18 Replies to “Diesel-Electric Submarines: World’s Biggest Hybrids”

  1. Avatar-Nate

    Thank you ! .

    This is fascinating .

    Uncle Bill was in Diesel boats early in WWII before some accident that caused his loss of smell .


  2. AvatarNewbie Jeff

    Great piece, thanks for sharing…

    …something that always comes to mind when I read about the mechanical intricacies of military equipment, whether it’s a P-51 Mustang, a Sherman tank, a U-boat, or an aircraft carrier: it’s one matter to just turn the thing on and keep it running, it’s quite another matter to deploy it against enemies and fight with it. And in WW2 especially, you were likely fighting against enemies (regardless of which side you were on) with military equipment that was equal, or even superior, to your own. Words really can’t express the respect I have for WW2 combat veterans…

  3. AvatarJustPassinThru

    When I went in the Nav…I had decided, two things I wasn’t going to do, were, jump out of a perfectly-good airplane, or get on a boat that sinks itself. We had a fair amount of the sub-surface fleet rotate through my carrier, partly because it was home-ported Stateside. Sometimes an enlisted has to take a less-desirable assignment to have a more-desirable location.

    Of the non-nuke submarine fleet, I knew little…the guys with experience there had all gone. But, from the Navy, I went railroading – that massive Cleveland Diesel (former Winton Engine) engine, is, in general size and shape, quite similar to the modern EMD two-stroke locomotive diesel engine.

    Of which, the photo you used, is one I’m familiar with. CSXT 786 had come through my assigned territory a number of times. I’d run it. Long ago, locomotives were assigned to terminals to aid in maintenance schedules, but those days went away at least 20 years ago. CSX runs their power all over the country – even on run-through trains, they’ll often leave power on for Western railroads to take through to West Coast ports or terminals. So, power that had been around Buffalo or Cleveland, could easily pop up in Atlanta or Jacksonville, or even take an extended tour of the West.

  4. AvatarTyler

    I have heard it said that you will know we are really scared when we start building diesel electric subs again to patrol our own littoral waters.

    On the other hand I’d love to see them take one out of dry dock and give it to Michigan DNR to scare the pants off some drunken pleasure boaters.

    great stuff.

  5. Avatarhank chinaski

    Nice piece. I was lucky enough to score a tour on an Ohio class some time ago. One quote that still comes to mind: when passing through the compartment housing rows of targeting computers (which today would probably be nearly Raspberry Pi sized), and I paraphrase: “all of the equipment in this room is designed to survive a blast up to [very large number] of G’s, except the people”.

    The series/shunt design always struck me as a more logical approach to automotive efficiency, given current infrastructure and battery tech constraints, but lacks the virtue signalling of a full plug-in. One design I recall, and it may have been floated only on paper in a dentist office’s Popular Mechanics, was powered by a sub-13B sized all-fuel turbine engine. IIRC, Mazda did toy with a single rotor, horizontally placed Wankel series/shunt in a ‘2’ prototype.
    The Volt should have done better than it did.

  6. AvatarCompaq Deskpro

    It wasn’t just asbestos. Daily contact with battery acid, lead paint, and lit cigarettes, all crammed into a tube. What exactly went into managing the air?

    • AvatarBuck Turgidson

      ‘managing the air’????…. ‘managing the air’??? Sonny, them Rooskies are gonna blow us and everyone you love clean off this rock, and you’re worried about ‘managing the air’? Damn son… take one for the team: stand your watch, fix those batteries and never mind about the air! You can breathe after you’re back in civvies!

  7. AvatarJax

    Arguments against hybrid systems are produced by auto makers..that rather should be producing hybrids..
    The battery tech just does not exist ( but it will) to be fully electric in a commercial truck..
    Unless of course a hyway run that Walmart or Fedex uses..
    My turbo diesel Benz 700 mile range is old and heavy..if its AWD had an integrated hybrid system my MPG would be 50 mpg rather than 28 mpg..

    • Avatar-Nate

      I guess you just ignore the inner city Coca Cola all electric big rigs that are every where now….

      I too wonder how they manage this but don’t say it isn’t possible when it’s being done right now .


  8. AvatarMrfixit1599

    When I was on boomers, you would think the nuclear reactor and all the warheads would be the most frightening thing to malfunction in some way. Not even close. The laundry, where there would be a small fire at least once a patrol, and the oxygen generator were the scariest.

    The oxygen generator would take water and split into oxygen and hydrogen, so basically a very large bomb should anything malfunction on it.

  9. AvatarRonnie Schreiber

    My brother-in-law was in the sub service and did a couple of tours assigned to a nuclear sub (later served on sub tenders, then got a desk job doing IT). When you have enough surplus electricity that you can turn salt water into fresh water and then turn fresh water into hydrogen and oxygen, things get interesting.

    “How long can you stay underwater?”

    “Until we run out of food.”

    The thing about the cigarettes is true. They’d know it was time to make oxygen when it got difficult to light their cigarettes.

    • AvatarMrFixit1599

      That was true. Keeping a cigarette lit at times was a challenge, especially on weekends after a particularly long week.. They would let the oxygen level run down. Supposedly with the lower oxygen level, you had less energy, so it was easier to sleep longer, and get more rest before the next week started. No idea if that is true, but that was the theory I was given.

    • AvatarMrFixit1599

      That was true. Lighting a cigarette and keeping it lit at times was a challenge. Most of us had Zippo’s, but we all had Bic backups when the oxygen level got low.

      It was especially true on weekends after a particularly long week. They would let the oxygen level run down. Supposedly with the lower oxygen level, you had less energy, so it was easier to sleep longer, and get more rest before the next week started. No idea if that is true, but that was the theory I was given.

  10. Avatarbullnuke

    I operated and maintained Fairbanks Morse D38-8 1/8 engines as a nuke during my career in the Navy. They were the later 10 cyl/20 piston opposed engines used in later class submarines of WWII as well as main propulsion for LST’s. For our purposes they developed 1600hp with 1 mW 450VAC generators used for emergency power generation. They were indeed monstrous and fairly relentless when operating – saw a young guy drop down into the diesel room with an open box of poly trash bags, bags that were quickly sucked out of the box into the air intake silencer. The silencer (about 2 feet in diameter by 3 or 4 feet long with an 18″ or 24″ opening) sucked those bags out of that box like toilet paper off a roll. The engine was loaded, running at 720 rpm, but didn’t skip a beat – that now-plugged silencer collapsed like a beer can, ripped the horizontal welds out of it, and created its own air path to the engine. Tremendous engines that are still in routine use today.

  11. Avatarstingray65

    Great story, but the worst part about US submarines during WWII is that they (and torpedo bombers) carried defective torpedoes until rather late in the war so that even a direct hit wouldn’t set off the explosive charge. Imagine putting yourself in grave danger to get within torpedo range only to shoot off a bunch of duds against targets that would then have the opportunity to shoot back with working shells and torpedoes

    • Avatarbullnuke

      Stingray65 – Thank heavens we’re beyond that today. Look at those fantastic weapons elevators on the USS Gerald Ford that didn’t need to be tested prior to installation for use… whoops, maybe a bad comparison. Okay, then, how about those several dozen LCS 40+ knot wonderships that spend most of their time tied to a pier due to propulsion failures and cracked aluminum…. again, whoops, another bad comparison. Geeze, guess we haven’t learned much since the Mk XIV torpedo debacle (bad magnetic exploder, bad depth sensor, bad contact exploder) but luckily haven’t put many folks in immediate harm’s way utilizing these Puzzle Palace ™ transformational systems.

      • AvatarMrFixit1599

        I know when I was in, the Mk 48 torpedo we used was garbage, and that was the 90’s. Granted the few test shots we did were with test Mk 48’s but from my best memory, there was at least a 25% failure rate on the test shots.

  12. AvatarDirt Roads

    I love this break from Tom’s fare of 70s land yachts. While I am a Boomer and gew up with those cars, for many years I looked at them with disdain while I drove my Fiat Spiders and little 128 econoboxes as hard as I could.

    Now let’s see some aviation-related posts to help round things out 🙂


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