The USS Albuquerque once again ‘sails’ the city

The USS Albuquerque is brought into port. The vessel was commissioned in 1983, decommissioned in 2015 and decommissioned in 2017. It is currently in a shipyard, where it is being dismantled. (PHOTO COURTESY US NAVY)

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When the nuclear-powered USS Albuquerque submarine was commissioned in 1983, Mayor Harry Kinney jokingly offered the keys to a Rolls Royce to the first captain who could maneuver the submarine onto the Rio Grande for a layover in Albuquerque.

The keys were then passed to the captain during each of the 13 change of command ceremonies, according to the ship’s history posted on a city website.

The keys finally returned to the mayor’s office in 2017, after it was decommissioned, and the submarine — or at least a large part 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 setting sail the 52-ton submarine. sailor available to Albuquerque, said Thomas Tozier, the city’s liaison for military and veterans affairs.

To be clear, sailing has nothing to do with the large wind-blown sheet of fabric mounted on a tall mast that propels a schooner through the water; rather, it is the turret that is mounted on top of a submarine, and includes the wing-like structures, or fairwater planes, that project laterally from the tower and aid in stability and steering beneath -marines, Tozier explained.

A tug maneuvers the USS Albuquerque, a 362 foot long Los Angeles-class submarine, into the port of La Maddalena, Sardina Italy. (PHOTO COURTESY US NAVY)

The New Mexico Council of the Navy League of the United States had been monitoring the final voyage of the USS Albuquerque. Knowing that the Navy sometimes allows parts of decommissioned ships to go to places that have a connection to those ships, the league brought it to the attention of Tozier, who brought it to the attention of Mayor Tim Keller.

The city has 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 to site selection, planning and design of a monument to house underwater sailing.

Simon said Parks and Rec’s involvement doesn’t necessarily mean the sail will end up in a city park. The city has set up a website,, which offers a bit of history about the submarine, the process of bringing the sail to Albuquerque, and a nomination form for people to suggest sites and ideas for landmark design features. Public comments will be accepted until September 16, after which a short list of potential sites will be identified.

In addition to the sail’s gigantic weight, it’s 19 feet tall and the fairwater planes span 33 feet from end to end, Tozier said. Because of that, it will have to be cut up and transported to Albuquerque on three flatbed trucks, he said.

The USS Albuquerque, a nuclear-powered submarine, carried a crew of 12 officers and 115 enlisted submariners. The ship contained four 21-inch torpedo tubes. (PHOTO COURTESY OF US NAVY)

While initial funding will cover transportation costs and then some, Simon said depending on the design of the monument, additional funds may need to be found to complete the project.

According to the city’s submarine website, the USS Albuquerque was built by General Dynamics Corp. and commissioned at Groten, Connecticut, in May 1983. She was given the hull number “SSN-706” in honor of the 1706 founding of the city of Albuquerque. At the time, the submarine cost around $900 million. She displaced 6,900 tons, could reach speeds in excess of 25 knots, was fitted with four 21-inch torpedo tubes, and carried a crew of 12 officers and 115 enlisted submariners.

In its more than three decades of service, the USS Albuquerque completed 21 deployments and sailed in every ocean, according to an online history of the ship. In 1999 he participated in a six-month Mediterranean cruise as 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 has received numerous naval awards and accolades.

“We want the monument to be an exciting, dynamic and inspiring space in our city that honors the legacy of everyone who served on the submarine,” Simon said.

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