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Tambor-class submarine
USS Tambor
USS Tambor (SS-198)
Class overview
Builders: Electric Boat Company, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Mare Island Naval Shipyard[1]
Operators:  United States Navy
Preceded by: Sargo class[1]
Succeeded by: Gato class[1]
Built: 1939–1941[2]
In commission: 1940–1946[2]
Completed: 12[1]
Active: 0[1]
Lost: 7[1]
Retired: 5[1]
Preserved: 0[1]
General characteristics
Type: Diesel-electric submarine
Displacement: 1,475 long tons (1,499 t) standard, surfaced[3]
2,370 long tons (2,410 t) submerged[3]
Length: 307 ft 2 in (93.62 m)[3]
Beam: 27 ft 3 in (8.31 m)[3]
Draft: 14 ft 7 12 in (4.458 m)[3]

4 × diesel engines driving electrical generators (Fairbanks-Morse or General Motors)[1]
2 × 126-cell Sargo batteries[3]
4 × high-speed General Electric electric motors with reduction gears[1]
two shafts[1]
5,400 shp (4.0 MW) surfaced[1]

2,740 shp (2.0 MW) submerged[1]
Speed: 20.4 knots (38 km/h) surfaced[3]
8.75 knots (16 km/h) submerged[3]
Range: 11,000 nautical miles (20,000 km) at 10 knots (19 km/h)[3]
Endurance: 48 hours at 2 knots (3.7 km/h) submerged[3]
Test depth: 250 ft (76 m)[3]
Complement: 6 officers, 54 enlisted[3]

The Tambor-class submarine was a United States Navy submarine design, used primarily during World War II. It was the USN's first practical fleet submarine and formed the core of the United States Pacific submarine fleet at the time of the US entry into World War II.

Design history

Preliminary designs

Early U.S. submarine designs of World War I assigned to escort shipping revealed that they had minimal ability to deter an aggressive threat. Despite the fact that German U-boats proved beyond a doubt that no navy could be a world sea power without submarines, the role played by U.S. submarines in the defense of the Pacific would have to be rethought, or else flat out discarded, by Navy planners.

Following the armistice, and after testing the capabilities of German design, the U.S. Navy began to see the potential for extended offensive submarine operations. Submarine operations with the fleet required boats with both a large cruising radius and a relatively high speed so that they could intercept and stay with their prey. The huge advancement in American technology required to fill that role with "a new all-purpose fleet submarine" also became apparent.

After the fiasco of submarine design experienced in the late 1920s, Navy designers finally produced plans for a practical fleet submarine. The lineage of what was to become the fleet submarine actually began with the Porpoise or "P"-class and Salmon / Sargo or "S"-class submarines, laid down in 1933 and 1935. These were smaller, more maneuverable boats than some of the varied and earlier V series boats. While these newer P-class and S-class boats were a step in the right direction, they were found to be lacking in speed, reliability and firepower.

Tambor class proposal

In the fall of 1937 a proposal for a true fleet submarine (a submarine intended to operate as part of a larger fleet) was finally put forward by the team of officers put together by then Commander Charles A. Lockwood (later admiral and Commander Submarine Fleet Pacific), Lt. Cmdr. Andrew I. McKee, planning officer at Portsmouth Navy Yard, and Lt. Armand M. Morgan, head of the Navy's submarine design section. It was to be large (1,500 tons), and carry the latest diesel engines, ten torpedo tubes, a 5-inch (127 mm) gun, and a new Torpedo Data Computer. Habitability would be increased by the addition of fresh water distillation units and air conditioning.

However, the design concepts faced opposition from Admiral Thomas Hart, Chairman of the General Board. Hart stubbornly defended the building of small, coastal defense boats (without "luxuries" like air conditioning). Through determination and skilled political maneuvering, the design of Lockwood's team prevailed (though Hart would only consent to a 3-inch (76 mm) gun). This design was finally adopted by the Navy's General Board and the Submarine Officers' Conference for the 1939 program.

The plans finally drawn for a practical fleet submarine were those of the Tambor or "T"-class submarine. A fairly trim and maneuverable vessel at 300 feet (91 m) LOA (Length Over All) and 1,500 tons (compared with the 381 feet (116 m) LOA and 2,000 tons of the varied and experimental but widely disliked predecessor, the V-class), the new fleet boats provided sufficient elbow room for long war patrols.

The Gar class boats were virtually identical to the "T" class and are often listed as "T" class submarines.

Design specifications

One key to the success of the "T" class was the development of a compact diesel engine designed in concert with the American railroad industry, which enthusiastically embraced the benefits of diesel-powered locomotives (and was delighted by the Navy's willingness to fund the huge research and development costs associated with their creation). Equipped with four of the new diesel engines, the boats could reach top speeds of over 20 knots (37 km/h) and make 10,000-nautical-mile (19,000 km) cruises without suffering from the engine fragility of the compact MAN diesel designs used in some of their predecessors.

Sailor in his bunk aboard a typical wartime fleet boat.

The "T" Class boats were the last phase of development of US subs prior to the introduction of the Gato class in 1942. These two classes of submarines handled most of the combat duties during the early stages of the war, with the USS Tautog holding the scoring record in the category of "number of ships sunk" by a U.S. submarine.


These boats were the core of the 56 boat U.S. Submarine Fleet Pacific when the United States entered World War II in December 1941. The "T" class design, somewhat refined in the following Gato and Balao classes, formed the backbone of the wartime US Navy submarine fleet.

Ships in class

Name Hull number Builder Laid Down Launched Commissioned Fate
Tambor SS-198 Electric Boat, Groton, CT January 16, 1939 December 20, 1939 June 3, 1940 Sold for scrap September 1, 1959
Tautog SS-199 Electric Boat, Groton, CT March 1, 1939 January 27, 1940 July 3, 1940 Sold for scrap 15 November 1959, to the Bultema Dock and Dredge Company of Manistee, Michigan
Thresher SS-200 Electric Boat, Groton, CT April 27, 1939 March 27, 1940 August 27, 1940 Sold for scrap 18 March 1948 to Max Siegel of Everett, Massachusetts
Triton SS-201 Portsmouth Navy Yard, Kittery, Maine July 5, 1939 March 25, 1940 August 15, 1940 Lost March 20, 1943
Trout SS-202 Portsmouth Navy Yard, Kittery, Maine August 8, 1939 May 21, 1940 November 15, 1940 Lost around 29 February 1944
Tuna SS-203 Mare Island Navy Yard, Vallejo, CA July 19, 1939 October 2, 1940 January 2, 1941 Towed out to sea and sunk, 24 September 1948

The last six of the Tambor class are often listed as "Gar class" submarines

Name Hull number Builder Laid Down Launched Commissioned Fate
Gar SS-206 Electric Boat, Groton, CT December 27, 1939 November 27, 1940 April 14, 1941 Sold for scrap 18 November 1959 to Acme Scrap Iron and Metal Company
Grampus SS-207 Electric Boat, Groton, CT February 14, 1940 December 23, 1940 May 23, 1941 Lost March 5, 1943
Grayback SS-208 Portsmouth Navy Yard, Kittery, Maine April 3, 1940 January 31, 1941 June 30, 1941 Lost February 27, 1944
Grayling SS-209 Portsmouth Navy Yard, Kittery, Maine December 15, 1939 November 29, 1940 March 1, 1941 Lost between September 9 and September 12, 1943
Grenadier SS-210 Portsmouth Navy Yard, Kittery, Maine April 2, 1940 November 29, 1940 May 1, 1941 Scuttled following enemy action April 22, 1943
Gudgeon SS-211 Portsmouth Navy Yard, Kittery, Maine November 22, 1939 January 25, 1941 April 21, 1941 Lost between April 7 and June 7, 1944

See also


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 Bauer, K. Jack; Roberts, Stephen S. (1991). Register of Ships of the U.S. Navy, 1775-1990: Major Combatants. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. pp. 270. ISBN 0-313-26202-0. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 Friedman, Norman (1995). U.S. Submarines Through 1945: An Illustrated Design History. Annapolis, Maryland: United States Naval Institute. pp. 285–304. ISBN 1-55750-263-3. 
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 U.S. Submarines Through 1945 pp. 305-311
  4. 4.0 4.1 U.S. Submarines Through 1945 pp. 305–311

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