Diverse origins, unified purpose: USS G-Class Submarines’ general characteristics and vessels

The G-class submarines, which were not part of Electric Boat’s exclusive designs, were made up of the individually designed G-1 through G-4 models. Created by American Laurenti and Simon Lake, their designs showed a diversity of building origins.

The United States Navy had four G-class submarines, and although they were classified as a single class, each submarine had distinctive features that made them stand out as separate units. All previous U.S. submarines had been exclusively designed by Electric Boat, therefore this break from the standardised design method was brought about by a call for competition in submarine development, perhaps driven by both industry and Congressional concerns.

Simon Lake of the Lake Torpedo Boat Company designed G-1, G-2, and G-3, and American Laurenti was credited with designing G-4. G-1 was built by Newport News, G-2 and G-3 by Lake (whose temporary dissolution forced the conclusion of their construction at the New York Navy Yard), and G-4 by Cramp, all of whom reflect the diversity of their origins.

General Characteristics:

A class of submarines built for the US Navy in the early 1900s were known as the G-class submarines. The displacements of these submarines varied; they ranged from 360 to 400 long tonnes while they were submerged and 457 to 516 long tonnes when they surfaced. These submarines were 157–161 feet long, 13–17 feet wide, and 11–12 feet draught.

The G-class submarines’ operational range allowed them to travel 2,500 nautical miles at 8 knots when surfaced, proving their endurance and capacity for long missions. They could only travel 70 nautical miles at 5 mph when submerged. The test depth for the submarines was 200 feet.

These submarines could carry four to six 18-inch (450 mm) torpedo tubes, each holding six to ten torpedoes, and could accommodate a complement of twenty-six to twenty-six officers and soldiers. The G-class submarines’ design and specifications contributed to the development of the United States Navy’s submarine combat capabilities by reflecting the strategic and technological advances of the time.


USS G-1, formerly known as Seal, was one of the US G-class submarines. Its keel was set on February 2, 1909. The submarine was first launched on February 8, 1911, with the name Seal. It was renamed G-1 on November 17, 1911, and it was put into service on October 28, 1912. G-1 was decommissioned on March 6, 1920, and was renamed SS-20. On June 21, 1921, USS Grebe sank G-1 as a target close to Taylor’s Point in Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island. It’s possible that the wreckage still exists.

The USS G-2, formerly known as Tuna, had its keel laid on October 20, 1909, and received the name G-2 on November 17, 1911. After being launched on January 10, 1912, the submarine was put into service on December 1, 1913, and by February 6, 1915, it was fully operational. G-2 was used as a target after being decommissioned on 2 April 1919, and on July 30, 1919, it sank at its moorings in Two Tree Channel, Niantic, Connecticut. There’s a chance the wreckage remains.

On March 30, 1911, USS G-3, formerly known as Turbot, had its keel laid. On November 17, 1911, the ship’s new name, G-3, was announced. The submarine was put into service on March 22, 1915, having been launched on December 27, 1913. G-3 was decommissioned on May 5, 1921, after fulfilling its naval service, and it was later dismantled in 1922.

The last ship is USS G-4, formerly known as Thrasher, which had its keel laid on July 9, 1910. It changed its name to G-4 on November 17, 1911. The submarine was put into service on January 22, 1914, having been launched on August 15, 1912. G-4 was decommissioned on September 5, 1919, and demolished in 1921.