C-Class Submarines: A historic glimpse into general characteristics and operational triumphs

The Fore River Shipbuilding Company’s C-class submarines, built between 1906 and 1909, represented a significant development in American naval technology. With a two-shaft propulsion system, they demonstrated increased speed.

Five submarines known as the C-class were built by the Quincy, Massachusetts-based Fore River Shipbuilding Company as part of an Electric Boat Company subcontract. With a submerged displacement of 275 tonnes as opposed to the B-class’s 173 tonnes, these submarines, which were put into service between 1908 and 1919, were a significant improvement over their predecessors. Compared to the B-class, the C-class submarines were essentially twice as capable of machinery because they were the first to use a two-shaft propulsion system.

The C-class submarines, which were constructed between 1906 and 1909, were among the first undersea vehicles in the United States Navy’s fleet. Two-shaft propulsion was a major technological advancement that improved the submarines’ mobility and overall operational capabilities. This invention was a result of the ongoing efforts made during this time to advance and modify naval technology.

The C-class submarines served for only a brief period, as they were deactivated in 1919, despite having advanced technologically. In 1920, all five of the submarines were sold for scrap when they were withdrawn from active service.


General Characteristics:

Compact in shape, the USC-class submarine had a displacement of 238 long tonnes (242 t) when submerged and 275 long tonnes (279 t) when surfaced. The submarine had a length of 105 feet 4 inches (32.11 metres), a beam of 13 feet 11 inches (4.24 metres), and a draft of 10 feet (3.0 metres). Its propulsion system was made up of two 500 horsepower (370 kW) gasoline engines built by Craig Shipbuilding Co. and two 300 horsepower (220 kW) electric motors made by Electro Dynamic. The submarine was propelled by two 60-cell batteries and had two shafts.

Under surface conditions, the C-class submarine could go 800 nautical miles (1,500 km; 920 km) and 80 nautical miles (150 km; 92 mi) underwater. Its top speed when operating was 10.5 knots (19.4 km/h; 12.1 mph) and 9 knots (17 km/h; 10 mph). The vessel could carry a complement of 15 people, comprising 1 officer and 14 enlisted members, and had a test depth capacity of 200 feet (61 m).

The C-class submarine was equipped with two bow torpedo tubes, each 18 inches (457 mm) in length and able to hold four torpedoes. The C-class submarine’s operating tenure was made both adaptable and effective by this combination of specifications.

Operational History:

The Electric Boat prototype Octopus, which was developed for a 1906 competition against Simon Lake’s submarine Simon Lake XV, gave rise to the idea for the Plunger-class submarines, which were first known as the C-class. The United States Navy ordered four more submarines based on this design after Octopus won the trials. The C-class submarines were given non-sequential hull numbers as a result of this choice.

The majority of the C-class submarines’ operational history was spent serving in the Atlantic Fleet. The First Group, Submarine Flotilla, Atlantic Fleet, consisted of five C-class submarines that sailed from Norfolk, Virginia, to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on May 20, 1913. These submarines demonstrated their capabilities and advanced their further development by participating in a variety of exercises, with a special emphasis on torpedo training, while they were stationed in Cuban waters.

The C-class submarines, which are currently assigned to the First Division, set out on a momentous expedition on December 7, 1913. They headed for Cristóbal in the Panama Canal Zone, escorted by four surface ships, which was a first for U.S. submarines. At the time, the journey spanned an astounding 700 miles (1,100 km), marking the longest cruise that American submarines had ever taken, all under their power.

The Plunger-class submarines arrived in the Coco Solo submarine facility and stayed there until their retirement in 1919. These submarines’ operational life came to an end in 1920 when they were scrapped after years of service. Originating from the successful Octopus prototype, the Plunger-class submarines were crucial in the development and extension of submarine capabilities throughout the early 1900s, making them a significant figure in naval history.