USS Albuquerque 'sails' once more into namesake city
Albuquerque Journal August 22, 2022
(Tribune News Service) — When the nuclear-powered submarine USS Albuquerque was commissioned in 1983, then Mayor Harry Kinney jokingly offered the keys to a Rolls Royce to the first captain who could maneuver the sub up the Rio Grande for a port call in Albuquerque.
The keys were subsequently passed on to the skipper at each of 13 change-of-command ceremonies, according to history of the ship posted to a city website.
The keys eventually made their way back to the mayor's office in 2017, after it was decommissioned, and the submarine — or at least a large chunk of it — is expected to arrive in Albuquerque before the end of this year.
The 362-foot-long Los Angeles class submarine is currently at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Washington state, where it is being dismantled, and the U.S. Navy is making the 52-ton sail from the submarine available to Albuquerque, said Thomas Tozier, the city's liaison for military and veterans affairs.
To be clear, the sail is nothing like the large, wind-swelled sheet of fabric mounted to a tall mast that propels a schooner through the water; rather it is the conning tower that's mounted on the topside of a submarine, and includes the wing-like structures, or fairwater planes, which project sideways from the tower and aid in underwater stability and steering, Tozier explained.
The New Mexico Council of the Navy League of the United States had been following the final journey of the USS Albuquerque. Knowing that the Navy occasionally allows pieces of decommissioned ships to go to locales that have a tie to those vessels, the league brought it to the attention of Tozier, who brought it to the attention of Mayor Tim Keller.
The city bought into the idea with an initial commitment of about $800,000 allocated in the fiscal year 2023 budget, said Dave Simon, director of the city's Parks and Recreation Department, which is leading the effort for site selection, planning and design of a monument to house the submarine sail.
Simon said that the involvement of Parks and Rec does not necessarily mean the sail will wind up in a city park. The city has set up a website, www.ussalbuquerque.org, which offers some history about the submarine, the process for bringing the sail to Albuquerque and a nomination form for people to suggest sites and ideas for monument design features. Public input will be accepted until Sept. 16, after which a short list of potential sites will be identified.
In addition to the sail's mammoth weight, it stands 19 feet tall, and the fairwater planes extend 33 feet from tip to tip, said Tozier. Because of that, it will have to be cut apart and transported to Albuquerque on three flatbed trucks, he said.
While the initial funding will cover transportation costs and then some, Simon said that depending on the monument design, it is possible that additional funding will have to be found to see the project to completion.
According to the city's submarine website, the USS Albuquerque was built by the General Dynamics Corp. and commissioned in Groten, Conn., in May 1983. It was assigned the hull number "SSN-706" in homage to the 1706 founding of the city of Albuquerque. At the time, the sub cost about $900 million. It displaced 6,900 tons, could achieve speeds in excess of 25 knots, was equipped with four 21-inch torpedo tubes and carried a crew of 12 officers and 115 enlisted submariners.
During its more than three decades in service, the USS Albuquerque completed 21 deployments and sailed in every ocean, according to an online history of the vessel. In 1999, it participated in a six-month Mediterranean cruise as a part of the USS Theodore Roosevelt battle group, and in 2004-2005 saw a six-month deployment as part of the USS Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group. Over the years, the ship received numerous naval awards and commendations.
"We want the monument to be an exciting, dynamic and inspirational space in our city that honors the legacy of all those who served on the submarine," Simon said.
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