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United States S-class submarine
USS S-44
S-class submarine S-44
Career (United States)
Builder: Bethlehem Steel (S1 Class)
Commissioned:
USS S-1 (SS-105): 1918
USS S-47 (SS-158): 1925
General characteristics
Class & type: S Class
Displacement: At most 906 tons surfaced, 1230 Submerged
Length: 240-207 ft.
Draught: 19ft 3in-21ft 9 in
Speed: >15 knots
Range: 5,000 miles (8,047 kilometres)
Test depth: 200 ft (70 metres)

The United States' S-class submarines, often simply called S-boats (sometimes "Sugar" boats, after the then contemporary Navy phonetic alphabet for "S"), were the first class of submarines built to a United States Navy design.

The United States Navy commissioned 51 S-Class submarines from 1920 to 1925. The first S-boat, USS S-1 (SS-105), was commissioned in 1918 and the last numerically, USS S-51 (SS-162), in 1922. The last of the class actually commissioned was USS S-47 (SS-158) in 1925. The S class is subdivided into four groups of different designs:

  • Group I (S-1 class, or "Holland" type):S-1 and S-18S-41, built by Bethlehem Steel at Fore River Shipyard in Quincy, Massachusetts and Union Iron Works in San Francisco, California, as subcontractor for Electric Boat Company (Elco).
  • Group II (S-3 class, or "Navy Yard" type):S-3-S-17, built at the Portsmouth Navy Yard and Lake Torpedo Boat at Bridgeport, Connecticut.
  • Group III (S-42 class): S-42-S-47, built at Fore River.
  • Group IV (S-48 class): S-48-S-51, built by Lake.

S-2 was a prototype built by Lake, and was not repeated.

S-1, S-2, and S-3 were prototypes built to the same specification: S-1 designed by Electric Boat (Elco), S-2 by Lake, and S-3 by the Bureau of Construction and Repair (later Bureau of Ships).[1] The Lake boat was considered inferior. The Elco and BuC&R designs were put into production.

The first S-boat, S-1, was launched on 26 September 1918, by Bethlehem at Fore River, but not commissioned until 5 June 1920.[2]

The S-boats were improvements over the O- and R-boats. They were substantially larger. Compared to the R-boats, Group I S-boats were 33 feet (10.1 m) longer, with 3 feet 3 inches (1.0 m) more beam, 2 feet 3 inches (0.7 m) more draft, and 60% greater displacement. This allowed for greater range, larger engines and higher speed, and more torpedo reloads, though the number of forward torpedo tubes was still four. Seven of the Group II and all the Group IV boats had an additional stern tube. Group IV was also longer and had less draft.[3][4] In 1923, USS S-1 (SS-105) experimented with a seaplane (an idea the Japanese would adopt).

Service[edit | edit source]

These boats saw service in World War II in both the Atlantic and the Pacific. Smaller and slower than many of the submarines produced for war service, and lacking the range for Pacific Ocean patrols (as well as being 20 years old), they were used in reconnaissance and supply roles, as well as for coastal defense, such as in the Alaska theater during the aftermath of the Battle of the Aleutian Islands. They were withdrawn in mid-1943 as fleet submarines became available, and were relegated to ASW training. Most of the surviving boats were scrapped in 1946.

In World War II, S-class boats did not use the newer Mark 14 torpedo, standard in fleet submarines, due to shorter torpedo tubes, relying on the World War I-vintage Mark 10, instead. (Due to production shortages, many fleet boats used Mark 10s, also.) Since the Mark 14 suffered from a high failure rate early in the war, this was not necessarily a disadvantage.

Some were transferred to other navies, such as the six transferred to the British Royal Navy. These were mostly used for training in anti-submarine warfare and removed from service by mid-1944.

General characteristics[edit | edit source]

Group I[edit | edit source]

  • Displacement: 854 tons surfaced; 1,062 tons submerged
  • Length: 219 feet 3 inches (66.8 m)
  • Beam: 20 feet 9 inches (6.3 m)
  • Draft: 16 feet (4.9 m)[5]
  • Propulsion: 2 × New London Ship and Engine Company (NELSECO) diesels, 600 hp (448 kW) each; 2 × Electro-Dynamic (S-1, S-30-S-35), Ridgway (S-18, S-20 through S-29), or General Electric (S-36 through S-41) electric motors, 750 horsepower (560 kW) each; 120 cell Exide battery; two shafts.[5]
  • Bunkerage: 168 tons oil fuel
  • Speed: 14.5 knots (27 km/h) surfaced; 11 knots (20 km/h) submerged
  • Range: 5,000 miles (8,000 km) at 10 knots (19 km/h) surfaced
  • Test depth: 200 ft (61 m)
  • Armament (as built): 4 × 21 in (533 mm) torpedo tubes (bow, 12 torpedoes);[5] 1 × 4 in (102 mm)/50 cal deck gun[6]
  • Crew: 42 officers and men
  • Boats in Group: S-1, S-18 through S-41

Group II[edit | edit source]

  • Displacement: 876 tons surfaced; 1,092 tons submerged
  • Length: 231 feet (70.4 m)
  • Beam: 21 feet 9 inches (6.6 m)
  • Draft: 13 feet 4 inches (4.1 m)[7]
  • Propulsion: 2 × M.A.N (S-3 through S-13) or Busch-Sulzer (S-14 through S-17) diesels, 1,000 hp (746 kW) each; 2 × Westinghouse electric motors, 600 hp (447 kW) each; 120-cell Exide battery; two shafts.[5]
  • Speed: 15 knots (28 km/h) surfaced; 11 knots (20 km/h) submerged
  • Bunkerage: 148 tons oil fuel[8]
  • Range: 5,000 nautical miles (9,000 km) at 10 knots (19 km/h) surfaced
  • Test depth: 200 ft (61 m)
  • Armament (as built): 4 × 21 in (533 mm) torpedo tubes (bow, 12 torpedoes) or (S-11 through S-13) 5 (four forward, one aft, 14 torpedoes);[8] 1 × 4 in (102 mm)/50 cal deck gun[9]
  • Crew: 42 officers and men
  • Boats in Group: S-3 through S-17

Group III[edit | edit source]

  • Displacement: 906 tons surfaced; 1,126 tons submerged
  • Length: 216 feet (65.8 m), 225 feet 3 inches (68.7 m) overall
  • Beam: 20 feet 9 inches (6.3 m)
  • Draft: 16 feet (4.9 m)[10]
  • Propulsion: 2 × NELSECO diesels, 600 hp (448 kW) each; 2 × Electro-Dynamic electric motors, 750 horsepower (560 kW) each; 120 cell Exide battery; two shafts.[11]
  • Speed: 15 knots (28 km/h) surfaced; 11 knots (20 km/h) submerged
  • Bunkerage: 185 tons oil fuel[10]
  • Range: 5,000 nautical miles (9,000 km) at 10 knots (19 km/h) surfaced
  • Test depth: 200 ft (61 m)
  • Armament (as built): 4 × 21 in (533 mm) torpedo tubes (bow, 12 torpedoes); 1 × 4 in (102 mm)/50 cal deck gun[9]
  • Crew: 42 officers and men
  • Boats in Group: S-42 through S-47

Group IV[edit | edit source]

  • Displacement: 903 tons surfaced; 1230 tons submerged
  • Length: 240 feet (73.2 m), 266 feet (81.1 m) overall
  • Beam: 21 feet 9 inches (6.6 m)
  • Draft: 13 feet 6 inches (4.1 m)[10]
  • Propulsion: 2 × Busch-Sulzer diesels, 900 hp (670 kW) each; 2 × Ridgway electric motors, 750 horsepower (560 kW) each; 120 cell Exide battery; two shafts.[12]
  • Bunkerage: 177 tons oil fuel[10]
  • Speed: 14.5 knots (27 km/h) surfaced; 11 knots (20 km/h) submerged
  • Range: 8,000 nautical miles (15,000 km) at 10 knots (19 km/h) surfaced
  • Depth: 200 ft (61 m)
  • Armament (as built): 4 × 21 in (533 mm) torpedo tubes (bow, 12 torpedoes); 1 × 4 in (102 mm)/50 cal deck gun[9]
  • Crew: 42 officers and men
  • Boats in Group: S-48 through S-51

S-2[edit | edit source]

  • Displacement: 800 tons surfaced; 977 tons submerged
  • Length: 207 feet (63.1 m) overall
  • Beam: 19 feet 6 inches (5.9 m)
  • Draft: 16 feet 3 inches (5.0 m)[13]
  • Propulsion: 2 × diesels, 900 hp (670 kW) each; 2 × electric motors, 750 horsepower (560 kW) each; two shafts.[13]
  • Speed: 15 knots (28 km/h) surfaced; 11 knots (20 km/h) submerged
  • Range: 8,000 nautical miles (15,000 km) at 10 knots (19 km/h) surfaced
  • Depth: 200 ft (61 m)
  • Armament (as built): 4 × 21 in (533 mm) torpedo tubes (bow, 12 torpedoes);[13] 1 × 4 in (102 mm)/50 cal deck gun[9]
  • Crew: 42 officers and men

S-boat fates[edit | edit source]

All S-boats were scrapped after World War II except those listed below.

Lost at sea between wars[edit | edit source]

Scrapped between World War I and World War II[edit | edit source]

Transferred to the Royal Navy during World War II[edit | edit source]

Lost during World War II[edit | edit source]

Notes and references[edit | edit source]

  1. Lenton, H. T. American Submarines (Doubleday, 1973), p.17.
  2. Lenton, p.16.
  3. Lenton, p.15 & 17.
  4. Silverstone, Paul. U.S. Warships of World War I (Ian Allan, 1970), pp. 144-150
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Lenton, p.19.
  6. Campbell, John Naval Weapons of World War Two (Naval Institute Press, 1985), ISBN 0-87021-459-4, p.143.
  7. Lenton, p. 21.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Lenton, p.21.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 Campbell, p.143.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Lenton, p. 23.
  11. Lenton, pp. 19, 23.
  12. Lenton, p.23.
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Silverstone, p. 148.
  14. 14.0 14.1 Lenton, p.18.

External links[edit | edit source]



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