Navy wants to give away historic, hush-hush Cold War vessels





PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Anybody want some top-secret seagoing vessels? The Navy has a pair it doesn't need anymore. It has been trying to give them away since 2006, and they're headed for the scrap yard if somebody doesn't speak up soon.

One is called Sea Shadow. It's big, black and looks like a cross between a Stealth fighter and a Batmobile. It was made to escape detection on the open sea. The other is known as the Hughes (as in Howard Hughes) Mining Barge. It looks like a floating field house, with an arching roof and a door that is 76 feet wide and 72 feet high. Sea Shadow berths inside the barge, which keeps it safely hidden from spy satellites.

The barge, by the way, is the only fully submersible dry dock ever built, making it very handy -- as it was 35 years ago -- for trying to raise a sunken nuclear-armed Soviet submarine...

But a gift ship from the Navy comes with lots of strings attached to the rigging. A naval museum, the Historic Naval Ships Association warns, is "a bloodthirsty, paperwork ridden, permit-infested, money-sucking hole..." Because the Navy won't pay for anything -- neither rust scraping nor curating -- to keep museums afloat, survival depends on big crowds. That's why many of the 48 ships it has given away over 60 years were vessels known for performing heroically in famous battles.

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