Task Group Alfa

Task Group Alfa

CUBERA was born too late to see action in WWII, but did participate in the 1960’s Cuban blockade force, as well as performing in training activities. Submarine Squadron Six (SUBRON6), assigned to the U.S. Navy’s cold war tactics school (Task Goup Alfa), became the collection unit for many examples of various submarine types.

The main purpose of Task Group Alfa was to find and track Russian subs, develop effective anti-submarine tactics and train surface skippers in those tactics. The variety of subs in SUBRON6 gave surface commanders and crews experience in identifying and tracking the different types.

While I was aboard CUBERA (affectionately called the "Cubby-Bear"), a prime example of a Guppy-II snorkel boat, the squadron included the X-1 (a tiny, orange, experimental "pocket" sub that ran on a closed system of hydrogen peroxide and diesel fuel, Pocket submarine X-1, researched use of airless diesel engine technologies.Pocket submarine X-1, researched use of airless diesel engine technologies.a technology the Germans toyed with at the end of WWII), the huge 447-foot USS TRITON(SSN586) (first dual-reactor nuke radar picket boat - first boat to circle the globe submerged!), the nuclear fast attack USS SHARK(SSN591), an old WWII boat converted to a troop carrier, the USS SEALION(APSS315), the missile sub USS CASIMIR PULASKI(SSBN633), other Guppy boats like the REQUIN(SS481), CUTLASS(SS478), SIRAGO(SS485), CARP(SS338), ARGONAUT(SS475), REDFIN(SS272), RUNNER(SS476) and the surprisingly diminutive "atomic-powered"1 USS NAUTILUS(SSN571). I and some of my shipmates were privileged to become acquainted with all of these boats in the mid-1960’s.

ALFA also included the USS ORION(AS18), the submarine tender assigned to SUBRON6. Orion, like other FULTON-class tenders, was designed to support many submarines. She had machine shops, electronics labs, periscope and torpedo service facilities, in addition to medical and logistical (supply) capabilities.

She had a store where sub crews could purchase cigarettes, wristwatches, uniforms, magazines and other personal items at Navy Exchange prices. No price gouging allowed.

In the words of Dex Armstrong: "Something that all true boat sailors know is that we only rag those we love. In our hearts we know that Orion left the light on for us and met each arriving wayward child with fresh milk and mail. She nursed us when we were sick... Put money in our wallets... Scolded us when we were naughty and turned a blind eye to having her pockets picked."

In the trailing years of the Cuban Missle Crisis, Cubby was one of the radar/sonar picket boats assigned to patrol Cuba while that island nation and her friend Russia teased the U.S. State Department by sneaking missiles in. As a sonar and ECM watchstander, I recorded the passing of submerged Russian subs and the radar signatures of several trawlers. The trawlers carried spy radio gear and experimental surface-to-air firecontrol types to measure signatures of our planes.
1 Older term for "nuclear-powered"


Last modified: 11Oct2019