The USS Ortolan (ASR-22), a twin-hulled submarine rescue vessel, was laid down 28 August 1968 by the Alabama Dry Dock and Shipbuilding Co., Mobile, Alabama; launched 10 September 1969; sponsored by Mrs. Nels C. Johnson; and was commissioned on July 14, 1973.
USS Ortolan was designed to operate Mystic class Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicles, and was the second and final vehicle of the Pigeon class built by the U.S. Navy.
She was decommissioned on March 30, 1995 and was berthed at the James River Reserve Fleet at Fort Eustis, Virginia, awaiting final determination for method of disposal.
ASR 21 Pigeon class vehicles served as surface support ships for deep submergence rescue vehicles (DSRV's) during submarine rescue operations. They conduct these operations using the McCann rescue chamber, and also support deep sea diving operations. These ships can transport, service, lower and raise two Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicles and support diving operations to depths of 850 feet. They can support divers indefinitely, lowering them to the ocean floor in pressurized transfer chambers for open-sea work periods. These vessels also served as operational control ships to conduct deep-sea salvage operations.
The PIGEON can carry two of the new Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicles, small submersibles that are lowered to the water and then travel down to the stricken submarine and remove up to 24 survivors per trip, carrying them either to the rescue ship or to a submerged submarine. In addition, the PIGEON does carry the McCann chamber and the advanced Deep Diving System Mark II which permits sustained diver activities to depths of 850 feet. (Earlier rescue ships could support brief dives to about 300 feet.) To provide a large deck area for diving and submersible activities and for increased stability the PIGEON class ships are catamarans, having twin hulls with a broad connecting deck and superstructure. This design also has been incorporated in a new oceanographic research ship, the HAYES.