E-Class Submarines: navigating naval evolution with operational versatility

Built by the Fore River Shipbuilding Company for the U.S. Navy, the E-class submarines were originally intended to be harbour defence vessels but were eventually transformed into essential training tools for the First World War.

Two E-class submarines were built by the Fore River Shipbuilding Company in Quincy, Massachusetts, under a subcontract from the Electric Boat Company. They were commissioned by the US Navy. Before World War I, these submarines were originally intended for use in harbour and coastal defence. But when world wars broke out, the E-class submarines’ main purpose was to be used for training drills.

Amid the war, E-1 stood out as an exceptional exception, conducting war patrols from its strategically located base in the Azores. This exemplified how the E-class submarines responded to the shifting needs of the fight with flexibility and operational versatility.

A major realisation regarding the shortcomings of the current bridge structures came to light while they were serving, especially given the demanding circumstances found in the North Atlantic. For the increased demands of wartime activities, the makeshift piping-and-canvas bridges that they had initially used for convenience were inadequate. It was prompted by this realisation that an improved and long-lasting bridge construction was required, highlighting the necessity of improving infrastructure to meet the changing demands of navies.

General Characteristics:

The E-class submarine built by the United States is a vessel with a displacement of 287 long tonnes (292 t) when it is submerged and 342 long tonnes (347 t) when it is surfaced. With dimensions of 135 feet and 3 inches (41.22 metres) in length, 14 feet and 7 inches (4.45 metres) in width, and 11 feet and 8 inches (3.56 metres) in draft, this boat is adequately outfitted for submerged operations.

Based on two shafts and powered by two 60-cell batteries, the E-class submarine is propelled by two 700 horsepower (522 kW) NELSECO diesel engines and two 600 horsepower (447 kW) Electro Dynamic electric motors. When the submarine is underwater, its speed drops to 11.5 knots (21.3 km/h; 13.2 mph) from 13.5 knots (25.0 km/h; 15.5 mph) when it is surfaced, making it a potent combination.

With its 8,486 US gallons (32,120 L; 7,066 imp gallons) of fuel, the E-class submarine has an endurance of 2,100 nautical miles (3,900 km) at a speed of 11 knots (20 km/h; 13 mph) when surfacing. When submerged, it can go at 5 knots, or 9.3 km/h (5.8 mph), for up to 100 nautical miles (190 km).

With a test depth of 200 feet (61 metres), the vessel’s sturdy design guarantees that it can function well at considerable underwater depths. The E-class submarine has a crew complement of twenty, which is sufficient for its operational needs.

The submarine is armed with four 18-inch (450 mm) torpedo tubes located in the bow, each of which can carry four torpedoes. The submarine’s offensive capabilities are improved by this armament system, which gives it a more adaptable and powerful presence below the surface.

Operational History:

The E-class submarines, of which the famous E-1 was one, were known by the slang term “pig boats” because of their infamously filthy living quarters and unusual hull design. The E-class was primarily built for testing and assessing new tactics and equipment, but it also had a significant impact on the early advancement of submarine technology. Although the class was crucial at first, it was eventually rendered obsolete by the advent of more advanced, long-range, ocean-going submarines.

The advanced deployment of the E-1 submarine to the Azores during World War I demonstrated its operational versatility. It was noteworthy for being the smallest and oldest American submarine to participate in combat patrols during that war. However, in the end, the class was overwhelmed by developments in naval technology and the changing nature of maritime combat.

As part of the US commitment to the Washington Naval Treaty, the E-class submarines were deactivated in 1922 and then demolished. The major world powers were to limit their naval weaponry under this pact, and the retirement of the E-class submarines was a calculated move to comply with international agreements and adjust to shifting geopolitical conditions.


Under the name Skipjack, the USS E-1 (SS-24) was launched on May 27, 1911, after its keel was laid down on December 22, 1909. The submarine was put into service on February 14, 1912, under the command of Lieutenant Chester W. Nimitz. On November 17, 1911, it was classed as SS-24 and on July 17, 1920, it was renamed E-1. The submarine was sold after being decommissioned on October 20, 1921, after being in service for a while.

Parallel to this, on December 22, 1909, the USS E-2 (SS-25) was launched under the name Sturgeon on June 16, 1911, after having its keel laid down. Renamed E-2 on November 17, 1911, and reclassified as SS-24 on July 17, 1920, it was first put into service on February 14, 1912. On October 20, 1921, the E-2 was decommissioned and subsequently sold, just like its counterpart.