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Sturgeon-class submarine
USS Sturgeon (SSN-637) Launch.jpg
USS Sturgeon
Class overview
Builders: General Dynamics Electric Boat
General Dynamics Quincy
Ingalls Shipbuilding
Portsmouth Naval Shipyard
New York Shipbuilding
Newport News Shipbuilding
Mare Island Naval Shipyard
Operators: United States of America
Preceded by: Thresher-class submarine
Succeeded by: Los Angeles-class submarine
Built: 1963–1975
In commission: 1967–2004
Completed: 37
Retired: 37
General characteristics
Displacement: 3,640 long tons (3,698 t) surfaced
4,640 long tons (4,714 t) submerged
Length: 292 ft 3 in (89.08 m)
Beam: 31 ft 8 in (9.65 m)
Propulsion: 1 × S5W Pressurized water reactor
2 × 11.2 MW steam turbines
1 shaft
Speed: 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph) surfaced
26 knots (48 km/h; 30 mph) submerged
Range: Unlimited, except by food supplies
Test depth: 1,320 ft (400 m)[1]
Complement: 107
Armament: • 4 × 21 in (533 mm) amidship torpedo tubes with MK-48 and ADCAP torpedoes, plus 15 reloads, and 4 Harpoon missiles or up to 8 Tomahawk missiles, instead of equivalent of number of Torpedoes or Harpoons.
In minelaying configuration:
Mark 67 Submarine Launched Mobile Mines and Mark 60 CAPTOR mines instead of torpedoes.

The Sturgeon-class (colloquially in naval circles, known as the 637-class) were a class of nuclear-powered fast attack submarines (SSN) in service with the United States Navy from the 1960s until 2004. They were the "work horses" of the submarine attack fleet throughout much of the Cold War. The boats were phased out in the 1990s and early 21st century, as their successors, the Los Angeles, followed by the Seawolf and Virginia-class boats, entered service.


Control room

The Sturgeons were essentially lengthened and improved variants of the Thresher/Permit class that directly preceded them. The biggest difference was the much larger sail, which permitted the return of intelligence gathering masts to U.S. nuclear submarines. The fairwater planes mounted on the sail could rotate 90 degrees, allowing the submarine to surface through thin ice. Because the S5W reactor was used, the same as in the Skipjacks and Thresher/Permits, and the displacement was increased, the Sturgeons' top speed was 26 knots (48 km/h), 2 knots slower than the Thresher/Permits. The last nine Sturgeons were lengthened 10 feet (3 m) to provide more space for intelligence-gathering equipment and to facilitate the use of dry deck shelters.


They were equipped to carry the Harpoon missile, the Tomahawk cruise missile, the UUM-44 SUBROC, the MK37 SLMM and MK 60 CAPTOR mines, and the MK-48 and ADCAP torpedoes. Torpedo tubes were located amidships to accommodate the bow-mounted sonar. The bow covering the sonar sphere was made from steel or glass reinforced plastic (GRP), both varieties having been produced both booted and not booted. Booted domes are covered with a half-inch layer of rubber.[2][3] The GRP domes improved the bow sonar sphere performance; though for intelligence gathering missions, the towed-array sonar was normally used as it was a much more sensitive array.

Noise reduction

Several Sturgeon boats were modifications of the original designs to test ways to reduce noise.

  • Narwhal, which was nearly a sub-class of its own, was completed with an S5G reactor which was cooled using natural convection rather than pumps and did not have reduction gears, but utilized a sophisticated multi-stage turbine in an attempt to reduce the noise footprint from the reduction gears. The turbine arrangement was not considered successful because of its complex warm-up and cooldown procedures.
  • Glenard P. Lipscomb was completed using a large electric motor for main propulsion rather than direct drive from the steam turbines. The Lipscomb’s trial of electric propulsion was not considered successful due to lack of reliability and she was decommissioned in 1989.
  • Puffer was outfitted with Raytheon Harmonic Power Conditioners (a.k.a. "the cloaking device"[citation needed]) which eliminated an electrical bus noise problem that was inherent in the class. This was done by harmonic conditioning of the power system. This successful feature was later outfitted on the entire class.
  • Batfish was outfitted with SHT (special hull treatment) during a non-refueling overhaul, which reduced noise and the submarine sonar profile.


Beginning with Archerfish, units of this class had a 10-foot (3 meter) longer hull, giving them more living and working space than previous submarines. Parche received an additional 100-foot (30 meter) hull extension containing cable tapping equipment that brought her total length to 401 feet (122 m). A number of the long hull Sturgeon-class SSNs, including Parche, Rivers, and Russell were involved in top-secret reconnaissance missions, including cable tap operations in the Barents and Okhotsk seas.

A total of seven boats were modified to carry the SEAL Dry Deck Shelter (DDS). The DDS is a submersible launch hangar with a hyperbaric chamber attached to the ship's weapon shipping hatch. DDS-equipped boats were tasked with the covert insertion of special forces troops.


Short Hull

Long Hull


Two other Navy vessels were based on the Sturgeon hull, but were modified for experimental reasons:


  1. Tyler, Patrick (1986). Running Critical. New York: Harper and Row. pp. 58. 
  2. Pike, John. "Sonar Domes". Mi litary. Retrieved 17 May 2011. 
  3. "Coating Systems for Submarine Bow Dome Preservation". National Surface Treatment Center. Retrieved 17 May 2011. 
  • Submarines, War Beneath The Waves, From 1776 To The Present Day, By Robert Hutchinson.

This article includes information collected from the Naval Vessel Register, which, as a U.S. government publication, is in the public domain.

  • Cold War Submarines: The Design and Construction of U.S. and Soviet Submarines, by Norman Polmar
  • The American Submarine, by Norman Polmar

External links

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