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USS Parche (SSN-683)
USS Parche (SSN-683) off Pearl Harbor.jpg
USS Parche (SSN-683) off Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, sometime prior to October 1985. The structure on the after part of her casing is a permanently attached swimmer lock-out chamber, although described under its cover story as Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicle. Her ship's insignia is at lower right.
Name: USS Parche (SSN-683)
Namesake: The parche, a type of butterfly fish
Ordered: 25 June 1968
Builder: Ingalls Shipbuilding, Pascagoula, Mississippi
Laid down: 10 December 1970
Launched: 13 January 1973
Sponsored by: Mrs. Philip A. Beshany
Commissioned: 17 August 1974
Decommissioned: 19 October 2004
Struck: 18 July 2005
Motto: Par Excellence
Honors and
9 Presidential Unit Commendations
10 Navy Unit Commendations
13 Navy Expeditionary Medals
Fate: Scrapping via Ship and Submarine Recycling Program completed 30 November 2006
Badge: Insignia of SSN-683 Parche.PNG
General characteristics
Class & type: Sturgeon-class attack submarine
Displacement: As built:
3,978 long tons (4,042 t) light
4,270 long tons (4,339 t) full
292 long tons (297 t) dead
Length: As built: 302 ft 3 in (92.13 m)
After 1987–1991 lengthening: 401 ft (122 m)
Beam: 31 ft 8 in (9.65 m)
Draft: 28 ft 8 in (8.74 m)
Installed power: 15,000 shaft horsepower (11.2 megawatts)
Propulsion: One S5W nuclear reactor, two steam turbines, one screw
Speed: 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph) surfaced
25 knots (46 km/h; 29 mph) submerged
Test depth:

1,300 feet (396 meters)

Ship complement=As built: 112 (14 officers, 98 enlisted men)
After 1987–1991 modifications: 179 (22 officers, 157 enlisted men)
Armament: 4 × 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes

USS Parche (SSN-683), a Sturgeon-class submarine, was the second ship of the United States Navy to be named for the parche /ˌpɑrˈ/, a small, coral reef butterfly fish. Parche is the most decorated ship in U.S. Navy history.[1]

Construction and commissioning


Parche is launched at Pascagoula, Mississippi, on 13 January 1973.

The contract to build Parche was awarded to Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Mississippi, on 25 June 1968 and her keel was laid down there on 10 December 1970. She was launched on 13 January 1973, sponsored by Mrs. Philip A. Beshany, and commissioned on 17 August 1974 with Commander Richard N. Charles in command.

Operational history


In 1975–76 Parche was in the Mediterranean Sea. Upon discovery of some relics from World War II in December 1975, the Parche was called the "Prize of the Mediterranean". The Parche docked in Italy a week late just in time for Christmas. Returned from the Med in March 1976.

Parche served as a unit of the United States Atlantic Fleet Submarine Force until 1976 before transferring to the United States Pacific Fleet in October 1976. Once arriving at her new home port at Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo, California, Parche received ocean engineering modifications. Parche deployed on a shakedown training cruise in August and September 1978.

Operation Ivy Bells, 1979

Parche successfully tapped into Soviet underwater military communication cables in the Barents Sea in 1979 as part of Operation Ivy Bells.[2]


During her career, Parche was involved in recovering Soviet missile fragments from the seabed following test launches. Much of her operational history was spent undertaking missions of a clandestine nature, and as of late 2009 a vast majority of the missions the ship undertook remain classified.


Parche after the extension of her hull; note the length of her bow in comparison to its length in the photograph of her launching above.

From 1987 to 1991, Parche underwent an extended refueling overhaul at Mare Island Naval Shipyard during which she was modified for research and development work. A 100-foot (30 m) – long extension was added to her hull just forward of her sail. The added section was flat-topped (looking somewhat like the missile deck of a ballistic missile submarine) and provided the space required to support a larger crew and additional equipment. These additions included an extensive array of signals-intelligence-collecting antennas, electronic gear, and other navigational and ocean engineering equipment. The overhaul also added many auxiliary navigational and maneuvering features, including both upward and forward-facing short-range sonars, and a suite of armored spotlights and closed-circuit television cameras for under-ice operations.[2]

Upon completion of her modifications in 1991, Parche began a new mission as part of Submarine Development Squadron 5. She resumed operations in the Pacific Fleet in 1992. Parche was transferred to a new home port, Naval Base Kitsap at Bangor, Washington, in November 1994. Parche may have recovered Chinese missile fragments. In 1995 and 1996, the People's Republic of China launched DF-21 and DF-15 ballistic missiles into the sea surrounding Taiwan to deter Taiwan from moving toward independence; Robert Karniol writes: "I suspect that "the Parche might have gone after these Chinese missile fragments", and "I suspect that Beijing gave away some useful missile secrets."[3]

Decommissioning and disposal

Parche returns to port for the last time at Naval Base Kitsap at Bangor, Washington, on 20 September 2004.

On 19 October 2004, a decommissioning ceremony took place at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard at Bremerton, Washington; she was officially decommissioned on 18 July 2005 and stricken from the Naval Vessel Register the same day. The wardroom of the oldest submarine in the fleet carries Richard O'Kane's personal cribbage board, and upon the Parche's decommissioning the board was transferred to the next oldest boat: USS Los Angeles (SSN-688).[4] Her scrapping at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard via the Ship and Submarine Recycling Program was completed on 30 November 2006.

Parche's research and development duties will be assumed by Jimmy Carter, a Seawolf-class submarine whose construction period was extended to include modifications that will allow her to carry out the same types of research and development.[2] According to Robert Karniol, Jimmy Carter in succeeding Parche, has become "Washington's premier spy submarine."

Military awards

Parche is the most decorated ship in U.S. Navy history, receiving a total of nine Presidential Unit Citations and ten Navy Unit Commendations. The submarine also received thirteen Navy Expeditionary Medals during her thirty years of service.[1]


Parche's sail in the downtown waterfront park at Bremerton, Washington.

Parche's sail was preserved. During the summer of 2006 it was moved from Puget Sound Naval Shipyard to a maritime park in downtown Bremerton.


  1. 1.0 1.1 [1]Navy News article reprint "USS Parche Dedicates Sail to Museum" by PO2 Maebel Tinoko dated 29 August 2007
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Sontag, S.; Drew, C.; Drew, A. L. (1998). Blind Man's Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage. Harper. ISBN 0-06-103004-X.
  3. Robert Karniol, 5 May 2008 printed edition of The Straits Times, p.22; subscription required website:; Karnior bases his assertion on the 1998 book Blind Man's Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage
  4. "USS Los Angeles Embarks With a Piece of Submarine History". US Navy. 16 May 2007. 


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