:: GATO CLASS (1941-1943) ::

Gato class attack submarine (1941-1943) High resolution picture

The Gato class was a long series of heavy attack submarines launched between 1941 and 1943 for the United States Navy. This class constituted roughly a third of the United States submarine fleet during the Second World War. In fact this whole fleet was based on the Gato class and its subsequent evolutions, the Balao and Tench classes, representing a submarine project of great quality that sank roughly the 90 percent of the large Japanese ships. The main difference between the Gato and Balao classes was the reinforced pressure hull in the latter, which allowed for operational depths of up to 120 meters.

The gradual improvements adopted by the North Americans produced submarines which, even if not being of an excellent quality in other aspects, were extraordinarily reliable, had great operational and excellent habitability. The all-welded construction facilitated the production process which was carried out by four shipyards, one of them located in Lake Michigan. The Gato class was armed with six torpedo tubes in the prow and four in the stern, and could transport a large number of torpedo reloads. The Diesel-electric propulsion plant granted a high speed in surface which was invaluable to achieve good launching positions for the torpedoes. These submarines were highly reliable but not so the torpedo Mark 14 fitted with magnetic fuze used between 1941 and 1943, which often failed to explode.

The first years of the postwar brought great advances for the submarine weapon. Following the investigations effectuated around the German Type XXI, which was now available for the Allies and the Soviets to study, the largest part of the 54 surviving units of the Gato class were fitted with a more hydrodynamical sail and their deck cannons were removed, while seven units were fitted with more powerful batteries to achieve greater speed while in immersion. During the 1950s two units were used for testing the nuclear cruise missile Regulus I, which had to be launched from the surface and required external guidance during its flight. But those were the beginnings of the modern attack and missile submarine.

Gato class: 77 units (SS-212 to SS-284, SS-361 to SS-364)

Type: Attack submarine

Length: 95 meters

Beam: 8.3 meters

Draught: 5.2 meters

Displacement (surfaced): 1525 tonnes

Displacement (submerged): 2424 tonnes

Propulsion: 2 x shaft, 4 x Diesel-electric group 1350 horsepower, 4 x electric motor 685 horsepower, 252 x battery cell

Speed (surfaced): 20-25 knots (37-45.6 kilometers/hour)

Speed (submerged): 9 knots (17 kilometers/hour)

Range (surfaced): 11000 nautical miles (20000 kilometers) at 10 knots

Range (submerged): 96 nautical miles (178 kilometers) at 2 knots

Design depth: 91 meters

Complement: 80-85

Armament: 10 x 533-millimeter torpedo tube (6 at prow, 4 astern), 24 x torpedo, 1 x 76-millimeter 50-caliber deck cannon, diverse configurations with 40 or 20-millimeter antiaircraft cannons

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