following briefly summarizes the evolution of submarine design, from its
beginning as a compressed air or human powered warship to today's nuclear
|Evolution of Submarine
1578 - The first submarine
design was drafted by William Borne
but never got past the drawing stage. Borne's submarine design was based
on ballast tanks which could be filled to submerge and evacuated to surface
- these same principles are in use by today's submarines.
1620 - Cornelis
Drebbel, a Dutchman, conceived and built an oared submersible. Drebbels'
submarine design was the first to address the problem of air replenishment
1776 - David Bushnell builds
the one-man human powered Turtle submarine.
The Colonial Army attempted to sink the British warship HMS Eagle
with the Turtle, although unsuccessfully. The Turtle is the first submarine
to dive, surface and be used in Naval combat. David Bushnell’s Turtle,
the first American submarine. Built in 1775, its intended purpose was to
break the British naval blockade of New York harbor during the American
Revolution. With slight positive buoyancy, Turtle normally floated with
approximately six inches of exposed surface. Turtle was powered by a hand-driven
propeller. The operator would submerge under the target, and using a screw
projecting from the top of Turtle, he would attach a clock-detonated explosive
charge. This 1875 drawing by Lt. Francis Barber is the most familiar rendering
of Turtle. However, it contains several errors, including internal ballast
tanks and helical screw propellers.
1798 - Robert
Fulton builds the submarine Nautilus which incorporates two
forms of power for propulsion - a sail while on the surface and a hand-cranked
screw while submerged.
1895 - John
P. Holland introduces the Holland VII and later the
The Holland VIII with its petroleum engine for surface propulsion
and electric engine for submerged operations served as the blueprint adopted
by all the world's navies for submarine design up to 1914.
1904 - The French submarine
Aigette is the first submarine built with a diesel engine
for surface propulsion and electric engine for submerged operations. (Diesel
fuel is less volatile than petroleum and is the preferred fuel for current
and future conventionally powered submarine designs.)
1943 - The German U-boat U-264
is equipped with a snorkel mast.
This mast which provides air to the diesel engine allows the submarine
to operate the engine at a shallow depth and recharge the batteries.
1944 - The German U-791 uses
Hydrogen Peroxide as an alternative fuel source.
USS Nautilus (SSN 571)
1954 - The U.S. launches the
Nautilus - the world's first nuclear powered submarine. Nuclear power
enables submarines to become true "submersibles" - able to operate underwater
for an indefinite period of time. The development of the Naval nuclear
propulsion plant was the work of a team Navy, government and contractor
engineers led by Captain
Hyman G. Rickover.
USS Skipjack (SSN 585)
1958 - The U.S. introduces
the USS Albacore with a "tear drop" hull design to reduce underwater resistance
and allow greater submerged speed and maneuverability. The first submarine
class to use this new hull design is the USS Skipjack.
USS George Washington (SSBN 598)
1959 - The USS George Washington
is the world's first nuclear powered ballistic missile firing submarine.
page > History - The
Saga of the Submarine
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