Retired Navy Rear Adm. Robert Lee Swart, 79, a Navy submariner, engineer and administrator who had lived in Arlington since retiring from active duty in 1960, died of cancer Saturday in Alexandria Hospital.

Adm. Swart was a native of Elizabeth, N.J., and served in the Navy as an apprentice seaman during World War I. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1924 and earned a master's degree in diesel engineering from Pennsylvania State University in 1931.

The great bulk of his career in the 1920s and 1930s was spent aboard submarines. In 1940, he became a navigator aboard the heavy cruiser Wichita, then served as force engineer and material officer of the Atlantic Fleet during World War II.

After the war, he was named head of fleet navigation in the Bureau of Ships here, then supervised shipyard operations at Norfolk and Newport News in the late 1940s to early 1950s.

In 1953, he was promoted to rear admiral and became head of shipbuilding in the Bureau of Ships, then served as vice chief of naval material for five years before retiring in 1960.

His decorations included the Legion of Merit.

Adm. Swart was a member of Immanuel Episcopal Church in Arlington.

Survivors include his wife, Eleanor O. of Arlington; a son, Robert Jr. of Alexandria; a daughter, Mrs. L. R. Geis of Jacksonville, Fla.; two grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the American Cancer Society or the Immanuel Episcopal Church in Alexandria.