V Boat - Background

Background

In the early 1910s, only 12 years after Holland inaugurated the Navy's undersea force, naval strategists had already begun to wish for submarines that could operate in closer collaboration with the surface fleet than the Navy's existing classes, which had been designed primarily for coastal defense. These notional "fleet" submarines would necessarily be larger and better armed, but primarily, they would need a surface speed of some 21 kn (24 mph; 39 km/h) to be able to maneuver with the battleships and cruisers of the line.

In the summer of 1913, Electric Boat's chief naval architect, former naval constructor Lawrence Y. Spear, proposed two preliminary fleet-boat designs for consideration in the Navy's 1914 program. In the ensuing authorization of eight submarines, Congress specified that one should "be of a seagoing type to have a surface speed of not less than twenty knots". This first fleet boat, laid down in June 1916, was named USS T-1 (SS-52) after Spanish-American War hero Winfield Scott Schley. With a displacement of 1,106 long tons (1,124 t) surfaced, 1,487 long tons (1,511 t) submerged, on a length of 270 ft (82 m), Schley (later AA-1, and finally T-1) was twice as large as any previous U.S. submarine. To achieve the required surface speed, two tandem 1,000 hp (750 kW) diesel engines on each shaft drove twin screws, and a separate diesel generator was provided for charging batteries. Although Schley and two sisters authorized in 1915—USS T-2 (SS-60) (originally AA-2), and USS T-3 (SS-61) (originally AA-3)—all made their design speed of 20 kn (23 mph; 37 km/h), insoluble torsional vibration problems with their tandem engines made them very troublesome ships, and they were decommissioned in 1922-1923 after a service life of only a few years.

In 1916, well before this T-class debacle transpired, Congress authorized 58 coastal submarines and nine additional "fleet" boats. Three of the larger 800 long tons (810 t) coastal boats eventually became competing prototypes for the long-lived, 51-member S-class. The nine "fleet boats" became the "V-boats", built between 1921 and 1934, and in fact, they were the only U.S. submarines produced in that period.

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