Deep submergence vessel NR-1
United States
BuilderGeneral Dynamics Electric Boat
Laid down10 June 1967
Launched25 January 1969
In service27 October 1969
Out of service21 November 2008
MottoThe World's Finest Deep Submersible
General characteristics
Class and typeUnique submarine
Displacement400 tons
  • 45 m (147 ft 8 in) overall
  • 29.3 m (96 ft 2 in) pressure hull
  • 3.8 m (12 ft 6 in)
  • 4.8 m (15 ft 9 in) at stern stabilizers.
  • 4.6 m (15 ft 1 in)
  • Box keel depth (below base-line): 1.2 m (3.9 ft)
Installed powerSingle nuclear reactor, one turbine generator
  • 2 × external motors
  • 2 × propellers
  • 4 × ducted thrusters (mounted diagonally in two "x-configured" pairs)
  • 4.5 knots (8.3 km/h; 5.2 mph) surfaced
  • 3.5 knots (6.5 km/h; 4.0 mph) submerged[3]
  • 210-man-days nominal
  • 16 days for a 13 person crew
  • 330-man-days maximum
  • 25 Days for a 13 person crew
Test depth3,000 feet (910 m)[1][2]
Complement3 officers, 8 crewmen, 2 scientists

Deep Submergence Vessel NR-1 was a unique United States Navy (USN) nuclear-powered ocean engineering and research submarine, built by the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics at Groton, Connecticut. NR-1 was launched on 25 January 1969, completed initial sea trials 19 August 1969, and was home-ported at Naval Submarine Base New London. NR-1 was the smallest nuclear submarine ever put into operation. The vessel was casually known as "Nerwin" and was never officially named or commissioned. The U.S. Navy is allocated a specific number of warships by the U.S. Congress, but Admiral Hyman Rickover avoided using one of those allocations for the construction of NR-1 in order to circumvent the oversight that a warship receives from various bureaus.



NR-1's missions included search, object recovery, geological survey, oceanographic research, and installation and maintenance of underwater equipment. NR-1 had the unique capability to remain at one site and completely map or search an area with a high degree of accuracy, and this was a valuable asset on several occasions.[4]

In the 1970s and 1980s, NR-1 conducted numerous classified missions involving recovery of objects from the floor of the deep sea. These missions remain classified and few details have been made public. One publicly acknowledged mission in 1976 was to recover parts of an F-14 that were lost from the deck of an aircraft carrier[5] and sank with at least one AIM-54A Phoenix air-to-air missile.[6] The secrecy typical of USN submarine operations was heightened by Rickover's personal involvement, and he shared details of NR-1 operations only on a need-to-know basis. Rickover envisioned building a small fleet of NR-1 type submarines, but only one was built due to budget restrictions.[7]

Following the loss of the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986, NR-1 was used to search for, identify, and recover critical parts of the Challenger craft.[8] It could remain on the sea floor without resurfacing frequently, and was a major tool for searching deep waters. NR-1 remained submerged and on station even when heavy weather and rough seas hit the area and forced all other search and recovery ships into port.[4]: 65

In October 1994, a survey was done by the NR-1 off the Florida straits 65 km southwest of Key West where it encountered and explored an uncharted sink hole. On 2 December 1998, an advisory committee approved the name "NR-1" for the hole. [9]

In 1995, Robert Ballard used the NR-1 and its support ship MV Carolyn Chouest to explore the wreck of HMHS Britannic, the sister ship of RMS Titanic, which sank off the coast of Greece while serving as a hospital ship during World War I.[10]

On 25 February 2007, NR-1 arrived in Galveston, Texas, towed by Carolyn Chouest, in preparation for an expedition to survey the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary and other sites in the Gulf of Mexico.[11]

NR-1 was deactivated on 21 November 2008 at the U.S. Navy submarine base at Groton, Connecticut, defuelled at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, then sent to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard to be scrapped.[8] On 13 November 2013, the U.S. Navy announced that salvaged pieces of the sub would be put on display at the Submarine Force Library and Museum in Groton.[7]


Early design sketch of NR-1

NR-1 performed underwater search and recovery, oceanographic research missions, and installation and maintenance of underwater equipment to a depth of almost half a nautical mile. Its features included extending bottoming wheels, three viewing ports, exterior lighting, television and still cameras for color photographic studies, an object recovery claw, a manipulator that could be fitted with various gripping and cutting tools, and a work basket that could be used in conjunction with the manipulator to deposit or recover items in the sea.[3] Surface vision was provided by a television periscope permanently installed on a fixed mast in her sail area.[3]: 6

Ducted thrust is visible at NR-1's stern as she maneuvers

NR-1 had sophisticated electronics, computers, and sonar systems that aided in navigation, communications, and object location and identification. It could maneuver or hold a steady position on or close to the seabed or underwater ridges, detect and identify objects at a considerable distance, and lift objects off the ocean floor.[3]: 4

NR-1 was equipped with two electric motor-driven propellers and its maneuverability was enhanced by four ducted thrusters, two forward and two aft. The vehicle had diving planes mounted on the sail, and a conventional rudder.[3]: 1 

NR-1 could travel submerged at approximately 4 knots (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph) for long periods, limited only by consumable supplies—primarily food. It could study and map the ocean bottom, including temperature, currents, and other information for military, commercial, and scientific uses. Its nuclear propulsion provided independence from surface support ships and essentially unlimited endurance.[3]: 3

NR-1's size limited its crew comforts. The crew of about 10 men could stay at sea for as long as a month, but had no kitchen or bathing facilities. They ate frozen TV dinners, bathed once a week with a bucket of water, and burned chlorate candles to produce oxygen. The sub was so slow that it was towed to sea by a surface vessel, and so tiny that the crew felt the push and pull of the ocean's currents. "Everybody on NR-1 got sick," said Allison J. Holifield, who commanded the sub in the mid-1970s. "It was only a matter of whether you were throwing up or not throwing up."[7][12]

NR-1 was generally towed to and from remote mission locations by an accompanying surface tender, which was also capable of conducting research in conjunction with the submarine. NR-1's last mother ship was MV Carolyn Chouest, which provided towing, communications, berthing, and direct mission support for all NR-1 operations—a versatile platform and an indispensable member of the NR-1 deep submergence team. NR-1 command was crewed with thirty-five Navy personnel and ten civilian contractor personnel. NR-1 carried as many as thirteen persons (crew and specialists) at one time, including three of the four assigned officers. (The operations officer rode on Carolyn Chouest).[13] All personnel who crewed NR-1 were nuclear-trained and specifically screened and interviewed by the Director, Navy Nuclear Propulsion Program.[14]


Silver star
Bronze star
Bronze star
Navy Unit Commendation Meritorious Unit Commendation
with five award stars
Navy E Ribbon
with Battle "E" device (6 awards)
National Defense Service Medal
with two stars
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal Sea Service Deployment Ribbon

See also



  1. ^ Perry, Doug. "NR-1 – within Visual Sight of the Bottom". Global Security. Retrieved 12 November 2018.
  2. ^ Lacroix, Frank W.; Button, Robert W.; Johnson, Stuart; Wise, John R. (2002). A Concept of Operations for a New Deep-Diving Submarine (PDF). ISBN 0-8330-3045-0. Retrieved 12 November 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e f United States Naval Sea Systems Command. NR-1 Submarine: Nuclear Powered Research and Ocean Engineering Vehicle. Washington, D.C.: Dept. of the Navy, Sea Systems Command. Retrieved 30 January 2020.
  4. ^ a b "The United States Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program Over 157 Million Miles Safely Steamed on Nuclear Power:NR-1" (PDF). US Department of Energy & United States Navy. November 2015. pp. 64–65. Able to remain submerged and move at maximum speed for extended periods of time, she performed detailed studies and mapping of the ocean bottom (including temperature, currents, and other oceanographic data) for military and scientific uses. The unique capabilities of NR-1 put her in high demand in both the military and the scientific communities. NR-1 could remain submerged for up to a month, allowing her to survey large areas even in inclement weather.
  5. ^ "Navy F-14 Trying to Land on Carrier Lost in Ocean". The Washington Post. 30 March 1977.
  6. ^ "Tomcat Recovery". Naval Aviation News. February 1977. p. 19. Both the F-14 Tomcat and the Phoenix missile that were lost overboard from the aircraft carrier John F Kennedy off the coast of Scotland on 14 September 1976, have been recovered [...] The Phoenix attached to the F-14 when it was lost, was recovered 31 October. The deep submergence and ocean engineering vessel NR-1 located the missile and with help from the submarine rescue ship Sunbird successfully recovered it. [...] Commander Allison J. Holifield, officer in charge of NR-1, later described the F-14 search operation as being akin to "looking for a needle in a grassy front yard with only the aid of a penlight." And he added that at 1,800 feet the water was calm, unlike that on the surface.
  7. ^ a b c Melia, Michael (13 November 2013). "Navy's NR-1 Submarine". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 15 July 2015.
  8. ^ a b Scutro, Andrew (30 November 2008). "Deep-diving NR-1 wraps up its 40-year career". Navy Times.
  9. ^ "NR-1 Hole". Geographical Names.
  10. ^ Ballard, Robert D.; Archbold, Rich (1998). Lost Liners: The Book. Paintings by Ken Marschall. New York: Hyperion. ISBN 0786862963. Our plan in late August 1995 was to survey the wreck with the help of the navy's nuclear-powered NR-1 submarine, small by navy sub standards but far more spacious and comfortable than the research submersibles I'm accustomed to. (You can actually stand up!)
  11. ^ Shelander, Brandon (1 March 2007). "NR-1 in Texas For Gulf Exploration". Navy News. Archived from the original on 4 March 2007.
  12. ^ Energy Research And Development Administration: Fiscal Year 1978 Authorization, Hearing Before The Committee On Armed Services, United States Senate. Ninety Fifth Congress. First Session On S 1339: A Bill To Authorize Appropriations To The Energy Research And Development Administration For National Defense Programs For The Fiscal Year 1978 And For Other Purposes. United States Government Printing Office. 25 March 1977. pp. 104–105. Senator Anderson: "I have a daughter that would like to get involved in nuclear submarine work because she would like to be President. I would like to know how she would go about it." Admiral Rickover: "One of our submarines is the nuclear powered research submersible, NR-1. It carries five people, and it has only one primitive lavatory in it, and no privacy. I don't know whether you want your daughter there or not." Senator Anderson: "She is only 8 years old, Admiral."
  13. ^ Bilyeu, JO3 Braden. "NR-1: Exploring Naval History on the Ocean Floor". Undersea Warfare. Vol. 4, no. 2, Winter/Spring 2002. United States Navy. Archived from the original on 30 January 2020. Retrieved 30 January 2020. The submarine is usually towed to and from remote locations by a chartered commercial vessel, the Carolyn Chouest, which serves as both an auxiliary research platform and submarine tender for NR-1. "We have one of the best support ships in the entire fleet in Carolyn Chouest," said MM1 (SS/DV) Bryan Wallace. "The crew is very squared away, and they take very good care of us while we're underway. The food is a lot better over there, too," he added. The Carolyn Chouest also supports the crew by serving as a communication link to friends and family during NR-1 deployments. Twice daily, the Chouest downloads e-mail for the crew and relays it to the boat by radio. The crew can respond in the same manner.((cite magazine)): CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  14. ^ "Statement Of Admiral F. L. "Skip" Bowman, U.S. Navy Director, Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program before the House Committee On Science - 29 October 2003". United States Navy. 29 October 2003. Archived from the original on 12 March 2018. Retrieved 30 January 2020. Admiral Rickover personally selected every member of his Headquarters staff and every naval officer accepted into the Program. This practice is still in place today, and I Admiral F. L. "Skip" Bowman, U.S. Navy Director, Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program conduct these interviews and make the final decision myself.

Further reading