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Sturgeon class submarine

Sturgeon class submarine

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The Sturgeon class (colloquially in Navy circles, the 637 class) were a class of nuclear-powered
Nuclear marine propulsion
Nuclear marine propulsion is propulsion of a ship by a nuclear reactor. Naval nuclear propulsion is propulsion that specifically refers to naval warships...

 fast attack submarine
A submarine is a watercraft capable of independent operation below the surface of the water. It differs from a submersible, which has more limited underwater capability...

s (SSN
Hull classification symbol
The United States Navy, United States Coast Guard, and United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration use hull classification symbols to identify their ship types and each individual ship within each type...

) in service with the 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...

 from the 1960s until 2004. They were the "work horses" of the submarine attack fleet throughout much of the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

. The boats were phased out in the 1990s and early 21st century, as their successors, the Los Angeles
Los Angeles class submarine
The Los Angeles class, sometimes called the LA class or the 688 class, is a class of nuclear-powered fast attack submarines that forms the backbone of the United States submarine fleet. With 43 submarines on active duty and 19 retired, the Los Angeles class is the most numerous nuclear powered...

, followed by the Seawolf
Seawolf class submarine
The Seawolf class is a class of nuclear-powered fast attack submarines in service with the United States Navy. The class was the intended successor to the , ordered at the end of the Cold War in 1989. At one time, an intended fleet of 29 submarines was to be built over a ten-year period, later...

 and Virginia
Virginia class submarine
The Virginia class is a class of nuclear-powered fast attack submarines in service with the United States Navy. The submarines are designed for a broad spectrum of open-ocean and littoral missions...

 class boats, entered service.


The Sturgeons were essentially lengthened and improved variants of the Thresher/Permit
Thresher/Permit class submarine
The Thresher/Permit-class was a class of nuclear-powered fast attack submarines in service with the United States Navy from the 1960s until 1994. They replaced the class...

 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
S5W reactor
The S5W reactor is a nuclear reactor used by the United States Navy to provide electricity generation and propulsion on warships. The S5W designation stands for:* S = Submarine platform* 5 = Fifth generation core designed by the contractor...

 was used, the same as in the Skipjacks and Thresher/Permits, and the displacement was increased, the Sturgeons' top speed was 26 knots (51 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 dock shelters.


They were equipped to carry the Harpoon missile
Boeing Harpoon
The Harpoon is an all-weather, over-the-horizon, anti-ship missile system, developed and manufactured by McDonnell Douglas . In 2004, Boeing delivered the 7,000th Harpoon unit since the weapon's introduction in 1977...

, the Tomahawk cruise missile
BGM-109 Tomahawk
The Tomahawk is a long-range, all-weather, subsonic cruise missile. Introduced by General Dynamics in the 1970s, it was designed as a medium- to long-range, low-altitude missile that could be launched from a surface platform. It has been improved several times and, by way of corporate divestitures...

, the MK37 SLMM and MK 60 CAPTOR mines, and the MK-48 and ADCAP torpedoes
Mark 48 torpedo
The Mark 48 and its improved ADCAP variant are heavyweight submarine-launched torpedoes. They were designed to sink fast, deep-diving nuclear-powered submarines and high-performance surface ships.-History:...

. 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. 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., which was nearly a sub-class of its own, was completed with an S5G reactor
S5G reactor
The S5G reactor was a prototype naval reactor designed for the United States Navy to provide electricity generation and propulsion on submarines...

 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. 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. was outfitted with Raytheon Harmonic Power Conditioners (a.k.a "the cloaking device") which eliminated an electrical bus noise problem that was inherent in the class. This successful feature was later outfitted on the entire class.


Beginning with , units of this class had a 10-foot (3 meter) longer hull, giving them more living and working space than previous submarines. 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
Barents Sea
The Barents Sea is a marginal sea of the Arctic Ocean, located north of Norway and Russia. Known in the Middle Ages as the Murman Sea, the sea takes its current name from the Dutch navigator Willem Barents...

 and Okhotsk
Sea of Okhotsk
The Sea of Okhotsk is a marginal sea of the western Pacific Ocean, lying between the Kamchatka Peninsula on the east, the Kuril Islands on the southeast, the island of Hokkaidō to the far south, the island of Sakhalin along the west, and a long stretch of eastern Siberian coast along the west and...


A total of seven boats were modified to carry the SEAL
United States Navy SEALs
The United States Navy's Sea, Air and Land Teams, commonly known as Navy SEALs, are the U.S. Navy's principal special operations force and a part of the Naval Special Warfare Command as well as the maritime component of the United States Special Operations Command.The acronym is derived from their...

 Dry Deck Shelter
Dry Deck Shelter
A Dry Deck Shelter is a removable module that can be attached to a submarine to allow divers easy exit and entrance while the boat is submerged...

 (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.

Long Hull

(DDS) (DDS) (ex-Redfish) (DDS)
(DDS) (DDS) (R&D)


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

External links