Navigating the depths: the general characteristics and service history of the US L-Class Submarines revealed

The American Navy’s initial attempt at designing ocean-going submarines was demonstrated by the L-class submarines, which were constructed between 1914 and 1917. Their size and propulsion varied, and they were divided into two groups, Group 1 and Group 2.

Built between 1914 and 1917, the US L-class submarines were the Navy’s first attempt at designing ocean-going submarines. Compared to other major naval forces at this time, the U.S. Navy faced a significant gap in the development of long-range submarines. The Navy decided to fill this void by building the L-class submarines, which are made up of 11 ships in all.

There were two groups of L-class submarines: Group 1 was designed by Electric Boat, and Group 2 was created by the Lake Torpedo Boat Company. L-5 through L-8 were Group 2 submarines that followed slightly differing specifications, which is why some historians have classified them as a separate L-5 class.

General Characteristics:

During its use in service, the US L-class submarine was a powerful underwater operating platform. The submarine had two different groups, each with their requirements. Group 1’s L-class was displaced with 548 long tonnes buried and 450 long tonnes surfaced. To 456 long tons surfaced and 524 long tonnes submerged in Group 2, these numbers increased marginally.

The two groups’ L-class submarines were different in size. Group 1 was 167 feet 5 inches (51.03 metres) long, 17 feet 5 inches (5.31 metres) wide, and 13 feet 7 inches (4.14 metres) deep. On the other hand, Group 2 measured 165 feet (50 metres) with a somewhat shorter length, 14 feet 9 inches (4.50 metres) with a narrower beam, and 13 feet 3 inches (4.04 metres) with a draft.

There were also differences in the propulsion systems between the two groups. Group 2 had 1,200 hp (890 kW) diesel engines and the same electric motor specifications as Group 1, which had 1,300 hp (970 kW) diesel engines and 800 hp (600 kW) electric motors. Using two × NELSECO or Busch-Sulzer diesel engines, two × Electro Dynamic or Diehl electric motors, two × 60-cell batteries, and two × shafts, both groups were propelled by a diesel-electric system.

With surface speeds of 14 knots (26 km/h; 16 mph) and submerged speeds of 10.5 knots (19.4 km/h; 12.1 mph), the L-class submarines demonstrated good performance. When the boats surfaced, their range was 4,500 nautical miles (8,300 km) at 7 knots (13 km/h; 8.1 mph), and when submerged, their range was 150 nautical miles (280 km) at 5 knots (9.3 km/h; 5.8 mph). 28 officers and men could be accommodated in these submarines, which had a test depth of 200 feet (61 metres).

The L-class submarines were well-prepared for offensive operations in terms of weapons. They carried eight torpedoes in their four × 18-inch (450 mm) torpedo tubes, and a 3″/23 calibre retractable deck gun. During their time in service, the US L-class submarines were extremely valuable due to this combination of features.

Service History:

During World War I, the American L-class submarines, which were mostly used by Group 1 boats, were a major part of the Atlantic Flotilla. However, most of these submarines needed substantial repairs in Philadelphia after the United States entered the war. The US Navy’s inexperience in submarine operations at sea at the time was evident in the necessity for refits. Seven of these Group 1 boats were sent as Submarine Division 5 to Bantry Bay in December 1917. Their role was to support the Allied operations during the war by performing anti-U-boat patrols and convoy escort tasks.

Group 2 L-boats were introduced by the US Navy in response to the operational difficulties encountered by Group 1 boats. In November 1918, Division 6 dispatched four of these new submarines to the Azores to supplement the K-class submarines that had been sent there the previous year. Interestingly, the US L-class submarines used “AL” pennant numbers when they were forward deployed, to prevent confusion with the British L-class submarines that were engaged in similar theatre operations.

Although the US L-class submarines were in the war, they were unable to sink any U-boats. While they showed reasonable endurance for patrols in the North Atlantic and British waters, the class was widely regarded as underpowered. Both the east and west coasts saw the L-class submarines test new torpedoes and hydrophone technology following the war.

Three submarines (L-3, L-9, and L-11) were re-engineered after the war using Busch-Sulzer diesels that were taken out of Lake-built N-boats in 1921. The L-class submarines came to the end of their operational lives in 1922 and 1923 when the decommissioning procedure got underway. 1922 saw the scrapping of three Group 1 boats, and 1925 saw the same fate for the four Group 2 Lake vessels. The London Naval Treaty’s restrictions on naval weapons were followed in 1933 when the surviving submarines were scrapped. Therefore, the history of the US L-class submarines illustrates their involvement in the First World War, the difficulties they faced during operations, and their later contributions to decommissioning and scientific improvements.