USS TULLIBEE SSK(N)-597 was a one-of-a-kind ship in our fleet. She was the smallest nuclear-powered combatant submarine we'd ever built, and served as a design prototype test bed. Commissioned in 1960, TULLIBEE measured at 273' in length (over 20' longer than SKIPJACK), with a beam of 23' (10' slimmer than SKIPJACK), and displaced 2,300 tons. TULLIBEE was the first to use a bow-dominant spherical BQQ-1 sonar array, which also made her the first to relocate the torpedo room amidships, employing four 10-degree outward-angled torpedo tubes. Both of these design factors would follow on all subsequent SSN class designs. Her small sail, approximately 14' tall, her turtleback aft deck casing superstructure, and her fore and aft PUFFS fairings gave TULLIBEE her unique appearance. Hydroelectric drive, where the reactor turbines generated power to drive a huge motor to turn her shaft rather than noisy reduction gears, made her extremely quiet, yet with her power plant scaled down for her size, she was quite slow. But with her design, speed was not important. TULLIBEE could hear anything out there long before she might be detected, and, with her huge passive sonar and her PUFFS (Passive Underwater Fire-control Feasibility Study) arrays, she could triangulate and accurately range a target without having to maneuver for a Target Motion Analysis. In short, little ol' TULLIBEE could put a bead on a target, shoot it out of the water, and slip away before anyone out there could figure out what had happened.

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The Model :
This model was a prototype from the genius of Paul Fisher, the original founder of Dragon Models back in the 70s. Paul Fisher continued to a much lesser degree producing some of his submarines in cast resin, after renaming his company Dragon Model & Pattern Works. A fellow submarine enthusiast and a collector / maker of guitars, I enjoyed building a friendship with Paul. Check out his present-day model website at for a look at his airplanes, race cars, and his outstanding hand-made guitars. Back in 1990 or so, Paul sent me a casting of his prototype TULLIBEE model to see what I thought of it. He was thinking of producing it as a kit, but he took up more pressing priorities, and so it never came about. But I had the one. The model was made of solid cast resin, cast all in one piece, including the sail, superstructure, rudders, and PUFFs domes, in 1/200 scale. Only the stern diving planes, the fairwater planes, and the propeller needed to be attached. I left the masts off, but added the signature whip antennae unique to TULLIBEE's sail profile. With some added deck scribing and a few additional details such as sail grab handles, deck safety rail track, and main ballast tank vents, it turned out as a decent model of a rare and unique submarine.

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Ken Hart