Russian cruise missiles and other objects that had impacted the water and broken into pieces. I'm not sure why you would need the length of three tractor trailers to store items that were in smaller pieces. Also, the aft ballast tanks for the Sturgeons are in a necked in area around the auxiliary machinery spaces, just aft of the reactor compartment. The tank flood grates are on either side of the bottom centerline in that area, which would be occluded by the lengthy underhull extension. I suppose you could engineer around them, but the drag problem would still be there, with an attendant increase in flow noise (not recommended for submarines operating close in).

                    MiKroMir is about to release two kits of Parche in 1/350 scale. One is the earlier "pre-extension" version and the other the later one, pretty much as portrayed above. I think those individuals who really know about the Parche modifications aren't talking (and they shouldn't!). But one did post recently that if the information ever emerges, there are going to be a lot of red faces and embarrassment among some posters on the internet.

                    "Nuf said"- Stan Lee


                    • #11
                      Oops. My bad. I didn't look far enough down the thread!

                      I'll address my concerns in reply to his initial post.

                      Last edited by GabesDad; 09-08-2022, 10:43 AM.


                      • #12
                        USS Parche happens to be a something of a passion for me. She represents the epitome of the Cold War submarine, and her unit commendations are justified.

                        To clarify some things first, any comments I make in this thread are based on the premise that Blind Man's Bluff (BMB—Sherry Sontag and Christopher Drew, Public Affairs, New York, 1998) is Gospel, even though there are known errors and omissions in the narrative. Other information to be presented must be strictly from open sources or is based on reasonable assumptions regarding general naval architecture and oceanographic principles that will be presented as evidence for a particular view. This topic is not intended to encourage former crew members or others associated with the Special Projects programs to divulge information they pledged to protect.

                        The Covert Shores Parche diagram is a compilation of features that are conjectures based on mission capabilities that have been publicly surmised (unless the artist had input from sources that actually knew something about the hull configuration). Another word for a "conjecture" is a S.W.A.G., or "scientific wild-assed guess." That being said, I think we can apply some scientifically-sound assumptions and estimates to the problem.

                        My reason for bringing these issues up is that I know how much effort goes into making an accurate model. I've seen several models online that reflect the referenced Parche diagram. It would be disheartening to realize that all that work resulted in a modeled configuration that would be unlikely in the real world. I'm hoping that a collaborative effort here will result in a refined conjecture, which will give modelers a sense that what they created could be a reasonable representation of reality, and all without consciously compromising classified information. I realize this approach is somewhat contrary to classified information security, but if we strictly adhered to this practice, then technically any model or diagram of these ships would show nothing but a smooth cylindrical hull below the waterline, or be a waterline model alone.

                        If the Admins here believe this topic goes beyond the bounds of prudence, then please advise.

                        Here are the topic areas of concern to me:

                        1. The existence of retractable or fixed skegs in Parche's original and final Special Projects configurations.
                        2. The effect of a "gondola" (if that is the right term—and if it existed) and its mass on ship's reserve buoyancy.
                        3. Gondola interference with important hull penetrations.
                        4. Lack of mushroom anchor{s} evident in the diagram. If they existed, their locations and sizes.
                        5. Location and number of thrusters.
                        6. Developing accurate plans for the DSRV Simulator for Parche's unstretched configuration. This would apply to Halibut as well.
                        7. Identifying what is sticking out of the towed array tube in the diagram.

                        Let the debates begin!


                        P.S. Details relating to mission-specific or diver-related features not discussed in BMB will not be considered.
                        Last edited by GabesDad; 09-08-2022, 10:44 AM. Reason: Fixing garbles and minor text edits.


                        • #13
                          "I'm hoping that a collaborative effort here will result in a refined conjecture, which will give modelers a sense that what they created could be a reasonable representation of reality, and all without consciously compromising classified information."

                          I'm not sure that more conjectures are going to arrive any closer to whatever the reality of Parche's two designs were. Those who do know can't say. Heck, you can't even get any information on the Seawolf (SSN 575) Special Projects conversion, and Seawolf was deactivated almost 20 years before Parche. In fact, I think I shaved with some of her old hull metal this morning. The skegs, as far as I know, were definitely placed on Seawolf after she got caught in bottom muck and had great difficulty breaking free. They were definitely placed on Halibut as well (private communication). It's probable that the lesson was carried forward on Parche. As far as retractable, retractable into where? These would be welded onto the pressure hull itself to support the hull on the bottom. I suppose they could be retractable if one thinks that the 200 foot long (my estimate based on Parche's roughly 400+ ft length after modification) fairing (gondola) was added to the submarine. I have already outlined above why I think that the installation, as depicted in Hal's drawing, is probably too large. There was most probably some external storage in that area, as the divers had certain items that would need storage space and they did no have above hull superstructure storage space as on Halibut or Seawolf. And if they were going to collect material (expended Russian missile pieces, etc.) from the bottom, they would need some are for storage. But the length would exceed that of 3 tractor trailers.

                          I recently saw a model on the internet where the modeler placed the bow and stern thrusters at maximum hull diameter horizontal locations, such that they would be passing through the pressure hull. Not very likely! Seawolf's thrusters were visible as they were installed in the superstructure area above the pressure hull that was free flooding. Not so with the Sturgeon design, since there is no superstructure area on the deck. Maybe in pods below the hull? Or maybe she just used her extendable SPM for maneuvering her hull into place.

                          The mushroom anchors on the Sturgeons were at the stern. You could fit another, I suppose, in the bow ballast tank area if you needed two to stabilize the boat while on the bottom. The pressure hull at the bow of the Sturgeons necked in to create the ballast tank between the pressure and outer hulls; it did not in the subsequent Los Angeles class.

                          In the case of Halibut, the divers had a fine meshed net system to place larger items they had collected from the bottom. This net was slung under the hull and could be ratcheted up against the hull to tighten it. As far as I know, this was the "gondola" in that specific case. Makes sense, as there would only be drag once the net had material in it.

                          The diver saturation chamber, labelled as the DSRV Simulator, was identical to Halibut's unit, since when Halibut was retired, the unit was lifted off of Halibut and installed on Parche. Externally, it's a fairly simple structure, based on an early version of SeaLab
                          I have several close in photos of it, which I shared with Blue Ridge Models when they made the resin kit of Halibut. At some point, the fake stern fins and ring were removed from the chamber while on Parche.

                          So, Hal's drawing has a lot of guesstimates built into it. And good for him to give it a try! At least we now have something to think about. My own opinion is that if you are adding a 100 foot section you would try to minimize any other drag, as you are greatly increasing the wetted hull surface area, and hence drag. I don't know what accommodations were necessary to insure that there was still sufficient reserve buoyancy in the new design, either. But more weight of a large installation would eat into any margins. We know that the installation on the upper hull (the hump) is minimal and streamlined; my guess is that it routes some essential lines around the pressure hull section for some reason. But that's a guess; maybe it is a holding tank for sharks with frick'in laser beams on their heads.

                          As I mentioned above, I believe that the upcoming polystyrene MikroMir kits will be based largely on Hal's Parche drawings. So, for a relatively small cost, you should be able to buy a couple of these and build one as above and maybe due a chop shop job on the lower hull "gondola" Sounds like fun to me. I'll review the kits in the SCR once I can get my hands on them....


                          • #14
                            Here's a drawing of the forthcoming MikroMir versions of Parche, before and after the hull addition:

                            Click image for larger version

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                            • #15

                              Hey Tom.

                              Thanks for your extensive response. This is the kind of discussion I hope we can generate on this topic. Let's see more participants!

                              I agree that ill-informed conjectures have little hope of producing something approaching the truth in any arena. However, regarding the topic of Special Project Submarine hull configuration, which, by definition cannot be validated without accessing classified factual data, we can still apply our collective reasoning to imagining a more likely configuration than may be currently available. The Covert Shores illustrations and MikroMir models are, at best, guesses (at least below the waterline). Why not try to make better guesses?

                              I take it that Mr. Sutton's first name is "Hal?" I tried to find his full name on the Web but must have been looking in the wrong places. Is he the artist of the illustrations on the Covert Shores website? He deserves a lot of credit for those images. I hope this thread meets his expectations for critiquing his concepts presented back in 2016. If anyone can contact him directly, it would be profitable to include him in this discussion so we can understand the choices that were made in the illustrations on his website.


                              Probably one of the larger concerns I have with the Covert Shores diagram of Parche are the ski-like legs, or "skegs" as first mentioned by name in Blind Man's Bluff (BMB) on p. 226. What were the purpose(s) of the skegs? Some background first...

                              Most submarines are designed to have their seawater system suctions located well below the waterline and as close to the keel as practicable (but not at the keel/centerline, since keel blocks in dry dock would cover them up). These locations enhance seawater system pump performance. When on the surface, seawater suctions located well away from the waterline provide the greatest sea pressure to the pumps, which maximizes pump net positive suction head (NPSH). Pump impeller cavitation is reduced and pumping efficiency is maximized. Particularly when underway on the surface, the vagaries of water depth next to the hull due to wake and changes in wave height can cause wide variations in NPSH and pump performance. Other problems include ingesting air from wave action, which these deeper suction locations minimize.

                              However, if a submarine's hull is resting directly on the bottom, these seawater suctions would be within inches of the seabed surface. Inflowing water picks up sand, mud, shells, and organisms, and carries them into the seawater systems, clogging heat exchangers, and damaging pump bearings and pump shaft packings. This is exactly what was described in BMB, pp. 228–230 when Seawolf experienced her typhoon while on the mooring. And that is why submarines are not intended to bottom except under emergency tactical situations.

                              Therefore, to provide a sufficient bottom standoff height to avoid such problems, according to BMB, Special Project Mission Designers either moored the boat well above the bottom (Halibut) on anchors or provided skegs (Seawolf). Seawolf, being the second boat to enter the world of cable-tapping, evidently received her skegs first during her hull extension conversion in 1971 or sometime thereafter. Halibut received her "sleighlike feet" (BMB, p. 182) during an upgrade around 1973 after her horrific experience during a bad storm (pp. 180,181) while moored only by her anchors.

                              The question is, did Parche, which went through her first conversion overhaul years later ending in 1978, also receive skegs as shown in the Covert Shores illustrations? To start with, nowhere in BMB is there any mention of skegs relating to Parche. However, arguing from silence is not a way to prove a point! The writers may have not known, or it wasn't an important detail to them in the narrative.

                              From an ocean engineering perspective, skegs are not the ideal solution to maintain hull standoff when moored on the ocean bottom. The mechanical support and stability that skegs provide are related to:
                              • The distance between them,
                              • Their length in contact with the bottom,
                              • The amount of surface area in contact with the bottom,
                              • The loading imposed by the skeg on the seabed (a function of net submarine weight),
                              • And, the character and stability of the seabed itself.
                              According to the information available from Wikipedia, the submerged displacements of all three boats after conversion were very roughly around 5,000 tons. (This probably underestimates Parche's final displacement.) If a skeg was shaped in a flat, water-ski like form as shown in the Covert Shores diagrams, it would have a somewhat larger contact surface than, say, a cylindrical form. The weight of the submerged vessel would be spread out over a larger area and the surface loading (lb/sq ft) on the seabed would be lower. Of course, this loading could be adjusted by the amount of variable ballast taken in by the boat, so the actual footprint weight could vary from ship to ship, and even day to day as internal water inventory changed. The amount of ballast to be used when bottomed may have been calculated and specified by Mission Designers, or the crew may have determined the desired amount ballast taken in on a case basis.

                              Regardless of their design, skegs would tend to concentrate the weight of the boat on relatively narrow strips of seabed, which greatly increased the local load imposed on the seabed compared to other possible methods of support.

                              The bottom line is this: the seabed is a hydrosol of sand, gravel, clay, and organic matter. Too much weight on the skegs, and the boat sinks into the mud; too little weight, and the boat risks lifting off the bottom, shifting position, or at least rocking due to currents or wave action*. Such motion could hazard the divers while they were working outside. The rocking action is particularly a problem with skegs because the rocking action tends to quickly work the skeg into the mud, as Seawolf experienced during her typhoon.

                              I think that when we discuss in a future post the need for something like the under-hull gondola shown in the Covert Shores illustration, as well as obvious limitations on the size, shape, and arrangement of such a gondola, we will be able to conclude that Parche had no need for skegs.


                              *Regarding water motion related to deep-water ocean waves, the rule of thumb is that all water motion from wave action ceases at a depth equal to about one-half the wavelength of the surface waves. So at a mooring depth of 400 feet as stated in BMB, the waves would have to have been more than 800 feet crest-to-crest! Such long waves would result only from the worst storms with long fetches. I recall rolling in a boomer on patrol in the North Atlantic winter storm at a depth of more than 400 feet, so I can relate to these issues.​
                              Last edited by GabesDad; 09-07-2022, 02:31 PM. Reason: Removing garbles and improving clarity.