WORLD SUBMARINE HISTORY TIMELINE
PART FOUR: 1941-2000
for NOVA by Captain Brayton Harris, USN (Retired)
Navy Times Book of Submarines: A Political, Social and Military History
the first day of the war, 28 submarines of the U. S. Asiatic
Fleet were in defensive positions around the Philippines.
More submarines than the entire German U-boat fleet at the
beginning of World War I; indeed, more submarines than had
ever been assembled for one battle at the same time. They
might as well have been in San Diego.
the losing three-week Philippine campaign, with potential
targets including seventy-six loaded transports and supply
ships, the Americans averaged only two attacks per submarine,
and sank only three Japanese ships. Only one American submarine
is not meant as a compliment. Pre-war training had emphasized
caution: "It is bad practice and is contrary to submarine
doctrine," noted an official report of 1941, "to conduct
an attack at periscope depth when aircraft are known to be
in the vicinity." Of more significance: problems with torpedo
supply, and design. As for supply: 1941 torpedo production
was limited to 60 a month. For all of 1942, even with a war
well underway, total production was 2,382. Submarine commanders,
already too cautious, were cautioned not to waste their precious
ammunition. For the year, they shot 2,010.
for design: the Americans, British, Russians and Germans
all had similar problems with their torpedoes. The depth
settings were wrong; the fuses were inadequate; the torpedoes
did not explode on contact. Example: during one period in
1940, U-boats launched four attacks on a battleship, 14 on
cruisers, ten on destroyers, and ten on transports with
one transport sunk. The leading U-boat ace complained,
"I cannot be expected to fight with a dummy rifle."
all navies, senior management did not give credence to reports
coming in from the fleet. The submariners themselves who,
after all, had the most to gain, or lose continued to complain
until someone took notice, or conducted their own indisputable
tests. Amazing to note: some of these problems were hold-overs
from World War I, and others were well known but not well
dealt-with in the 1930s. The German problems were resolved
toward the end of 1940.
for the U. S. Navy: before the problems had been discovered,
and fixed, an effort which took the first two years of the
war, almost 4,000 torpedoes had been fired against the enemy with
marginal results. On one patrol "Halibut" fired 23 torpedoes;
only one exploded (although one of the targets was sunk when
the torpedo punched a hole through rusting hull plates).
The U. S. score for all of 1942, 180 ships, 725,000 tons
(about equal to a monthly U-boat total). The Japanese replaced
635,000 tons in the same period. As far as the undersea forces
were concerned, it looked like it was going to be a long
began construction of the 5,223-ton I-400 class of submarine
aircraft carrier, each of which carried three dive-bomber
seaplanes. Designed for attacks against the Panama Canal
and the West Coast of the United States. Twelve were planned;
only two were built, and did not see any useful service.
submarines also made some attacks on the West Coast, lobbing
shells at Santa Monica, California, and Astoria, Oregon.
The attacks had minor effect, although Radio Tokyo gloated, "Americans
know that the submarine shelling of the Pacific coast was
a warning to the nation that the paradise created by George
Washington is on the verge of destruction."
had hoped to send a blitzkrieg of U-boats against the East Coast
of America, but Hitler, fearful of an Allied invasion of Norway,
forced him to keep most of his assets closer to home. Nonetheless,
he managed to get five long-range cruisers into position in January where
they found the whole coastline lit up like Times Square on New
Year's Eve: no blackouts, all navigational aids aiding, all ships
sailing with full navigational lights. It was high tourist season
in Miami and the war was 3000 miles away; the northward-flowing
Gulf Stream just a few miles offshore kept southward-bound ships
close inshore, nicely silhouetted against a glowing Florida skyline.
The score for two and a half months in American coastal waters:
98 ships. Coastal communities did not go under blackout until
of the Atlantic" began in July, and continued for eleven months;
the U-boats scored some 712 merchant victims. Ships were being
sunk at more than twice the replacement rate, and new U-boats
were joining the fleet at a rate of about one a day. Also in
July, the Germans began deployment of a mid-ocean filling station.
The Type XIV boat had a capacity for 700 tons of fuel and other
supplies, rather than armaments. Dubbed the "Milk Cow," one could
keep a dozen Type VII at sea for another month, or five Type
IX for two months.
September 13, in what may be the most spectacular albeit unplanned submarine
event of all time, the Japanese I-19 launched a spread of six
torpedoes at the aircraft carrier "Wasp." Three hit, sinking
the ship. The others continued running for twelve miles, into
another task group, where one caused fatal damage to the destroyer "O'Brien" and
other send the battleship "North Carolina" to the shipyard for
two months. The sixth cruised on, into the unknown.
advances such as improved radar, the radar altimeter, the aircraft
searchlight, and effective air-dropped depth charges began to
enter the force. Before long, aircraft were accounting for 50
percent of all U-boat sinkings.
the end of the year, with the U-boat fleet clearly in trouble,
Hitler authorized the design of a fully combat-capable
Walter-cycle 1,600 ton U-boat, designated Type XVIII. Two
prototypes were ordered. However, it was soon obvious that
there was not enough time or money to turn this dream
into reality. The design was converted into a conventionally-powered
submarine diesel on the surface, batteries for submerged
running and the rather large space intended for storage
of the Perhydrol was given over to an extra-large bank
classes were ordered: the 1,600-ton Type XXI, and a coastal
version, the 230-ton XXIII. Type XXI had only half the
range of the comparable Type IX, could manage bursts of
17 knots underwater (compared with 7 knots), dive to almost
1,000 feet (300 feet deeper), and remain totally submerged
at economical creep speed for 11 days. With a sophisticated
fire control system the Type XXI could launch an attack
from a depth of 150 feet.
XXIII had twice the submerged speed and five times the underwater
endurance of the small pre-war Type II. However, combat effectiveness
was severely limited: two torpedoes, no reloads. All other
submarine construction was quickly phased out in favor of
Type XXI and Type XXIII.
to hide existing U-boats from the increasingly devastating air
patrols, Germany perfected an idea that had been kicking around
for a long time: use of a breathing tube to allow running on
diesel power just below the surface, thus also keeping the batteries
fully charged. They dubbed it the "snorkel." It was not a perfect
solution: the tube could break if the boat was going too fast;
the ball-float at the top would close if a wave passed over,
thus shifting engine suction to the interior of the boat and
occasionally popping a few eardrums. The snorkel also left a
visible wake, and returned a pretty good radar blip. But it helped.
Germans underestimated the industrial capacity of the United States.
The prediction against which "Tonnage War" was by then being waged
was that the 1943 ship-production of Great Britain and the U. S.
together would be less than 8 million tons. The U. S. alone launched
more than double that figure.
Germans also underestimated the ability of the Allies
to develop and implement highly-effective anti submarine
weapons and tactics. During the year, the U. S. Navy
established anti-submarine "Hunter-Killer" groups, centered
on the small,
"Jeep" carrier. Long-range aircraft, such as the B-24 adapted
for anti-submarine efforts, went into service. Among other
efforts, they put an end to the "Milk Cow." The rendezvous
were too easy to spot by air patrol. Of nine Type XIV in service
in June, 1943, seven had been sunk by August.
operational: the "hedgehog" so-called because the array
of twenty-four 65-pound projectiles looked like the bristles
of a porcupine. Launched 230 yards in front of the surface
warship, the projectiles would cover a 100-foot circle,
and explode on contact. The wepaon proved to be highly
the end of May, 1943, the Germans had clearly lost the
Battle of the Atlantic. In that month alone, 41 U-boats
were sunk 25 percent of current operational strength.
Things got worse: in the last four months of the year,
almost 5,000 ships sailed in Atlantic convoys; nine were
lost. Sixty-two U-boats were destroyed.
June, a Hunter-Killer group became the first American force
to capture an enemy warship on the high seas since the War
of 1812. The Type IX boat, U-505, was forced to the surface
by depth charges; quick action by a boarding party saved
the boat from being scuttled by the crew. U-505 is now a
permanent exhibit at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry.
In a small quirk of fate, it is only several dozen miles
from the wreckage of the World War I UC-97.
The captured U-505 and the American jeep carrier, "Guadalcanal."
a reprise of the "Deutschland" efforts of World War I to move high-priority
cargo through the blockade, the Japanese cargo-carrying I-52 (356
feet long, cruising range of 27,000 miles at 12 knots) was sent
from Indonesia with a cargo of ruber, tin, opium, quinine, tungsten,
molybdenum and 2 metric tons of gold bullion, bound for Nazi-occupied
radio intercepts had pin-pointed a mid-ocean rendezvous
with U-530, to transfer a coast pilot, a radar technician
and some new radar equipment to assist I-52 in running
the Allied gauntlet. Sunk on June 23, 1944, by an aircraft
from the jeep-carrier USS BOGUE, I-52 was discovered
in May, 1995 -- lying under 17,000 feet of water.
American verison of code-breaking, dubbed the "Pacific Ultra," allowed
the fleet to plot Japanese merchant convoys in advance no
need for long open-ocean hunting expeditions. U. S. submarine
production was scaled back radically early in the year the
already-existing submarine force was running out of targets.
With perhaps 140 submarines operating in the Pacific, the
U. S. Navy submarines sank more than 600 Japanese ships,
2.7 million tons more than for the years 1941, 1942 and
the targets disappeared, many submarines were assigned
to picket duty to rescue downed aviators making B-29 raids
on Japan, or anyone else who happened along. A total of
540 were hauled aboard including the youngest pilot in
the U. S. Navy, Lt(jg) George H. W. Bush.
fielded the "Kaiten" suicide torpedo, incorporating elements of
the 24-inch, 40-knot version of the "Long Lance" with a control
compartment into which the pilot was locked. Range: not more than
five hours, no matter what. "Kaiten" were carried into battle by
I-class submarines; the record is ambiguous. A fairly large number
of "Kaiten" were sent into action; one American tanker and a small
landing ship were sunk, perhaps also a destroyer escort, and two
transports were damaged
model of the "Kaiten" sucide torpedo
also pursuing weapons of desperation, developed a two-man, two-torpedo
midget submarine, the "Seehund." Thirty-nine feet long, fifteen
tons, "Seehund" could dive to 165 feet with a surface range of
120 miles at 8 knots, or 250 miles at 5 knots; submerged, 20 miles
at 5 knots, 60 miles at 3 knots. At least 268 had been built and
were ready for service when the war ended in May, 1945.
minimize the effect of Allied bombing, the late-war Type XXI boats
were built in virtually complete sections at scattered locations,
and transported by barge to assembly yards.
Note the "figure 8" cross section of the pressure hull. The lower
section was initially intended for storage of hydrogen peroxide
for a Walter powerplant; it became, instead, the compartment for
the enlarged battery capacity that gave these boats the nickname "Electroboot."
largest ship ever sunk by a submarine: the brand-new aircraft
carrier "Shinano," 71,890 tons, November 28, by the U. S. submarine "Archerfish."
first Type XXIII went on war patrol in February. By the end
of the European war May 7 six were in service, 53 were
in the water, and 900 were under construction or on order.
first Type XXI, U-2511, left Hamburg on war patrol on
April 30; when she returned home to surrender, 30 Type
XXI were in shakedown and training, 121 were in the water
and another 1000 were under construction or on order.
U-3008, one of only two Type XXI U-boats to make a wartime patrol
albeit brief, as the war ended en route.
For some, the war ended too soon. With more hope than sense, Germany
had more than 1,900 Type XXI and Type XXIII under construction
or on order on the last day of the European war.
largest U-boat, the 1,700 ton Type XB minelayer U-234 was
at sea when the war ended, and surrendered in mid-ocean to
an American destroyer escort. Her original destination had
been Japan; her cargo included two complete ME-262 jet fighters
(disassembled in crates, but with complete technical data)
and 550 kilograms of Uranium 235 (or Uranium oxide -- sources
differ), packed in lead containers. The reason the uranium
was being sent to Japan has never been determined or, at
U-boats claimed 14.4 million tons, but Germany lost 821
U-boats. Allied aircraft were responsible for (or directly
involved in) the loss of 433; surface ships, 252; mines,
34; accidents 45, submarines 25 (only one of which happened
when both hunter and victim were submerged); unknown, 15,
scuttled by their own crews, 14; interned in neutral ports,
2; sunk by shore battery, 1.
STATES: American submarines sank at least 1300 Japanese ships,
5.3 million tons, including one battleship, eight carriers,
eleven cruisers and 180 smaller warships. The U. S. Navy
lost 52 boats; 22 percent of the submarine personnel who
went on patrol did not return. It was the highest casualty
rate of any branch of service
but not as high as that of the German submarine force, which
lost an astonishing 630 men out of every 1,000 who served in
the U-boat fleet.
RUSSIA: The Soviets started the war with the largest submarine
fleet: 218. They added 54 and lost 109. They did not have
much impact on the course of the war. However, S-13 was credited
with the single greatest disaster in maritime history: the
1945 sinking of the German liner "Wilhelm Gustloff," engaged
in an effort to get German soldiers out of the path of the
advancing Red Army. There may have been more than 8,000 troops
and civilians aboard; fewer than 1,000 were rescued.
Japanese submarines had great success early in the war, especially
in the Indian Ocean area. However, the tide of battle began
to turn with the Allied invasion of Guadalcanal in August,
1942, and Japanese submarines were pulled off combat duty
and assigned to carry vital supplies to beleaguered troops
or to pull troops out of failing campaigns. The Japanese
built submarine landing ships; the Japanese Army built twenty
eight cargo submarines.
submarines scored a few important victories the carriers "Yorktown" and "Wasp,"
and the last American surface warship sunk, the cruiser "Indianapolis" in
late July, 1945; overall, however, they sank only about one-fifth
as many ships as did the American submarine force.
the last day of the Pacific war, Japan had only 33 submarines
in commission (excluding midgets), seven of which were in
the training command. Except for the midgets, the submarine
force had become irrelevant.
With more desperation than hope, the Japanese launched a massive
building program of suicide and midget submarines. Here, eighty-four
midgets, of four different designs, are huddled in drydock, October,
as with WWI, there was only one verified German submarine
atrocity. In March, 1944, a U-boat commander, on his first
combat mission, ordered his crew to kill all survivors of "Peleos" and
try to pulverize all floating wreckage with hand-grenades.
His motive: to hide the sinking from patrolling aircraft
and thus conceal his own presence in the area. He, and two
of his officers (who claimed they were only
"following orders") were convicted and executed.
Doenitz, who started the war as commander of submarines,
became Navy Chief of Staff in January, 1943, and ended the
war as Hitler's chosen successor as Chief of State even
though he had never been a member of the Nazi Party. Hitler
committed suicide on April 30; Doenitz assumed command on
May 1 and issued "cease fire" orders on May 3.
1945 Nuremberg War Crimes tribunal brought Doenitz up on
charges, especially for
"breeches of the international law of submarine warfare" for
authorizing and encouraging unrestricted operations. The best
witness in his defense: U. S. Admiral Chester Nimitz, who acknowledged
that the United States Navy had authorized unrestricted operations
against Japan, throughout the Pacific ocean area, from the
first days of the war.
Doenitz was sentenced to ten years imprisonment for being "fully
prepared to wage war" a specious charge, in the eyes of
most observers; any military force should always be thus
prepared. Most observers believed that he was being tried
as a stand-in for the unavailable Adolph Hitler.
U. S. Navy took two Type XXI and a handful of Japanese boats for
study, and applied some lessons-learned to a fleet upgrade dubbed "Greater
Underwater Propulsive Power" (GUPPY).
boats were modified: snorkels were added, guns removed, the
superstructures streamlined, and battery-power greatly increased.
Another nineteen boats received some improvements. The net
result: greatly increased underwater speed and endurance.
Philip Abelson proposed a marriage of the Walter hull form with
a nuclear power plant. The Navy detailed eight engineers to the
home of the Atomic Bomb, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, to see what might
some newly-discovered peculiarities concerning the transmission
of sound in the open ocean, a U. S. submarine was able to
detect a destroyer at a distance of 105 miles and hear depth-charges
exploding 600 miles away. This, and other research, led to
the development of a deep-ocean array of hydrophones called
SOSUS. One of the earliest installations could detect a snorkeling
submarine at 500 miles.
U. S. Navy began experimenting with submarine-launched missiles,
starting with a copy of the German V-1 buzz bomb.
Loon was tracked
by radar and command-controlled from the submarine. However,
erection of the launching ramp and preparation of the missile
kept the submarine on the surface for five minutes; therefore,
a hand-off control system was developed, whereby another
submarine, 80 miles downrange, could take over for the
last 55 miles of missile flight.
Soviet Union moved to regain status as operator of the world's
largest submarine fleet: over the following eight years, they
built 235 "Whiskey" class, using the Type XXI as a template.
from Hong Kong to Pearl Harbor twenty-one days, 5,194 miles,
of the officers detailed to Oak Ridge in 1946 assumed control
of the Navy nuclear propulsion program (and kept control,
until finally retired in 1982). Captain Rickover was a submariner
and an engineer, with a passion for safety and an obsession
for control. He was brilliant, and difficult and made nuclear
power a reality, not just in submarines, but in many major
surface warships as well.
also well-understood the role of the Congress in procurement
decisions; his friends on Capitol Hill ensured Rickover's
professional standing by assisting in a series of promotions,
eventually to the four-star rank of admiral.
first of the post-war U. S. submarines, set an American depth
record, 713 feet.
next generation sub-launched missile was "Regulus I," able
to carry a 3,000 pound nuclear warhead for five hundred miles.
The missile hangar on "Grayback," SSG-574, could house two "Regulus
I" missiles and was integrated into the hull. When "Regulus" was
overtaken by later developments, the hangar became a compartment
for clandestine amphibious assault troops.
U. S. Navy began operation of a fast-submarine test bed,
the 203-foot "Albacore." The hull form was similar to that
of an airship; the boat went through five experimental configurations;
in the first, she demonstrated underwater speeds of 26 knots.
The successful hull-form was applied to the last class
of U. S. diesel boats, "Barbel," 1959, (shown here) and
to the "Skipjack" nuclear class, 1959.
completed, "Albacore" was retired to a public park
near Portsmouth, NH -- towed in along a ditch dug for the purpose,
which was then filled in. These photos -- courtesy of Robert
Marble -- show "Albacore" in place, but not yet dressed
first nuclear-powered submarine went to sea: the 323-foot,
3,674-ton "Nautilus." Surface speed 18 knots, 23 knots submerged.
On her shakedown cruise, she steamed 1,381 miles from New
London to San Juan, Puerto Rico submerged all the way at
an average speed of 15 knots. She was so fast that, on her
first exercise with an ASW force, she outran the homing torpedoes.
Note the use of the term, "steamed." The nuclear plant
finally made a steam-powered submarine practical: the reactor
generates heat that turns water into steam to drive the
turbine. Two different reactor configurations were proposed:
one used pressurized water to transfer heat from the reactor
to the steam plant, the other used a liquid sodium potassium
Rickover built one of each; the first was installed in "Nautilus," the
other in the second nuclear boat, "Seawolf," where it proved
to be difficult to maintain and not as effective as the "Nautilus" plant.
It was replaced a few years later.
Walter hull-form ancestry is clearly shown in this 1985 post-retirement
photo (while "Nautilus" was being taken to a memorial berth at
U. S. Navy experimented with various propulsion systems,
including so-called "closed circuit" engines that did not
require access to atmospheric oxygen. However, development
of the nuclear power-plant tended to put other technologies
on the shelf at least, in the United States. The development
of closed-circuit systems has continued, especially in some
European navies seeking a lower-cost alternative to nuclear
The 49-foot-long X-1 tested a closed-circuit diesel-hydrogen peroxide
plant, which exploded in May 1957 and was removed.
on hard experience with the Japanese "kamikaze" suicide aircraft,
the U. S. Navy developed a prototype nuclear-powered radar-picket
submarine. At 447 feet and 5,963 tons, "Triton" was the largest
U. S. submarine to date, but by the time she was in commission,
in 1959, advances in airborne detection systems had rendered
her intended mission unnecessary. She became the first nuclear
boat to be retired, 1969.
German V-2 rocket became the U.S. Air Force "Jupiter" missile;
although exceeding large, at least one scheme was proposed
to mount four V-2s in a submarine. However, timely development
of the "Polaris" missile permitted sixteen on a boat.
V-2 -- a 46-foot long, 5.5 foot diameter (12 feet across
the fins),12.46-ton missile fueled by liquid oxygen and
alcohol on a submarine? Well, no.
A-1 "Polaris" solid-fuel, compact (28 feet and 4.6 feet),
range 1,200 miles was ready for deployment by 1960. An
A-2 version, 1,500 miles, entered service in 1962, followed
a year later by the 2,500 mile A-3, all of which could
fit in the same launch tubes. Here, tube hatches open on "Sam
Rayburn," SSBN-635 one of 41 U. S. ballistic missile
submarines built between 1960 and 1968.
Soviet Union fielded their first nuclear powered submarine. They
gained a head start by following, stealing from, and copying,
the Americans. Five years into their program, the Soviets had
24 nuclear boats in three classes, all with the same reactor.
for submarine crews the Soviets had copied what they saw,
but apparently did not understand the underlying problems which
could be associated with the use of nuclear power. There are
rumors that entire crews of early Soviet boats may later have
died from radiation poisoning.
first submarine to utilize the potential of both the nuclear
powerplant and the high-speed "Albacore"
hull was "Skipjack" officially rated at 29 knots, submerged.
the first submerged circumnavigation of the globe: 36,014
miles in eighty-four days.
U. S. Navy has lost two nuclear submarines, to accident.
The first was "Thresher," on April 10, 1963. After two years
in commission, the boat had just come out of a shipyard availability
and was on sea trials when something went wrong perhaps
the rupture of a section of piping, no one knows for certain. "Thresher" sank
in some 8,300 feet, taking 128 crew members with her. The
boat had an operational depth of 1,300 feet more than any
other U. S. submarine class to that date but clearly the
hull would have passed "crush depth" well before hitting
least two things came out of this accident. The first: the
entire design was scoured, looking for any possible defects;
they were corrected in all boats of the class then under
second: in recognition of the fact that the U. S. had no
viable method for rescuing trapped submariners at any depth
below a few hundred feet. Thus was developed the Deep Submergence
Rescue Vehicle (DSRV), to assist any submarine that bottomed
short of crush depth.
The DSRV is air-transportable, able to mate with and remove crew
from U. S. submarines to a depth of at least 5,000 feet. Two were
built; neither has ever been needed.
The accident also spurred the adoption of an individual escape
suit, the "Steinke Hood," designed and tested in 1961 by a junior
officer, Harris Steinke. While this would have been of little use
to "Thresher" crew, it has been demonstrated to an open-ocean depth
of 318 feet.
reported to have set an underwater speed record of 33 knots,
although the "official" speed is posted as 25 knots.
The second U. S. nuclear submarine
lost: USS SCORPION (SSN-589), possibly the victim of one
of her own torpedoes, May 22. The accident may have been
monitored by the then-secret SOSUS sound arrays planted on
the ocean bottom.
class nuclear submarine surprised the U. S. Navy by keeping
up with a 31-knot high-speed task force led by the nuclear-powered
aircraft carrier "Enterprise."
by the "November" surprise, the U. S. Navy developed
a new class of fast attack boats, "Los Angeles." The class
had some teething problems, but the 62 boats in the class
demonstrated respectable performance, with submerged speed
in excess of 30 knots.
LOS ANGELES, SSN 688.
"Poseidon," with multiple independently-targeted warheads,
went to sea.
was underway on the next generation submarine-launched ballistic
missile, "Trident," C-4. With twice the range of the C-3,
a C-4 equipped submarine could launch at the most logical
targets in the Cold War world while sitting in New York harbor.
The United States would no longer be required to maintain
overseas submarine bases in Scotland, Spain, and Guam; in
truth, those bases were closed when the C-4 became operational.
The C-4 missile first flew in January, 1977.
C-4 did pose some problems for the people who design submarines.
Too large to fit in any extant sub design, "Trident" required
a new, very large class of submarine:
"Ohio," 560 feet long, 42 feet wide, 16,674 tons.
OHIO, SSBN 726. Eighteen have been built. The first entered service
American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) attempted to raise
a Soviet GOLF-class Soviet diesel-powered boat, K-129 (which
sank in 1968) -- under cover of a deep-ocean mineral recovery
effort using a ship built for the purpose, the "Glomar Explorer."
In the event -- code name "Project Jennifer" -- the sub
apparently broke apart and the back half fell back to the
the Falklands War, two British ASW carriers, more than a
dozen other surface warships, five submarines (four of them
nuclear) and a gaggle of patrolling aircraft were occupied
almost paralyzed in protecting the force against two
badly maintained, poorly manned Argentine submarines one,
a post-World War II Guppy and the other an eight-year old
German boat that, in the end, had nil effect upon the war.
The predictions of Fulton and Admiral Dewey as valid
not deceived by this comic-opera vignette: the submarine
war, on the other side, was deadly serious business. The
British submarine "Conqueror"
sank the World War II-vintage Argentine cruiser "Belgrano" (ex-
USS Phoenix) with two World War II-vintage torpedoes; 368 sailors
began for the next-generation American attack submarine: "Seawolf," SSN-21.
The hull number was adjusted the next in the series would
have been 774 to celebrate "Seawolf"
as the "submarine of the 21st Century." Size: 353 feet,
40 foot diameter, 8,000 tons and with the most sophisticated
systems imaginable. Top speed: probably in excess of 35
to one program manager, when underway at quiet speed, "Seawolf" would
be as quiet as a "Los Angeles" boat sitting at the pier.
Quiet speed may be in excess of 20 knots.
October 6, a Soviet YANKEE-Class nuclear-powered missile
boat, K-291 sank in the Atlantic, 680 miles northeast of Bermuda,
from an explosion in a missile tube.
"Komsomolets" sank in the Norwegian sea. Most of the crew
were able to abandon ship; 34 of them died from hypothermia,
heart failure or drowning while waiting for rescue in the
accident prompted the Russians to develop individual escape-survival
suits (designated SSP), rated to a depth of 328 feet, and
led the U. S. Navy to adopt the Mark 10 British-designed
Submarine Escape Immersion Module (SEIE). This provides individual
full-body thermal protection, and has been tested to 600
below: photos of Russian submarines during the Summer of
1994. Top: a Delta III-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile
boat; below, a Victor III-class nuclear-powered attack submarine.
SEAWOLF, SSN-21, on sea trials, 1996.
preparation for development of the next submarine class ("Virginia"),
the U. S. Navy elected to create a one-fourth scale, unmanned,
submarine, to test new and emerging technologies before they
are committed to full-scale ships. Designated the Large Scale
Vehicle (LSV) 2 and named after a species of trout, "Cutthroat," the
111-foot boat is scheduled for delivery to the Navy in the
Spring of 2001.
The U.S. Navy is testing "Avenger," a
65-ft mini-sub with a closed-cycle engine powered by diesel
fuel and liquid oxygen. Intended for use by the SEALs --
the Navy's clandestine amphibious assault teams -- "Avenger"
can carry 18 troops and a crew of 6.
Russian missile attack submarine "Kursk" K-141 sank while
on maneuvers in the Barents Sea. Placed in service in 1995,
the 510-foot Oscar II-class "Kursk" had a surface displacement
of 14,700 tons and speed in excess of 30 knots. On August
12, the sound of at least two explosions were picked up by
The Norwegian Seismic Service and five other ships operating
in the area including two American and one British submarine
shadowing the exercises. The actual cause of the accident
is unknown, although
"Kursk" had radioed for permission to launch an exercise
torpedo about an hour and a half earlier.
went down in about 350 feet of water with 118 men. Although the
boat was equipped with several escape systems including
individual escape-survival suits none were used. Efforts
to reach "Kursk" were hampered by weather, but upon inspection,
authorities determined that there probably had not been
any survivors. Initial reports of tapping from inside may
have been accurate -- we now know that there were at least
twenty-three survivors . . . for a time. "Kursk" was
subsequently raised (except for the immediate bow section,
which may contain hair-trigger ordnance) and is being studied.
this year of the "official" 100th Anniversary of the submarine dating
from the purchase of
"Holland" by the U. S. Navy some 47 nations operate more
than 700 submarines, almost three hundred of them nuclear
powered. New designs are being pursued in the United States,
Germany, Italy, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Japan.
submarine appears to be in the best of international health.
the whole story:
Navy Times Book of Submarines:
A Political, Social and Military History"
February 6, 2010