The Tang was the first submarine designed for underwater performance rather than surfaced speed and handling. Key features included removing the deck guns, streamlining the outer hull, replacing the conning tower with a sail, installing new propellers designed for submerged operations, installing more air conditioning and a snorkel mast, and doubling the battery capacity.
The German Type XXI diesel submarine revolutionized submarine design with its introduction in 1945. Fortunately, the war was nearing its end and very few of these boats were able to operate against the Allies in the waning months for the war. Following the war, the US analyzed the captured U-2513 and U-3008 while the Soviet Union took fifteen of these submarines for research. While American fleet submarines could range 30 miles submerged at 3 knots, the German Type XXI submarines could maintain 6 knots for 40 hours, ranging 240 miles and it could do so more quietly than the American submarines and could operate at 650 feet. Equipped with a snorkel, they could range 10,000 miles at 12 knots.
A formal review of US submarine experience during World War II by Commodore Merrill Comstock led to a new submarine design which began in February 1946. It would include a new streamlined mast, retractable gear, and had no deck guns (which increased resistance). A circular sectional hull was utilized which was 100-feet shorter than the Tench class and a new space-saving engine was developed; the GM 16-338 "pancake" engines which could generate 1100hp. The space saved eliminated the need for one entire engine room from the submarine design. Additional aft torpedo stowage was eliminated and the ability to fire the Mk27 and planned Mk37 torpedoes was added. Short aft torpedo tubes were included at the request of submarine officers for use as countermeasures weapons.
By 1948, the US Navy's submarine force saw the development of a new hybrid submarine, the DFAS Diesel Fast Attack Submarines. The class was built at a length of 268 feet and a beam of 25 feet. With 2850 shaft horsepower on each of two shafts, the boat could snorkel 10,000 nautical miles at 10 knots. Underwater endurance was 43 hours at 3 knots or top speed of 17.5 knots for one hour. Diving depth was over 700 feet. These carried the WQC-2 surface search and BQA-8 navigation radars, BQG-4 active/passive sonar, and PUFFS passive sonar.
In October 1946, the design was finalized and two boats were ordered; Tang (SS-563) and Trigger (SS-564). In FY1947 Wahoo (SS-565) and Trout (SS-566) were added, and in FY1948 the final two; Gudgeon (SS-567) and Harder (SS-568). Construction began 1949-50 and Tang (SS-563) commissioned in 1951, the remainder in 1952.
On October 25, 1951, the second USS Tang (SS 563) was commissioned and was the first of the modern fast attack submarines and surrogate parent of the U.S. Navy's nuclear power submarine force. From its initial planning, the new Tangintroduced the fast attack concept to the submarine community with its streamlined hull, integrated snorkel system, and increased speed and depth. The SS 563's design incorporated the total submerged operation concept from the U.S. Navy's World War II submarine experience as well as the submarine experience of America's enemies.
This submarine provided shipbuilders with the pattern for the first eight U.S. nuclear powered submarines of the Nautilus, Seawolf, and Skate class. Tang outlasted four of those submarines before being decommissioned. Tang quickly established itself as a submarine capable of meeting operational commitments while remaining flexible.
As Tang matured, advanced technology brought vast sophistication to submarine warfare. Tang constantly incorporated the improvements into its hull.
The Navy decided in 1956 to replace the original 'pancake style' engines with the present three of the smaller, lightweight version of the 10-cylinder Fairbanks-Morse engines. The boats had to be lengthened some 9 feet in the engine room to make enough space for the new engines. Thus in 1957/58 each of the first four boats were stretched to 277 feet. Gudgeon and Harder were built to a length of 277 feet and with the FM engines as initial installation.
It also underwent extensive sail modification and modernization and two 'hull stretches' to provide space for an extensive sonar, electronic and ventilation modernization. The 'hull stretches were engineering marvels in ship overhauling as the boat was severed in half, pulled apart, and new sections dropped into place.
In 1967, some of the boats got an additional 15 (some sources say 18) foot section added to receive the PUFFS installation and to give added room. These boats were the 563, 565, 567 (all the Portsmouth boats) and the 568.
By the end, Tang measured more than 292 feet in length and displaced more than 2,000 tons, making it 600 tons heavier and more than 22 feet longer than the boat that slid into the New Hampshire waters in 1951.
In 1972, Tang 's crew found their boat and themselves in a new home port San Diego, and with a new mission: antisubmarine warfare (ASW) research and training. The new job brought with it a new designation "AGSS" for the 563. Under a heavy operational tempo, Tang dedicated itself to ASW training and several special CNO research and development projects for the next six years. But in 1978, Tang shifted home ports once again. This time it went to New London, Conn., where the 563 was redesignated SS" and became the only operational diesel submarine in the Atlantic Fleet and was once again heavily used in ASW training.
The slogan "Diesel Boats Forever" seems dated now, but the diehard diesel submariners won't let it die. Nevertheless, the era of- diesel-electric submarines has drawn to a close. Only their contributions in war and peace and the men who served on them are their legacy as the nuclear-powered submarine has emerged as the future of the U.S. Navy's submarine force.
Trigger (SS-564) and Harder (SS-568) were decommissioned in 1973 and transferred to Italy. The remainder were withdrawn from service 1978-83. Gudgeon (SS-567) was sold to Turkey in 1987.
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