United States S class submarine
The United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

' S-class submarines, often simply called S-boats (sometimes "Sugar" boats, after the then contemporary Navy phonetic alphabet for "S"), were the first class of submarines built to a United States Navy
United States Navy
The United States Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The U.S. Navy is the largest in the world; its battle fleet tonnage is greater than that of the next 13 largest navies combined. The U.S...


The United States Navy commissioned 51 S-Class submarines from 1920 to 1925. The first S-boat, , was commissioned
Ship commissioning
Ship commissioning is the act or ceremony of placing a ship in active service, and may be regarded as a particular application of the general concepts and practices of project commissioning. The term is most commonly applied to the placing of a warship in active duty with its country's military...

 in 1918 and the last, , in 1925. The S class is subdivided into four groups of different designs:
  • Group I (S-1 class, or "Holland" type):S-1 and S-18S-41, built by Bethlehem Steel
    Bethlehem Steel
    The Bethlehem Steel Corporation , based in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, was once the second-largest steel producer in the United States, after Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based U.S. Steel. After a decline in the U.S...

     at Fore River Shipyard
    Fore River Shipyard
    The Fore River Shipyard of Quincy, Massachusetts, more formally known as the Fore River Ship and Engine Building Company, was a shipyard in the United States from 1883 until 1986. Located on the Weymouth Fore River, the yard began operations in 1883 in Braintree, Massachusetts before being moved...

     in Quincy, Massachusetts
    Quincy, Massachusetts
    Quincy is a city in Norfolk County, Massachusetts, United States. Its nicknames are "City of Presidents", "City of Legends", and "Birthplace of the American Dream". As a major part of Metropolitan Boston, Quincy is a member of Boston's Inner Core Committee for the Metropolitan Area Planning Council...

     and Union Iron Works
    Union Iron Works
    Union Iron Works, located in San Francisco, California, on the southeast waterfront, was a central business within the large industrial zone of Potrero Point, for four decades at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries.-History:...

     in San Francisco, California, as subcontractor for Electric Boat Company (Elco).
  • Group II (S-3 class, or "Navy Yard" type):S-3-S-17, built at the Portsmouth Navy Yard and Lake Torpedo Boat
    Lake Torpedo Boat
    The Lake Torpedo Boat Company of Bridgeport, Connecticut was an early maker of submarines for the U.S. Navy. Founded by Simon Lake in 1912, the firm competed with John Philip Holland's Electric Boat Company until financial difficulties led to the company's demise in 1924.-External links:**...

     at Bridgeport, Connecticut
    Bridgeport, Connecticut
    Bridgeport is the most populous city in the U.S. state of Connecticut. Located in Fairfield County, the city had an estimated population of 144,229 at the 2010 United States Census and is the core of the Greater Bridgeport area...

  • Group III (S-42 class): S-42-S-47, built at Fore River.
  • Group IV (S-48 class): S-48-S-51, built by Lake.

S-2 was a prototype built by Lake, and was not repeated.

S-1, S-2, and S-3 were prototypes built to the same specification: S-1 designed by Electric Boat (Elco), S-2 by Lake, and S-3 by the Bureau of Construction and Repair
Bureau of Construction and Repair
The Bureau of Construction and Repair was the part of the United States Navy which from 1862 to 1940 was responsible for supervising the design, construction, conversion, procurement, maintenance, and repair of ships and other craft for the Navy...

 (later Bureau of Ships
Bureau of Ships
The United States Navy's Bureau of Ships was established by Congress on June 20, 1940, by a law which consolidated the functions of the Bureau of Construction and Repair and the Bureau of Engineering. The new Bureau was to be headed by a Chief and Deputy-Chief, one selected from the engineering...

). The Lake boat was considered inferior. The Elco and BuC&R designs were put into production.

The first S-boat, S-1, was launched on 26 September 1918, by Bethlehem at Fore River, but not commissioned until 5 June 1920.

The S-boats were improvements over the O
United States O class submarine
The United States Navy's O class submarines were created out of the lessons learned from the United States L class submarine. The O class were more robust with greater power and endurance for ocean patrols. The O class were built much faster than previous classes and were commissioned in 1918. The...

- and R
United States R class submarine
The R-class submarines were a class of United States Navy submarines active from 1918 until 1945. The R-boats R-21 to R-27, built by Lake Torpedo Boat, slightly smaller and faster than the others, are sometimes regarded as a separate class from R-1 to R-20 built by Fore River Shipyard and Union...

-boats. They were substantially larger. Compared to the R-boats, Group I S-boats were 33 feet (10.1 m) longer, with 3 in 3 in (0.9906 m) more beam
Beam (nautical)
The beam of a ship is its width at the widest point. Generally speaking, the wider the beam of a ship , the more initial stability it has, at expense of reserve stability in the event of a capsize, where more energy is required to right the vessel from its inverted position...

, 2 in 3 in (0.6858 m) more draft
Draft (hull)
The draft of a ship's hull is the vertical distance between the waterline and the bottom of the hull , with the thickness of the hull included; in the case of not being included the draft outline would be obtained...

, and 60% greater displacement
Displacement (ship)
A ship's displacement is its weight at any given time, generally expressed in metric tons or long tons. The term is often used to mean the ship's weight when it is loaded to its maximum capacity. A number of synonymous terms exist for this maximum weight, such as loaded displacement, full load...

. This allowed for greater range, larger engines and higher speed, and more torpedo
The modern torpedo is a self-propelled missile weapon with an explosive warhead, launched above or below the water surface, propelled underwater towards a target, and designed to detonate either on contact with it or in proximity to it.The term torpedo was originally employed for...

 reloads, though the number of forward torpedo tubes was still four. Seven of the Group II and all the Group IV boats had an additional stern tube. Group IV was also longer and had less draft. In 1923, experimented with a seaplane (an idea the Japanese would adopt); four like boats were provided to Peru in 1926-8.


These boats saw service in World War II in both the Atlantic and the Pacific. Smaller and slower than many of the submarines produced for war service, and lacking the range for Pacific Ocean patrols (as well as being 20 years old), they were used in reconnaissance and supply roles, as well as for coastal defense, such as in the Alaska
Alaska is the largest state in the United States by area. It is situated in the northwest extremity of the North American continent, with Canada to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, with Russia further west across the Bering Strait...

 theater during the aftermath of the Battle of the Aleutian Islands
Battle of the Aleutian Islands
The Aleutian Islands Campaign was a struggle over the Aleutian Islands, part of Alaska, in the Pacific campaign of World War II starting on 3 June 1942. A small Japanese force occupied the islands of Attu and Kiska, but the remoteness of the islands and the difficulties of weather and terrain meant...

. They were withdrawn in mid-1943 as fleet submarines became available, and were relegated to ASW training. Most of the surviving boats were scrapped in 1946.

In World War II, S-class boats did not use the newer Mark 14 torpedo
Mark 14 torpedo
The Mark 14 torpedo was the United States Navy's standard submarine-launched anti-ship torpedo of World War II.This weapon was plagued with many problems which crippled its performance early in the war, and was supplemented by the Mark 18 electric torpedo in the last 2 years of the war...

, standard in fleet submarines, due to shorter torpedo tubes, relying on the World War I-vintage Mark 10
Mark 10 torpedo
The Mark 10 was a torpedo first put into use by the United States in 1915 and was used as the primary torpedo in the S-class submarine. It used alcohol-water steam propulsion. It was succeeded by the problematic Mark 14 torpedo, but remained in service in S-boats & fleet submarines through the...

, instead. (Due to production shortages, many fleet boats used Mark 10s, also.) Since the Mark 14 suffered from a high failure rate early in the war, this was not necessarily a disadvantage.

Some were transferred to other navies, such as the six transferred to the British Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

. These were mostly used for training in anti-submarine warfare and removed from service by mid-1944.

Group I

  • Displacement:854 tons surfaced; 1,062 tons submerged
  • Length: 219 in 3 in (66.83 m)
  • Beam: 20 in 9 in (6.32 m)
  • Draft: 16 feet (4.9 m)
  • Propulsion: 2 × New London Ship and Engine Company
    New London Ship and Engine Company
    The New London Ship and Engine Company was established in Groton, Connecticut by the Electric Boat Company to manufacture diesel engines.The company was incorporated on 11 October 1910, with production starting in July 1911.-Founders:...

     (NELSECO) diesels
    Diesel engine
    A diesel engine is an internal combustion engine that uses the heat of compression to initiate ignition to burn the fuel, which is injected into the combustion chamber...

    , 600 hp (448 kW) each; 2 × Electro-Dynamic (S-1, S-30-S-35), Ridgway (S-18, S-20 through S-29), or General Electric (S-36 through S-41) electric motors, 750 hp each; 120 cell Exide battery; two shafts.
  • Bunkerage: 168 tons oil fuel
  • Speed: 14.5 knots (27 km/h) surfaced; 11 knots (20 km/h) submerged
  • Range: 5,000 miles (8,000 km) at 10 knots (19 km/h) surfaced
  • Test depth: 200 ft (61 m)
  • Armament (as built): 4 × 21 in (533 mm) torpedo tube
    Torpedo tube
    A torpedo tube is a device for launching torpedoes. There are two main types of torpedo tube: underwater tubes fitted to submarines and some surface ships, and deck-mounted units installed aboard surface vessels...

    s (bow, 12 torpedoes); 1 × 4 in (102 mm)/50 cal deck gun
  • Crew: 42 officers and men
  • Boats in Group: S-1, S-18 through S-41

Group II

  • Displacement: 876 tons surfaced; 1,092 tons submerged
  • Length: 231 feet (70.4 m)
  • Beam: 21 in 9 in (6.63 m)
  • Draft: 13 in 4 in (4.06 m)
  • Propulsion: 2 × M.A.N (S-3 through S-13) or Busch-Sulzer (S-14 through S-17) diesels, 1,000 hp (746 kW) each; 2 × Westinghouse electric motors, 600 hp (447 kW) each; 120-cell Exide battery; two shafts.
  • Speed: 15 knots (28 km/h) surfaced; 11 knots (20 km/h) submerged
  • Bunkerage: 148 tons oil fuel
  • Range: 5000 nautical miles (9,260 km) at 10 knots (20 km/h) surfaced
  • Test depth: 200 ft (61 m)
  • Armament (as built): 4 × 21 in (533 mm) torpedo tubes (bow, 12 torpedoes) or (S-11 through S-13) 5 (four forward, one aft, 14 torpedoes); 1 × 4 in (102 mm)/50 cal deck gun
  • Crew: 42 officers and men
  • Boats in Group: S-3 through S-17

Group III

  • Displacement: 906 tons surfaced; 1,126 tons submerged
  • Length: 216 feet (65.8 m), 225 in 3 in (68.66 m) overall
  • Beam: 20 in 9 in (6.32 m)
  • Draft: 16 feet (4.9 m)
  • Propulsion: 2 × NELSECO diesels, 600 hp (448 kW) each; 2 × Electro-Dynamic electric motors, 750 hp each; 120 cell Exide battery; two shafts.
  • Speed: 15 knots (28 km/h) surfaced; 11 knots (20 km/h) submerged
  • Bunkerage: 185 tons oil fuel
  • Range: 5000 nautical miles (9,260 km) at 10 knots (20 km/h) surfaced
  • Test depth: 200 ft (61 m)
  • Armament (as built): 4 × 21 in (533 mm) torpedo tubes (bow, 12 torpedoes); 1 × 4 in (102 mm)/50 cal deck gun
  • Crew: 42 officers and men
  • Boats in Group: S-42 through S-47

Group IV

  • Displacement: 903 tons surfaced; 1230 tons submerged
  • Length: 240 feet (73.2 m), 266 feet (81.1 m) overall
  • Beam: 21 in 9 in (6.63 m)
  • Draft: 13 in 6 in (4.11 m)
  • Propulsion: 2 × Busch-Sulzer diesels, 900 hp (670 kW) each; 2 × Ridgway electric motors, 750 hp each; 120 cell Exide battery; two shafts.
  • Bunkerage: 177 tons oil fuel
  • Speed: 14.5 knots (27 km/h) surfaced; 11 knots (20 km/h) submerged
  • Range: 8000 nautical miles (14,816 km) at 10 knots (20 km/h) surfaced
  • Depth: 200 ft (61 m)
  • Armament (as built): 4 × 21 in (533 mm) torpedo tubes (bow, 12 torpedoes); 1 × 4 in (102 mm)/50 cal deck gun
  • Crew: 42 officers and men
  • Boats in Group: S-48 through S-51


  • Displacement: 800 tons surfaced; 977 tons submerged
  • Length: 207 feet (63.1 m) overall
  • Beam: 19 in 6 in (5.94 m)
  • Draft:16 in 3 in (4.95 m)
  • Propulsion:2 × diesels, 900 hp (670 kW) each; 2 × electric motors, 750 hp each; two shafts.
  • Speed: 15 knots (28 km/h) surfaced; 11 knots (20 km/h) submerged
  • Range: 8000 nautical miles (14,816 km) at 10 knots (20 km/h) surfaced
  • Depth: 200 ft (61 m)
  • Armament (as built): 4 × 21 in (533 mm) torpedo tubes (bow, 12 torpedoes); 1 × 4 in (102 mm)/50 cal deck gun
  • Crew: 42 officers and men

Lost at sea between wars

- Sunk 1927 later raised, recommissioned, and served before being finally sunk 1936 - lost September 1, 1920-sunk 1925; raised and later scrapped 1930

Transferred to the Royal Navy during World War II

to RN as P 552 in 1942, removed from service Jan 1944; scrapped 1945 (as P 553) Sunk as target 23 March 1945 (as P 554) scrapped 1945 (as P 555) destroyed 1947 (as P 551, later transferred to the Polish Navy
Polish Navy
The Marynarka Wojenna Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej - MW RP Polish Navy, is the branch of Republic of Poland Armed Forces responsible for naval operations...

 as ORP Jastrząb
ORP Jastrzab
ORP Jastrząb was an old Holland-type S-class submarine, originally of the United States Navy, in Polish service between 1941 and 1942, when she was lost to friendly fire....

-scuttled after hit by friendly fire 2 May 1942 (as P 556) scrapped 1947

Lost during World War II

was destroyed in a collision with in the Gulf of Panama
Gulf of Panama
The Gulf of Panama is a gulf in the Pacific Ocean, near the southern coast of Panama. It has a maximum width of , a maximum depth of and the size of . The Panama Canal connects the Gulf of Panama with the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean...

 24 January 1942, , and were wrecked when they ran aground wrecked 4 July 1944 by a flooding casualty off Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor, known to Hawaiians as Puuloa, is a lagoon harbor on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, west of Honolulu. Much of the harbor and surrounding lands is a United States Navy deep-water naval base. It is also the headquarters of the U.S. Pacific Fleet...

 lost to enemy action 7 October 1943 stricken and sold for scrap 1931; hulked 1936; hulk reacquired by the U.S. Navy for "experimental purposes; foundered and sank in the Patuxent River
Patuxent River
The Patuxent River is a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay in the state of Maryland. There are three main river drainages for central Maryland: the Potomac River to the west passing through Washington D.C., the Patapsco River to the northeast passing through Baltimore, and the Patuxent River between...

16 December 1942

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