Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Free to Good Home: Stealth Warship and Spy Barge
Holy crap, Batman. It seems that the US Navy is trying to just up and give away two Top Secret ships that it no longer needs. Ostensibly, they should go to some type of museum, but if someone doesn’t speak up soon, they may end up in the scrap yard.
One of the ships is the Sea Shadow (IX-529). Picture a stealth fighter-turned-catamaran. It looks pretty bad-ass, and it was built as a test bed for seagoing stealth technology. According to one former crewmember, they were able to sail up to other warships undetected at night, all the time, in exercises.
The other vessel is a bit more infamous. The Hughes Mining Barge (HMB-1) was originally built by Howard Hughes as a partner for his Glomar Explorer, which was a high tech drilling platform capable of keeping station on the surface while raising and lowering a huge mechanical claw three miles to the ocean floor. The two ships were part of Project Jennifer, the CIA’s mission to retrieve a sunken Soviet nuclear missile submarine, the K-129. Part barge, part submarine, the HMB was equipped with a retractable roof, and was also capable of submerging to allow the Glomar Explorer to position itself over the barge to retrieve its giant grabber claw and transfer any sections of K-129 it recovered. (Go read the book Red Star Rogue by Kenneth Sewell)
Sea Shadow has been using the HMB as its Mother Ship, hiding inside it parked like a fighter in a hangar, to avoid overflights by satellites.
So…any museums need a couple of freaky secrets? Granted, any gift ship from the Navy comes with lots of strings attached. A naval museum, the Historic Naval Ships Association warns, is "a bloodthirsty, paperwork ridden, permit-infested, money-sucking hole..." Because the Navy won't pay for anything — neither rust scraping nor curating — to keep museums afloat, survival depends on big crowds. That's why many of the 48 ships it has given away over 60 years were vessels known for performing heroically in famous battles. Our own Patriot’s Point Naval Museum here in South Carolina needs about $66 million dollars immediately to repair the ships in its collection, including the Coast Guard Cutter Ingham, the WW2 submarine USS Clamagore, the famous destroyer USS Laffey (known in WW2 circles as The Ship That Would Not Die after fending off several kamikaze attacks), and The Fighting Lady, the carrier USS Yorktown. Sadly, Yorktown sits in 26 feet of mud and has as much as 18 feet of water in her lower spaces, and Laffey is disintegrating at her berth.
Above: Patriot's Point Naval & Maritime Museum. Go visit.
I suppose, in lieu of someone taking the Sea Shadow and her floating Bat Cave off the Navy’s hands, there’s always a free listing on Craig’s List, and if they put them up on eBay they can at least turn a buck. That’d open up allllll sorts of cans of worms, no?
The Taliban needs a navy…wouldn’t they just love a stealth ship? They can call it the Glorious Jihad, or Allah’s Fist, or Mohammed’s Martyrboat. The winning bid on eBay was Al Kayda of London, UK…they'd pack that sucker chock fulla fertilizer and jet fuel and sail it right up the frikkin' Potomac.
Or some idle rich redneck here in South Carolina who won the Powerball can buy them. The barge looks like a rusty-assed overgrown trailer anyways, and with that black paint job, Sea Shadow makes a perfect floating tribute to the dear departed Saint Dale the Intimidator. Y’know, if you close one eye and drink a few Buds, she does sorta resemble the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia…
Stealth Redneck Houseboat? Maybe....