|Builders:||Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Cramp Shipbuilding Company, Mare Island Naval Shipyard, Electric Boat Company, Manitowoc Shipbuilding Company|
|Operators:|| United States Navy
Bolivarian Armada of Venezuela
Republic of China Navy
|Preceded by:||Gato class|
|Succeeded by:||Tench class|
|Displacement:||1,526 tons (1,550 t) surfaced, 2,391–2,424 tons (2,429–2463 t) submerged|
|Length:||311 ft 6 in–311 ft 10 in (94.9–95.0 m)|
|Beam:||27 ft 3 in–27 ft 4 in (8.3 m)|
|Draft:||16 ft 10 in (5.13 m) maximum|
|Propulsion:||4 × diesel engines driving electrical generators (Fairbanks-Morse or General Motors); 2 × 126-cell Sargo batteries; 4 × high-speed electric motors with reduction gears or 2 × low-speed electric motors (Elliott Company or General Electric) two propellors; 5,400 shp (4,000 kW) surfaced, 2,740 shp (2,040 kW) submerged|
|Speed:||20.25 knots (38 km/h) surfaced, 8.75 knots (16 km/h) submerged|
|Range:||11,000 nautical miles (20,000 km) surfaced @ 10 knots (19 km/h)|
|Endurance:||48 hours @ 2 knots (3.7 km/h) submerged, 75 days on patrol|
|Test depth:||400 ft (120 m)|
|Complement:||10 officers, 70–71 enlisted men|
|Armament:||10 × 21-inch (533 mm) torpedo tubes
(six forward, four aft)
1 × 5-inch (127 mm) / 25 caliber deck gun
Bofors 40 mm and Oerlikon 20 mm cannon
The Balao-class was a successful design of United States Navy submarine used during World War II, and with 122 units built, the largest class of submarines in the United States Navy. An improvement on the earlier Gato-class, the boats had slight internal differences. The most significant improvement was the use of thicker, higher yield strength steel in the pressure hull skins and frames, which increased their test depth to 400 feet (120 m). Tang actually achieved a depth of 612 ft (187 m) during a test dive, and exceeded that test depth when taking on water in the forward torpedo room while evading a destroyer.
The propulsion of the Balao-class submarines was generally similar to that of the preceding Gato-class. Like their predecessors, they were true diesel-electric submarines: their four diesel engines powered electrical generators, and electric motors drove the shafts. There was no direct connection between the main engines and the shafts.
Balao-class submarines received main engines from one of two manufacturers. Fairbanks-Morse supplied Model 38D8⅛ opposed piston engines, and General Motors' Cleveland Diesel division supplied Model 16-248 and 16-278A V16 engines. Earlier Fairbanks-Morse boats received a 9-cylinder version of the Model 38D8⅛, while boats from USS Sand Lance (SS-381) onward received 10-cylinder engines. Earlier GM boats received Model 16-248 engines, but beginning with USS Perch (SS-313) Model 16-278A engines were used. In each case, the newer engines had greater displacement than the old, but were rated at the same power; they operated at lower mean effective pressure for greater reliability. Both the F-M and GM engines were two-stroke cycle types.
Two manufacturers supplied electric motors for the Balao-class. Elliott Company motors were fitted primarily to boats with Fairbanks-Morse engines. General Electric motors were fitted primarily to boats with General Motors engines, but some Fairbanks-Morse boats received GE motors. Allis-Chalmers motors were to be used in SS-530 through SS-536, but those seven boats were cancelled before even receiving names.
Earlier submarines carried four high-speed electric motors (two per shaft), which had to be fitted with reduction gears to slow their outputs down to an appropriate speed for the shafts. This reduction gearing was very noisy, and made the submarine easier to detect with hydrophones. A handful of late Balao-class submarines received low-speed double armature motors which drove the shafts directly and were much quieter, but this improvement was not universally fitted until the succeeding Tench-class. As the diesel engines were not directly connected to the shafts, the electric motors had to drive the shafts all the time.
Many targets in the Pacific War were sampans or otherwise not worth a torpedo, so the deck gun was an important weapon. Most Balaos began their service with a 3 inch (76 mm)/50 caliber gun or a 4 inch (102 mm)/50 caliber gun removed from old S-class submarines. Due to war experience, most were re-armed with a 5 inch (127 mm)/25 caliber gun by early 1944, and some boats later had two of these weapons. USS Spadefish (SS-411), commissioned in March 1944, was the first newly built submarine with the 5 inch/25. Additional anti-aircraft guns included single 40 mm Bofors and twin 20 mm Oerlikon mounts, usually one of each.
As of 2007 USS Tusk (SS-426), a Balao-class submarine, was one of the last two operational submarines in the world built during World War II. It was transferred to Taiwan's Republic of China Navy in the early 1970s. The Tench-class ex-USS Cutlass (SS-478) is the other one. They are named Hai Shih and Hai Pao in Taiwanese service.
Eight Balao-class submarines are open to public viewing. They primarily depend on revenue generated by visitors to keep them operational and up to U.S. Navy standards; each boat gets a yearly inspection and a "report card". Some boats, like Batfish and Pampanito, encourage youth functions and allow a group of volunteers to sleep overnight in the crew's quarters. The following is a complete list of Balao-class museum boats:
- USS Batfish (SS-310) at War Memorial Park in Muskogee, Oklahoma
- USS Becuna (SS-319) at Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- USS Bowfin (SS-287) at USS Bowfin Submarine Museum & Park in Honolulu, Hawaii
- USS Clamagore (SS-343) at Patriot's Point in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina
- USS Ling (SS-297) at New Jersey Naval Museum in Hackensack, New Jersey
- USS Lionfish (SS-298) at Battleship Cove in Fall River, Massachusetts
- USS Pampanito (SS-383) at San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park in San Francisco, California, which played the part of the fictional Balao-class USS Stingray in Down Periscope
- USS Razorback (SS-394) at Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum in North Little Rock, Arkansas
- Bauer, K. Jack; Roberts, Stephen S. (1991). Register of Ships of the U.S. Navy, 1775-1990: Major Combatants. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. pp. 275–280. ISBN 0-313-26202-0.
- Friedman 1995, pp. 285–304.
- Friedman 1995, pp. 305–311.
- Lenton, H.T. American Submarines (New York: Doubleday, 1973), p.5.
- Peter T. Sasgen (2002). Red scorpion: the war patrols of the USS Rasher. Naval Institute Press. p. 17.
- Richard H. O'Kane (1977). Clear the Bridge! The War Patrols of the USS Tang. Presidio Press. p. 40.
- Richard H. O'Kane (1977). Clear the Bridge! The War Patrols of the USS Tang. Presidio Press. p. 111.
- Farley, Robert (18 October 2014). "The Five Best Submarines of All Time". The National Interest.
- Museum documents an operating US, WW II built submarine in Taiwan
- Jimmy Chuang (Apr 17, 2007). "World's longest-serving sub feted". Taipei Times. p. 2.
- Friedman, Norman (1995). U.S. Submarines Through 1945: An Illustrated Design History. Annapolis, Maryland: United States Naval Institute. ISBN 1-55750-263-3.
- Lenton, H.T. American Submarines. New York: Doubleday, 1973.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Balao class submarines.|
- Fleet Type Submarine Training Manual San Francisco Maritime Museum