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index > great ships of the world > a century of submarines - the roles we played

A CENTURY OF SUBMARINES - THE ROLES WE PLAYED


Synopsis by Leslie Spaulding

The following article is based on Silent Defense 100 Years of the American Submarine Force by Dr. Gary E. Weir, U.S. Naval Historical Center, and CDNSWC and Submarine HM&E–Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow by Dan Sheridan and Larry Tarasek.


The U.S. Fleet's submarine force celebrates 100 years in service this year. The Carderock Division has heavily supported the submarine community from the very beginning of the modern era for submarines and submersibles.

In his history of the submarine force, Dr. Gary E. Weir of the U.S. Naval Historical Center, said, "The past 100 years have witnessed the evolution of a force that mastered submersible warfare, introduced nuclear propulsion to create the true submarine, and for decades patrolled the deep ocean front line; the hottest part of an otherwise Cold War."

In a technical paper written for ASNE's From Research to Reality in Ship Systems Engineering Symposium, Dan Sheridan (former Head, Submarines Department, Code 27) and Larry Tarasek (NSWCCD Virginia Class Manager, Code 27) outlined in great detail the contributions the Carderock Division has made to this evolution. Our involvement began at the turn of the century, continued through World War II and the Cold War, and flourishes today. Over the years, the Division has contributed to the submarine force's hull, mechanical, and electrical systems through science and technology, research and development, design and construction, full-scale test and evaluation, and in-service engineering.

The Division contribution reflects a wide influence on the submarine. As Sheridan and Tarasek explained in their paper "HM&E encompasses the basic elements of a vessel, including hull form, control, propulsion, structure, life support, energy distribution, as well as mechanical and electrical machinery components and systems. Overarching attributes affected by these elements are stealth (both acoustic and non-acoustic), speed, maneuverability, diving depth, toughness, safety, payload capacity, environmental quality (internal and natural environment), mission effectiveness and cost."

The Early Years


Early design, construction, and technical support for U.S. Navy submarines was provided solely by the private sector. Most notably, the Navy's first successful submarine, the Holland (SS 1), which was the lead ship of the A Class of submarines, was built by Electric Boat. In their paper, Sheridan and Tarasek wrote, "At that point in history, the relationship between the builder and the supplier was simple. The Navy bought a product from a builder with very little involvement in the technology or construction practices that the vessel represented." They further explained that similar submarines were sold to other navies.


While American submarine technology was lacking in those early days, other countries were making great progress. "A shocking gap between American and German submarine technology, especially in propulsion systems and hull structural configurations, was obvious from evaluations of German U-boats inspected toward the end of WWI," wrote Sheridan and Tarasek. "Surprise at the inferiority of American submarines relative to captured German WWI U-boats was a catalyst for the Navy to become proactive in its pursuit of technology. From this awakening call, the U.S. Navy chartered a course of internal government lead technology development and leadership that was a marked departure from early policies and practices. At the beginning of WWI, the Navy was totally dependent on the private sector. By about 1940, the Navy had developed design and construction expertise in its Bureau of Construction and Repair and Bureau of Engineering that placed it firmly in control of submarine design and construction."


As Navy involvement evolved, the demand for technical knowledge and reliable systems grew, resulting in a heavy Navy investment in infrastructure. The Navy looked to the scientific community, and the benefactors for HM&E were the David Taylor Model Basin, the Engineering Experiment Station, and the Naval Research Laboratory.


With its 35th model, the DTMB began its work in hydrodynamics. The model was called Subsurface #1. In 1914, EES began its support of submarine mechanical and electrical systems when technologists and builders inspected captured German U-boats. EES was the central site for much of the assessment and investigation into U-boat technology. Later, when the U.S. Navy studied German U-boats from WWII, broader efforts began. By 1945, a special facility was constructed at EES to enable development of a suitable snorkel system for U.S. submarines.


One example of Division support, considered by Navy historians to be of great significance in the realization of true submarines, is the experimental submarine Albacore (AGSS 569). Wrote Sheridan and Tarasek, "This submarine was conceived and built to challenge the frontiers of high-speed underwater hydrodynamic shape, maneuvering and control, and quiet operations. Albacore was a bold departure from other submarines of the day and was a full-scale test bed for many new ideas and configurations."


Albacore's "cigar shaped hull" was based on the Series 58 hull forms developed at DTMB. Naval historian Rodney Carlisle, in his book Where the Fleet Begins–A History of the David Taylor Research Center, said, "In its body-of-revolution shape, Albacore would change the future of submarines; its shape was a Model Basin achievement and would rank with nuclear propulsion itself as a major American step towards the true submarine."


The advent of nuclear propulsion changed forever submarine technology. In his history, Weir wrote, "The quest for greater submerged speed, initiated in earnest after 1945, found its way to the Navy's David Taylor Model Basin just as Admiral Hyman Rickover's nuclear propulsion project succeeded with Nautilus. The research at David Taylor provided insights into the ideal hull form for high-speed submarines. With the conventionally powered experimental Albacore, submariners reached extraordinary submerged speeds. In the attack submarine (SSN) USS Skipjack, the endurance of nuclear propulsion and the high speed of the Albacore teardrop hull form came together to form the new paradigm. Every American submarine since 1958 has followed the same basic formula. The attack submarines proved very effective during the Cold War in addressing the Soviet submarine threat in the north Atlantic and northwest Pacific through surveillance and deterrence."


The government and the private sector worked together on Skipjack, as they did for the first Polaris submarine, George Washington (SSBN 598), which was launched in June 1959. The Division's contributions to Polaris included addressing the problems of hovering control under a seaway and structural configuration for the special hull sections in the missile carrying sections.

As technology improved, the importance of stealth became paramount. Sheridan and Tarasek wrote, "The new frontiers rapidly became acoustic stealth, maneuvering and control, materials, and hull systems (structures, piping, valves, pumps, etc.) that could safely and quietly allow deep diving without sacrificing the ability to carry payloads (sensors, weapons and people)...To enable superior performance, CDNSWC assembled the essential skilled individuals and unique facilities to support the pursuit of acoustic superiority and assure that structures and maneuvering were safe and appropriate for high performance submarines."


To accurately assess and predict actual ship performance and features, large-scale and full-scale testing was required. This led to facilities such as the Acoustic Research Detachment in Bayview.


The 1960s brought about a change in the working relationship between the public and private sectors. Said Sheridan and Tarasek, "There was a clear government dominance of the entire community by Admiral Rickover and Robert McNamara, as KennedyÕs Secretary of Defense introduced new rules for acquisitions and relationships between the public and private sectors. The loss of the Thresher in 1963 gave rise to the Submarine Safety Program, which brought great rigor and a host of special requirements and certifications to every aspect of submarine design, construction and operations. The result was somewhat of a 'we versus them' mentality between the public and private sectors."


In the mid '60s NAVSEA emerged as the designer for submarines, for both the nuclear propulsion plant and the rest of the ship. The shipbuilders built, the labs did technology and verified performance, and NAVSEA oversaw design and acquisition. Also during this time, the Naval Ship Systems Engineering Station, which had traditionally been surface ship oriented, began supporting submarine systems, including submarine antenna, mast and periscope services, atmospheric quality and control systems, full-scale machinery systems test apparatus for auxiliary, and propulsion and power generation components.


The launching of the Los Angeles (SSN 688) in 1976 at Newport News Shipbuilding marked delivery of the first submarine designed to recoup some of the speed lost in prior classes without sacrificing the acoustic performance needed to maintain superiority. Advancement in missile technology led to the development of the Ohio (SSBN 726) Class of SSBNs to carry the Trident nuclear missile of the same name. This class consists of the largest number of submarines built for the U.S. Navy and among the quietest ever to go to sea. The labs played a major role in all of these developments.


During the peak of the Cold War, foreign submarine developers were making great strides, requiring more advances from the United States. Since the Los Angeles Class had reached its limits, it was time for the next generation. "The Seawolf (SSN 21) was needed to provide a submarine that could operate in any scenario, against any threat and in any environment, from under ice to shallow water," wrote Sheridan and Tarasek. "It was intended that Seawolf set the standard for submarine technology and performance well into the 21st Century. The task was profoundly challenging to the technical community."


"Throughout that period of rapid development, multiple designs, and rapidly evolving technology, NSWCCD was a primary resource for advancing the stealth, strength, toughness, and mobility attributes that are critical for a superior submarine." Studies were done at the Division, which supported hydrodynamics, hydroacoustics, non-acoustic and acoustic signature reduction, target strength, structures and materials, hull and propulsor signatures, and vehicle mechanical and electrical system and component design.


"Acoustic stealth was a driving factor in the Seawolf design," wrote Sheridan and Tarasek. "The ability to test and evaluate acoustic signature reduction techniques on large-scale models prior to making ship design decisions is critical to ensuring high confidence that full-scale performance will be as expected. One of the most extensive R&D investments made in support of the Seawolf Program was the Large Scale Vehicle (LSV). The LSV is a quarter-scale, battery-powered, autonomous underwater vehicle used extensively for propulsor testing during the Seawolf Program at our Acoustic Research Detachment.


Another Seawolf investment, also at the ARD, was the buoyantly propelled vehicle 'Kamloops' which supported hydrodynamic flow noise testing. The Kamloops vehicle is a free-rising, unpowered, unmanned model, which provides data for the control of flow-induced self-noise levels at high speeds. Kamloops was used to tested hull, bow, stern, and sail target strength coatings, GRP sonar dome designs, internal treatments (damping) for flow noise mitigation, main ballast tank floodport designs, bow plane seal designs, baffle designs, and torpedo shutter door seal designs.


"Because Seawolf will have the quietest signatures of any U.S. submarine, the Division embarked on programs to improve the measurement of acoustic and non-acoustic signatures during full-scale trials," they wrote. "Existing ranges and measurement systems were not sensitive enough to evaluate the very low levels of this submarine. The USNS Hayes (T-AG 195) was converted from an oceanographic research vessel to an ultra-quiet noise measurement vessel. USNS Hayes became operational in 1991 as the Fleet's submarine acoustical measurement platform on the East Coast.


The end of the Cold War brought many cutbacks in the military. The planned 29-ship Seawolf Class was greatly reduced. In 1993, the Navy initiated work on a follow-on attack class submarine, the Virginia Class. The Virginia Class brought about changes in how the Navy designs and procures submarines, employing an Integrated Product and Process Development (IPPD) approach. A fundamental feature of this process is the assignment of personnel from R&D, design, manufacturing, planning, test and evaluation and logistics to the teams from all stakeholders, government and private. IPPD also changed how the Division supports the submarine design process. Some areas supported by the Division include the ship control system, thrust bearing, air conditioning plant, reverse osmosis desalination plant, acoustic mufflers, diesel generator, oxygen generator, shock testing of components, modular decks, bow dome design and vendor qualification, advanced masts, ICCP design and power conversion module testing. The Division also participates in system level teams that effect the total ship, such as acoustics, materials, structures, environmental, and auxiliary and electrical systems. Finally, the Division provides leadership on several technology teams such as those responsible for the propulsor, special hull coatings, hydrodynamic evaluation, flow and radiated self-noise evaluation, electromagnetic silencing, pressure hull confirmation model testing, bainitic wire weld technology, and acoustic filter development.


The likelihood of low production numbers for the Virginia Class has led to a unique relationship between EB and NNS. They are teaming to cooperatively build the first four Virginias. This is a significant change within the submarine business community. The Navy encouraged teaming on construction to keep two shipyards engaged in submarine construction, which is an expressed intent of Congress. It is expected that this construction relationship will accomplish maintenance of two construction capabilities at a lower cost than the typical direct competition approach.


Under the February 28, 1997, teaming agreement, EB will continue as the lead design yard building the engine room and command and control modules, plus seven other sections for all four ships while performing the final assembly, outfitting, shipboard testing, and delivery of the first and third NSSN hulls. Newport News Shipbuilding will be responsible for all four habitability and auxiliary room modules and six other sections while performing the final assembly outfitting, shipboard testing, and delivery of the second and fourth NSSN hulls.


This teaming will enable near single learning curve economies; avoid certain one-time costs from being incurred at both yards, and will take advantage of each builder's strengths. It should also avoid the costly inefficiencies inherent in the restricted communications that often occur between two competing shipyards as a result of proprietary concerns and will provide stability to vendors, yielding savings in material procurement. CDNSWC will provide technical and testing support to both constructors as the need arises.


These are but a few of the many contributions the Division provided to the Navy's Submarine Fleet. Obviously, a short synopsis of 100 years of technological history can not do the story justice. To read Dr. WeirÕs entire history of the submarine force, log on to http://www.chinfo.navy.mil/navpalib/ships/submarines/ centennial/abbhist.html.


To read Sheridan's and Tarasek's very interesting paper detailing the history of the Division's support of U.S. submarines, contact Larry Tarasek at 301-227-1623.


Additionally, the Smithsonian Museum of American History's submarine exhibit, opened last April and will remain open until April 2003. A mural of submarine development in this exhibit includes a photograph of the USS Albacore (AGSS-569) model at the David Taylor Model Basin.


For More Information Contact:


Leslie Spaulding at spauldingl@nswccd.navy.mil or (215) 897-7702.

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