USS GRAPPLE is the last ship in the SAFEGUARD class and the newest salvage ship in the Navy. GRAPPLE is the second ship in the Navy to bear the name. On July 13, 2006, the USS GRAPPLE was transferred to the Military Sealift Command and is now operated by a civilian crew.
USS GRAPPLE (ARS 53) was built by Peterson Builders, Inc. of Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin and commissioned on 15 November 1986. This is the second salvage vessel to bear the name of Grapple. The first GRAPPLE was commissioned on 16 December 1943 and distinguished herself in operations in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam Conflict. The original GRAPPLE was decommissioned following its service in Vietnam and now serves as a salvage and diving vessel in the Taiwanese Navy.
The ship’s mission is to perform salvage of stranded vessels, provide rescue and assistance services, conduct off-ship fire fighting, open ocean towing, recovery of submerged objects, and manned diving operations to a depth of 300 feet.
During her years of commissioned service, GRAPPLE has been involved in a variety of operations which have included remote operated vehicle (ROV) operations to a depth of 3000 feet off the coast of Sardinia, Italy; salvage of one F/A-18D, three F-14 aircraft, two AV-8, one F-16 aircraft, and two MH-53 helicopters; salvage of a sunken dive boat in Bodo, Norway; retraction of a stranded coastal freighter from the harbor of Kingston, St. Vincent, West Indies; harbor clearance operations in Charleston, SC after Hurricane Hugo (which included retraction of a stranded nuclear training facility barge); recovery of 10,000 pounds of chain from 173 feet of water off Menton, France; retraction of two stranded ammunition barges from Ocean View Beach, Norfolk, VA; recovery of a Marine Corps AAVP-7 from 60 feet of water off Morehead City, NC; and numerous tows of decommissioned and active Navy ships, submarines and service craft including the battleship ex-USS IOWA.
Significant salvage operations in recent history include recovery of TWA Flight 800 in July of 1996 off the coast of Long Island, New York, recovery of Swissair Flight 111 in September of 1998 off the coast of Nova Scotia, Canada, and recovery of EgyptAir Flight 990 in 1999 off the coast of Nantucket, Massachusetts. In each case, GRAPPLE recovered significant portions of each downed aircraft to assist with the investigation in determining the cause of the tragedy.
In March of 2003, GRAPPLE was called to serve her country in time of conflict and would be the first ARS-50 Class Ship to deploy to the Arabian Gulf. In two weeks GRAPPLE prepared for a surge deployment in support of Operations ENDURING FREEDOM and IRAQI FREEDOM. During Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, GRAPPLE conducted combat salvage operations to include the recovery of a United States Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier, salvage and tow of an Iraqi Dhow, tow preparation of two Iraqi tugs and one Iraqi barge, and tow of an Iraqi tug from Kuwait Naval Base to the new port of Uhm Qasr, Iraq. GRAPPLE returned from the conflict with Iraq in June of 2003.
Since returning from its last Mediterranean Deployment in December, 2004, GRAPPLE has recovered an MH-53 helicopter off the coast of Virginia, one AV-8 off the coast of Florida, and one F-16 off the coast of South Carolina. GRAPPLE has also recently conducted a burial at sea, towed the ex-O’BANNON and the ex-PORTSMOUTH and conducted numerous diving and salvage operations in support of Hurricane Katrina and Rita relief efforts.
Since decommissioning and transferring to Military Sealift Command in July of 2006, GRAPPLE spent time in an extensive complete refitting yard period from October of 2006 to January of 2007. GRAPPLE has also towed the ex-USS SALT LAKE CITY through the Panama Canal Zone and ex-USS SAIPAN to Morehead City, NC. Today, GRAPPLE continues to live her credo - “Ready to Serve”.
USS/USNS GRAPPLE (ARS/T-ARS 53) Commanding Officers/Masters
CDR T. B. STARK ………………...14 NOV 86 - 11 AUG 89
CDR R. M. HONEY………………...11 AUG 89 - 28 FEB 92
CDR W. T. CROOKS………………...28 FEB 92 - 18 FEB 94
LCDR P. W. LEWIS………………...18 FEB 94 - 15 MAR 96
LCDR W. J. ROBERTSON………………...15 MAR 96 - 26 MAR 98
LCDR D. E. DAVIS………………...26 MAR 98 - 21 APR 00
LCDR A. P. TUPMAN………………...21 APR 00 - 08 MAR 02
LCDR D. L. EDSON………………...08 MAR 02 - 04 OCT 03
LCDR K. M. ROBINSON………………...04 OCT 03 - 05 AUG 05
LCDR K. M. BRAND………………...05 AUG 05 - 13 JUL 06
CAPT (MSC) C. SMITH………………...13 JUL 06 - PRESENT