United States L-class submarine

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For other ships of the same name, see British L-class submarine.
USS L-1 running trials
USS L-1 (SS-40) lead ship of her class during running trials.
Class overview
Name: L-class submarine
Builders: Electric Boat (Gp 1 design),
Fore River Shipbuilding Company, Quincy, Massachusetts (L-1 to L-4, L-9 to L-11)
Lake Torpedo Boat Company, Bridgeport, Connecticut (Gp 2 design) (L-5)
California Shipbuilding Co., Long Beach, California (L-6 & L-7)
Portsmouth Navy Yard, Kittery, Maine (L-8)
Operators:  United States Navy
Preceded by: K-class submarine
Succeeded by: USS M-1 (SS-47)
Built: 1914–1917
In commission: 1916–1923
Completed: 11
Retired: 11
Preserved: 0
General characteristics
Type: Submarine
Displacement: Group 1:
450 long tons (457 t) surfaced
548 long tons (557 t) submerged
Group 2:
456 long tons (463 t) surfaced
524 long tons (532 t) submerged
Length: Group 1: 167 ft 5 in (51.03 m)
Group 2: 165 ft (50 m)
Beam: Group 1: 17 ft 5 in (5.31 m)
Group 2: 14 ft 9 in (4.50 m)
Draft: Group 1: 13 ft 7 in (4.14 m)
Group 2: 13 ft 3 in (4.04 m)
Installed power: Group 1:
1,300 hp (970 kW) (diesel engines),
800 hp (600 kW) (electric motors)
Group 2:
1,200 hp (890 kW) (diesel engines),
800 hp (600 kW) (electric motors)[1]
Propulsion: Diesel-electric
Group 1:
2 × NELSECO Diesel engines,
2 x Electro Dynamic electric motors,
2 x 60-cell batteries,
2 x shafts
Group 2:
2 × Busch-Sulzer Diesel engines,
2 x Diehl electric motors,
2 x 60-cell batteries,
2 x shafts
Speed: 14 knots (26 km/h; 16 mph) surfaced
10.5 knots (19.4 km/h; 12.1 mph) submerged
Range: 4,500 nmi (8,300 km) at 7 kn (13 km/h; 8.1 mph) (surfaced)
150 nmi (280 km) at 5 kn (9.3 km/h; 5.8 mph) (submerged)
Test depth: 200 ft (61 m)
Complement: 28 officers and men
Armament: • 4 × 18 inch (457 mm) torpedo tubes, 8 torpedoes
• 1 × 3"/23 caliber retractable deck gun

The United States L class submarines were a class of 11 submarines built 1914–1917, and were the United States Navy's first attempt at designing and building ocean-going submarines. At the time there was a significant gap in long-range submarine design compared with other major navies. The Group 2 L-boats designed by Lake Torpedo Boat Company (L-5 through L-8) were built to slightly different specifications from the other Group 1 L-boats (which were designed by Electric Boat) and are sometimes considered a separate L-5 class.

History[edit]

After service in the Atlantic Flotilla by the Group 1 boats, most required extensive refits at Philadelphia after the USA's entry into the First World War, which reflected the US Navy's then-limited experience in submarine ocean operations. In November 1917, the class was sent to Bantry Bay and the Azores for anti-U-boat patrols. While forward deployed, US L-class submarines displayed "AL" pennant numbers to avoid confusion with British L-class submarines. US submarines did not sink any U-boats in World War I. The class was generally under-powered, but they enjoyed good endurance for patrols in the North Atlantic and in British waters. After the war, the L class were involved in trials of new torpedoes and hydrophone equipment on both the east and west coasts before decommissioning in 1922 and 1923. Three Group 1 boats were scrapped in 1922, the four Group 2 Lake boats were scrapped in 1925, and the remainder were scrapped in 1933 under the London Naval Treaty limiting naval armament.

Design[edit]

As in previous US designs, the sail was kept small for reduced drag when submerged. For extended surface runs, the sail was augmented with a temporary piping-and-canvas structure (see photo). Apparently the "crash dive" concept had not yet been thought of, as this would take considerable time to deploy and dismantle. This remained standard through the N-class, commissioned 1917–1918. Experience in World War I showed that this was inadequate in the North Atlantic weather, and earlier submarines serving overseas in that war (E-class through L-class) had their bridge structures augmented with a "chariot" shield on the front of the bridge. Starting with the N-class, built with lessons learned from overseas experience, US submarines had bridges more suited to surfaced operations in rough weather. Also, in the L-class the rotating cap over the torpedo tubes was replaced by shutters that remained standard through the 1950s.[2]

This was the first US submarine class equipped with a deck gun, in this case a 3 inch/23 caliber (76 mm) partially retractable design. L-9 was the first boat built with the gun; L-1 through L-8 had theirs added some time after completion. The gun was retracted vertically, with a round shield that fit in a well in the superstructure that projected into the pressure hull. Most of the barrel protruded from the deck, resembling a stanchion.[3][4]

Ships[edit]

The 12 submarines of the L-class were:

Group 1 (Electric Boat design)

Ship name and Hull no. Builder Laid Down Launched Commissioned Decommissioned Fate
USS L-1 (SS-40) Fore River Shipbuilding 13 April 1914 20 January 1915 11 April 1916 7 April 1922 Scrapped 1922
USS L-2 (SS-41) Fore River Shipbuilding 19 March 1914 11 February 1915 29 September 1916 4 May 1923 Scrapped 1933
USS L-3 (SS-42) Fore River Shipbuilding 18 April 1914 15 March 1915 22 April 1916 11 June 1923 Scrapped 1933
USS L-4 (SS-43) Fore River Shipbuilding 23 March 1914 3 April 1915 4 May 1916 14 April 1922 Scrapped 1922
USS L-9 (SS-49) Fore River Shipbuilding 2 November 1914 27 October 1915 4 August 1916 4 May 1923 Scrapped 1933
USS L-10 (SS-50) Fore River Shipbuilding 17 February 1915 16 March 1916 2 August 1916 5 May 1922 Scrapped 1922
USS L-11 (SS-51) Fore River Shipbuilding 17 February 1915 16 May 1916 15 August 1916 28 November 1923 Scrapped 1933

Group 2 (Lake Torpedo Boat Company design)

Ship name and Hull no. Builder Laid Down Launched Commissioned Decommissioned Fate
USS L-5 (SS-44) Lake Torpedo Boat Co 14 May 1914 1 May 1916 17 February 1918 5 December 1922 Scrapped 1925
USS L-6 (SS-45) California Shpbldg, Long Beach, CA 27 May 1914 31 August 1916 7 December 1917 25 November 1922 Scrapped 1925
USS L-7 (SS-46) California Shpbldg, Long Beach, CA 2 June 1914 28 September 1916 7 December 1917 15 November 1922 Scrapped 1925
USS L-8 (SS-48) Portsmouth Navy Yard 24 February 1915 23 April 1917 30 August 1917 15 November 1922 Scrapped 1925

References[edit]

This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships.

See also[edit]

Media related to L class submarines of the United States at Wikimedia Commons