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NavSource Online: Service Ship Photo Archive

Patch at left contributed by Mike Smolinski, patch at right contributed by Joe Radigan MACM USN Ret

USNS Grapple (T- ARS-53)
USS Grapple (ARS-53) (1986 - 2006)

International Radio Call Sign:
November - Quebec - Sierra - India
Awards - Campaign Ribbons

Precedence of awards is from top to bottom, left to right
Top Row - Navy Unit Commendation
Second Row - Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation - Navy Battle "E" Ribbon (10) - National; Defense Service Medal
Bottom Row - Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal - Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal - Armed Forces Service Medal

Awards - Citations and Letters of Commendation
2007 Department of the Navy Safety Excellence Award
2008 CNO Surface Ship Safety Award
2016 Letter of Appreciation and Individual Letters of Commendation from the Chief of Staff, Tunisian Navy

Safeguard Class Rescue and Salvage Ship:
  • Laid down, 28 April 1984, at Peterson Builders, Sturgeon Bay, WI.
  • Launched, 8 December 1984
  • Commissioned USS Grapple (ARS-53), 15 November 1986, CDR. Timothy B. Stark in command
  • Grapple is assigned to the Atlantic Fleet Service Force and is homeported at Little Creek, VA.
  • Decommissioned and transferred to the Military Sealift Command (MSC) at Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, 13 July 2006
  • Placed in service as USNS Grapple (T-ARS-53), 13 July 2006
  • Placed out of service, 1 October 2016, at Little Creek, VA, towed US Army tug USAV MG Winfield Scott (LT-605) to the Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility, Philadelphia, PA. for a 5 year hold
  • Final Disposition, fate unknown
    Displacement 2,633 t.(lt) 3,282 t.(fl)
    Length 255'
    Beam 51'
    Draft 17' (max.)
    Speed 14 kts.
    Officers 6
    Enlisted 94
    two MK-38 25mm chain guns
    two .50 cal machine guns
    four Caterpillar 399 Diesel engines
    two propellers, 2,100shp

    Click On Image
    For Full Size Image
    Size Image Description Contributed
    228k Launching of Grapple (ARS-53) at Peterson Builders, Sturgeon Bay, WI., 8 December 1984.
    U.S. Navy photo from "All Hands" magazine March 1985, p. 3
    Robert Hurst
    211k USS Grapple (ARS-53) performing a fire monitor's test during acceptance trials on 17 September 1986.
    USN Photo available in the holdings of the National Archives and Records Administration, cataloged under the National Archives Identifier (NAID) 6416394
    Robert Hurst
    Grapple 23k USS Grapple (ARS-53) underway, date and location unknown.
    US Navy photo
    USS Grapple web site
    Grapple 281k USS Grapple (ARS-53) tows the ocean minesweepers USS Inflict (MSO-456), USS Fearless (MSO-442) and USS Illusive (MSO-448) to the Persian Gulf to support US Navy escort operations. The ships departed Little Creek, VA., on 6 September 1987. Traveling via the Suez Canal and arriving in the Gulf of Oman on 2 November 1987. At the time, the 9,000-nautical-mile (17,000 km) trip was the longest distance three ships were towed by one.
    Department of Defense photo # DN-ST-88-01143 by PH2 C. Duvall.
    Robert Hurst
    Grapple 107k USS Grapple (ARS-53) conducts deep drone and diving operations at the crash site of Swissair Flight 111 off the coast of Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia, 14 September 1998. US and Canadian forces worked together to retrieve victims and aircraft debris from the crash site. Grapple is the U.S. Navy's newest rescue and salvage vessel and can deploy Mobile Underwater Debris Survey System technology, Synthetic Aperture Sonar, and the Laser Electro-Optics Identification System to provide detailed images of the ocean floor.
    US Navy photo # 980914-N-8492C-001, by PH1 Todd P. Cichonowicz USN.
    Bill Gonyo
    Grapple 118k USS Grapple (ARS-53) moored pierside, date and location unknown.
    US Navy photo.
    Richard Miller BMCS USNR Ret
    Grapple 197k USS Grapple (ARS-53) conducts underwater survey and recovery work using DRSV Drone 7200 at the 31 October 1999 crash site of Egypt Air Flight 990 off the coast of New England.
    US Navy photo
    Jack Treutle
    Grapple 112k Lee Wolford inspects DRSV Drone 7200 aboard USS Grapple (ARS-53), during salvage and recovery operations to find wreckage of EgyptAir Flight 990, a Boeing 767-366R, which had crashed into the Atlantic about 60 miles south of Nantucket Island, on 31 October 1999.
    US Navy photo from "Mud, Muscle, and Miracles" by Captain Charles A. Bartholomew, USN and Commander William I. Milwee, Jr., USN (Ret.)
    Robert Hurst
    Grapple 82k USS Grapple (ARS-53) returns to pier 2 at Naval Station Newport in Newport, R.I., Monday, 15 November 1999, after successfully recovering the cockpit voice recorder from the crash and recovery site of EgyptAir Flight 990. Numerous U.S. Navy, Coast Guard and other governmental agencies have been involved in the effort of recovering the flight data and cockpit voice recorders to assist the NTSB in determining the cause of the 31 October crash.
    US Navy photo # 991115-N-6019M-001 by PH2 Brian McFadden.
    Bill Gonyo
    Grapple 80k USS Grapple (ARS-53) moored pierside, Sete, France 15 October 1992. Photo by Guy Schaeffer, Collection of Paolo Marsan
    Grapple 87k USS Grapple (ARS-53) with USS Osprey (MHC-51) in tow, 30 September 1998, place unknown.
    US Navy photo # 970930-N-0000U-018
    Bill Gonyo
    Grapple 85k USS Grapple (ARS-53) departing Valletta Port, Malta, 24 August 2001. Photo by Anthony Vella of Senglea, Malta
    Grapple 67k USS Grapple (ARS-53) is in a four point moor above the historical wreck of the Civil War ironclad ex- USS Monitor, 17 miles off Cape Hatteras, N.C., 30 April 2001. Following the famous battle in Hampton Roads with ex-CSS Virginia (Merrimack) on 9 March 1862, Monitor performed blockade duty. On her way to North Carolina, the ironclad foundered off Cape Hatteras shortly after midnight on 31 December 1862.
    US Navy photo # 010430-N-9407M-024 by PH2 Isaac Merriman.
    Bill Gonyo
    Grapple 74k USS Grapple (ARS-53) entering port at Little Creek Amphibious Base, Norfolk, VA, 3 August 2002, after conducting local ops that day just to seaward of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. David Johnston QM3(SS) USNR
    Grapple 76k USS Grapple (ARS-53) entering port at Little Creek Amphibious Base, Norfolk, VA, 3 August 2002, after conducting local ops that day just to seaward of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. David Johnston QM3(SS) USNR
    Grapple 80k USS Grapple (ARS-53) moored pierside at NAB Little Creek, 8 September 2005.
    US Navy photo # 050908-N-0535P-001.
    Navy Newsstand
    Grapple 281k USS Grapple (ARS-53) decommissioning and simultaneously placed in service by MSC as USNS Grapple (T-ARS-53), 13 July 2006, at NAB Little Creek.
    US Navy photo
    MSC web site
    USNS Grapple (T-ARS-53)
    Grapple 65k USNS Grapple (T-ARS-53) moored pierside Portsmouth, N.H., date unknown.. Curtis A. Smith, Captain Civ.
    Grapple 59k USNS Grapple (T-ARS-53) date and location unknown. Curtis A. Smith, Captain Civ.
    Grapple 2937k USNS Grapple (T-ARS-53) tows de-fueled, decommissioned nuclear submarine ex-USS Hyman G. Rickover (SSN-709) in the Atlantic Ocean in April 2008 to the Panama Canal on the first leg of a 10,000-mile tow from Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility in Bremerton, Wash. The ships departed Portsmouth April 8 and ex-Rickover arrived in Bremerton May 30. The submarine was towed through the Pacific by fleet ocean tug USNS Sioux (T-ATF-171). While in Bremerton, ex-Rickover will go through a dismantling program overseen by the US Navy.
    US Navy photo.
    Lee Wahler
    Grapple 880k USNS Grapple (T-ARS-53) escorting the decommissioned nuclear-powered attack submarine ex-USS Hyman G. Rickover (SSN-709) through the Panama Canal in April 2008 after towing the submarine 3,600 miles from Kittery, ME. Photo courtesy of USNS Grapple. Robert Hurst
    Grapple 46k USNS Grapple (T-ARS-53) towing ex-USS Conolly (DD-979) to sea in April 2009 to be expended as a target during a sinkex as part of UNITAS Gold 2009. Ex-Conolly was sunk during the exercise on 29 April 2009. Curtis A. Smith, Captain Civ.
    Grapple 30k
    Grapple 39k
    Grapple 229k USNS Grapple (T-ARS-53) underway, date and location unknown.
    US Navy (MSC) photo.
    Robert Hurst
    Grapple 966k USNS Grapple (T-ARS-53) and USNS Grasp (T-ARS-51) moored pierside at Naples, Italy, circa July 2011 Photo by Timothy R. Lockwood, Master, USNS Grapple
    Grapple 247k USNS Grapple (T-ARS-53) moored pierside at Chaguaramas Coast Guard Base in Trinidad and Tobago. Grapple along with Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit (MDSU-2), Company 2-1, is participating in Navy Dive Southern Partnership Station 2012, a multinational partnership engagement designed to increase interoperability and partner nation capacity through diving operations.
    US Navy photo # 120320-N-BJ279-029 CHAGUARAMAS COAST GUARD BASE, Trinidad and Tobago (March 20, 2012) by MC2 Kathleen A. Gorby
    Lee Wahler
    Grapple 348k USNS Grapple (T-ARS-53) moored pierside, 29 June 2012, location unknown.
    Photographer and contributor unknown. Image courtesy of tugster
    Robert Hurst
    Grapple 201k USNS Grapple (T-ARS-53) at anchor off Calvi, Corsica, 21 October 2012, during a research diving operation to find a ditched World War 11 B-17 Flying Fortress.
    Photos B.Guidi
    Robert Hurst
    Grapple 262k
    Observation Island 113k USNS Grapple (T-ARS-53) departs Hampton Roads, 25 March 2014, with the de-activated USNS Observation Island (T-AGM-23) in tow. Grapple will deliver Observation Island to the National Defense Reserve Fleet, Beaumont, TX. Lee Wahler
    160229-N-SF508-128 VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (Feb. 29, 2016)
    215k USNS Grapple (T-ARS-53) departs Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story as part of a five-month deployment to the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations. Aboard Grapple is a detachment from Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit Two, Company 2-1.
    US Navy photo #'s 160229-N-SF508-128 VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (Feb. 29, 2016) and 160229-N-SF508-174 VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (Feb. 29, 2016) by MC2 Charles Oki
    Lee Wahler
    160229-N-SF508-174 VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (Feb. 29, 2016)
    193k Ex-USNS Grapple (T-ARS-53) laid up in Philadelphia Navy Yard, 16 February 2019,. Coincidentally she is berthed behind Ex-USS Boulder (LST-1190) which she removed from a fjord in Norway after grounding in 1988 near Bodo during Exercise Teamwork.
    Photo courtesy Charles Homler. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution- Share Alike 4.0 International license.
    Robert Hurst

    For more photos and information about USS / USNS Grapple see;
  • Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships (DANFS)
  • Command Operations Reports
  • Grapple Statistics and additional History
  • National Association of Fleet Tug Sailors
  • US Navy Fact File - Rescue and Salvage Ships - ARS
  • Final Message from USNS Grapple

  • USS Grapple (ARS-53) Commanding Officers
    01CDR Stark, Timothy B. 14 November 1986 - 11 August 1989
    02CDR Honey, Robert Mark 11 August 1989 - 28 February 1992
    03CDR Crooks Jr., William T. 28 February 1992 - 18 February 1994
    04LCDR Lewis Jr., Porter William (Bill), USN (USNA 1981) 18 February 1994 - 15 March 1996
    05LCDR Robertson, William John 15 March 1996 - 26 March 1998
    06LCDR Davis, David Elliot 26 March 1998 - 21 April 2000
    07LCDR Tupman, Allan Peter 21 April 2000 - 8 March 2002
    08LCDR Edson, Douglas Lowther 8 March 2002 - 14 October2003
    09LCDR Robinson, Kevin M. 14 October 2003 - 05 August 2005
    10LCDR Brand, Kevin Michael 5 August 2005 - 13 July 2006
    Courtesy Wolfgang Hechler and Ron Reeves. Photos courtesy Bill Gonyo

    Crew Contact And Reunion Information
    U.S. Navy Memorial Foundation - Navy Log

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    Last Updated 21 June 2024