USS Grayling (SSN-646)

Awarded: 5 September 1962
Laid down: 12 May 1964
Launched: 22 June 1967
Commissioned: 11 October 1969
Fate: submarine recycling
Stricken: 18 July 1997
General characteristics
Displacement: 3956 tons light, 4252 tons full, 296 tons dead
Length: 88 meters (289 feet)
Beam: 9.7 meters (32 feet)
Draft: 8.8 meters (29 feet)
Speed: 16 knots (standard)
Complement: 14 officers, 95 men
Armament: 4 x 21 in (533 mm) torpedo tubes
USS Grayling (SSN-646), a Sturgeon-class submarine, was the fifth ship of the United States Navy to be named for the grayling, a fresh-water game fish closely related to the trout.

Her keel was laid down at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, on 12 May 1964. She was launched on 22 June 1967 sponsored by Miss Lori Brinker, daughter of Lieutenant Commander Robert Brinker, who commanded Grayling (SS-209) when she was lost in September 1943. Grayling (SSN-646) was commissioned on 11 October 1969. The first Commanding Officer was Charles R. Baron.

On 20 March 1993, Grayling collided with K-407 Borisoglebsk, a Delfin-class ballistic missile submarine (NATO reporting name "Delta-IV") commanded by Captain First Rank Andrei Bulgarkov.

The Borisoglebsk, a ballistic missile sub, was performing combat training tasks at the site 100 miles to the north of the area of the aforementioned collision. The northern border of the designated area approached, the Borisoglebsk turned back. Her velocity was only four knots. Twenty-five minutes later the Borisglebsk felt impact, some screeching noise followed, and acoustics reported noises of a foreign submarine close by. The intruder kicked up its velocity to 23 knots to clear the area. Investigation uncovered that the USS Grayling had been tracking the Borisoglebsk from a position 155-165 degrees to the left and from the distance of between eleven and thirteen kilometers. The Grayling lost contact with the Russian submarine when the latter changed course. To reacquire, she rushed to the location of contact loss with the velocity of eight to ten knots or between fifteen and eighteen point five kph.

There is a certain acoustic phenomenon and seasoned submariners know it. In the sector of 30 to 40 aft degrees submarine noises (screws, turbines, circulation pumps, and autonomous generators) are screened by the hull which creates a sort of "acoustic channel". From above, noise diagram of a submarine resembles a squirrel in form. That is why when two submarine approach one another head-on, each detects the other when the distance is haphazardly small. Acoustics of the Grayling detected the Borisoglebsk by the method of noise triangulation (the major method of detection in all navies because it provides stealth) at the distance of about a kilometer. With the distance closing and the combat information center still trying to decide on the best way of avoiding a collision, captain of the Grayling saw from what data was available that a collision was inevitable. All his attempts to change course and surface were thwarted by momentum of the submarine and a collision followed. Fortunately, the blow connected with the upper structure and the Borisoglebsk did not sustain any serious damage.

In 1994 the Sandlance, moored in front of the Grayling in Charleston, almost sank next to the pier due to flooding in the engine room lower level (ERLL) when a main seawater hull valve was being removed for maintenance. The plates, called blanks, which are placed over the hull penetrations by divers, were placed over the wrong main seawater openings. The flooding was stopped, but not before most of the ERLL was flooded.

Reports that Grayling had to be "written off" after this collision are exaggerated; in June 1996, Grayling took part in Exercise TAPON 96, an allied exercise held in the Alboran Sea, Gulf of Cadiz, and the eastern Atlantic Ocean, along with destroyer USS Conolly (DD-979), the Spanish aircraft carrier SPS Principe de Austurias (R-11), Spanish frigates SPS Baleares (F-71), SPS Santa Maria (F-81), SPS Numancia (F83), the Spanish submarine SPS Delfin (S-61), and the Greek destroyer HS Formion (D-220).

Grayling was deactivated on 1 March 1997, placed in commission in reserve on 8 March as she entered the Ship and Submarine Recycling Program, decommissioned and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 18 July 1997, and ceased to exist on 31 March 1998. Grayling's sail is now a memorial on the grounds of Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Maine. Grayling's anchor and chain are also on display as a memorial in downtown Grayling, Michigan.


This article includes information collected from the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.

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