Military Review

Project GUPPY: between the Second World War and the Era of Atomic-powered Vessels

Project GUPPY: between the Second World War and the Era of Atomic-powered Vessels

Sixty years ago, when the US national debt did not accept such threatening values, and the expenses of the United States on everything, including defense, were quite reasonable - in those days the United States Navy looked very different than it is now. At the turn of 1940-50-ies, the American fleet was a pile of rusty trash from the Second World War, while Congress desperately did not want to allocate funds for the construction of new ships.

The strange situation had a simple explanation: during the years of the war, US industry surrendered the fleet such a huge amount of technology that a reasonable question arose: what to do next? Most of the fleet did not die in battle. Even after the “general cleaning” in 1946–47, when several dozens of “superfluous” were withdrawn to the reserve, according to the command, aircraft carriers, battleships and cruisers, the American fleet was still overfilled with military equipment.

To let hundreds of fully modern ships to be scrapped, and to build new combat units instead of them would be frank agitation. Nevertheless, the equipment was subject to inevitable physical deterioration and obsolescence - in an era when the horizon was already lit by the glow of future nuclear installations and torches of rocket engines, immediate replenishment of the fleet with new ships was required. But the replenishment of the fleet was not made!

Admirals popularly explained that in the coming 10 years, new ships should not be expected - the funds allocated would hardly be enough for several experimental designs, and perhaps a couple of large units for the aircraft carrier fleet. Otherwise, sailors must prepare for the fact that in the event of war, they will have to fight with outdated equipment.

In order to avoid the repetition of the next Pearl Harbor, the fleet leadership had to turn on the imagination and use the modernization resource of the ships to the fullest - in the 1950-ies the US Navy shocked several large-scale fleet modernization programs. One of the most interesting projects was GUPPY - a set of relatively simple and cheap events that radically changed the characteristics of American submarines.

Immediate immersion!

In the 1945 year, after the partition of the captured German ships, two “Electrobot” type XXI - U-2513 and U-3008 - fell into the hands of the Yankees. Acquaintance with the most powerful and perfect boats of the Second World War left indelible impressions on American specialists; Having carefully studied the design and characteristics of the Electrobots, the Americans made the correct conclusion: the key factors that directly affect the effectiveness and combat stability of a modern submarine are its speed and range in the submerged state. Everything else - artillery weapons, surface speed or autonomy can be to some extent neglected, sacrificing them to the main task of the submarine - movement in a submerged position.

The duration of being under water for diesel-electric submarines, in the first place, was limited by the capacity of the batteries. Even the largest and most powerful boats of the Second World War could not remain under water for more than two or three days - then inevitably followed the ascent, the ventilation system of the battery pits turned on - powerful air flows removed accumulated toxic emissions overboard, and tumbling diesel generators drove life-giving electrical force through the conductors of the cables back to the batteries.

In one cycle of submerging, the boats managed to “crawl” no more than 100 ... 200 miles. For example, even the largest of the Soviet submarines - the cruising submarine of the XIV-series could pass under water only about 170 miles with the 3-node economic course. And if the machine telegraph grip was set to “Fullest Forth”, the batteries ran out in an hour or 12 miles of distance traveled. The characteristics of American boats of the type “Gato”, “Balao” and “Tench” were even more modest - less than 100 miles on two nodes, while the maximum speed in the submerged position did not exceed 9-10 nodes.

To correct this annoying situation, the GUPPY (Greater Underwater Propulsion Power Program) program was developed. As clearly follows from its name, the goal of the program was a radical improvement in the speed characteristics of boats in a submerged position. The fulfillment of the task was supposed to be achieved in three main ways:

- the maximum saturation of the internal space of the boat with batteries, the number of battery groups was planned to be increased 2 times - from two to four!

- optimization of contours to reduce hydrodynamic resistance when moving in a submerged position;

- installing a snorkel is a very good German invention that allows you to move indefinitely for a long time at a periscope depth, “sticking” the tip of the air intake and the exhaust pipe of a diesel engine out of the water.

Of course, in the course of modernization, the electronic “filling” of ships was improved, new radars, sonars and torpedo shooting systems appeared.

The first works were completed in August 1947: two US Navy submarines, USS Odax and USS Pomodon, underwent an intensive modernization course under the GUPPY I program. All artillery installations, fencing pillers, windlasses, and even one of the periscopes were dismantled from the decks of ships, to reduce hydrodynamic resistance in a submerged position.

New forms were acquired by the wheelhouse - a smooth, streamlined design that received the name “sail” among sailors. Some changes were made to the bow of the hull - the usual V-shaped silhouette acquired a rounded GUPPY-shape. But the main metamorphosis occurred inside. The emptied cellars of artillery ammunition, part of the refrigerating chambers and spare parts stores - all the free space from the bow to the stern was filled with rechargeable batteries (AKB) - the entire 4 group of 126 elements of a new type.

The new batteries had a larger capacity, but a small service life (total 18 months - 3 times less than the original batteries of the time of WWII) and longer charging time. In addition, they were more dangerous in operation due to increased hydrogen evolution — they had to modernize the ventilation system of the battery pits.
Simultaneously with the battery, the entire electrical system of the boats was upgraded - rowing electric motors of new type, hermetic distribution boards, electrical devices designed for the new electrical grid standard (120V, 60Hz). At the same time, a new radar appeared and the air conditioning system in the compartments was modernized.

The results of the work exceeded all expectations - the USS Odax and USS Pomodon boats broke all records, speeding up submerged to 18 nodes - faster than the unique German Electrobot. The range of the underwater stroke increased significantly, and the economic speed increased to three knots.

Successful modernization allowed to continue work in this direction: in the period from 1947 to 1951, the 24 boats of the US Navy underwent modernization under the GUPPY II program - this time, along with the optimization of hull lines and an increase in the number of batteries, a snorkel for diesel engines was introduced into the design submerged.

In 1951, an alternative was proposed - a slightly smaller and cheaper upgrade option under the GUPPY-IA program (total 10 upgraded boats). This time, the Yankees refused to place on board two additional groups of batteries, retaining the same number of elements. Only the elements themselves underwent a change - the Sargo II advanced batteries were used - they were more efficient and durable, at the same time, the elements of this type were extremely troublesome: it was necessary to mix the electrolyte regularly and use the cooling system of the battery wells.

All other techniques of the GUPPY program (snorkel, new hull lines) were used in full. In general, the GUPPY IA program did not impress the sailors — in spite of its lower cost, the upgraded boats were seriously inferior to the “normal” GUPPY II in range and underwater speed.

In the period from 1952 to 1954, the 17 boats of the Second World War were upgraded according to the GUPPY IIA program - this time the Yankees tried to correct the key shortcoming of all GUPPY - disgusting conditions, due to the extremely rich internal layout and abundance of batteries. The designers donated one of the four diesel engines, instead of which they placed pumps, compressors and air conditioning drives. There have been some changes in the internal layout of the premises: the chillers were now directly under the galley, and the hydroacoustic post “moved” to the vacant pump room under the central post.

The absence of the fourth diesel engine had a significant effect on reducing the speed of the surface course, however, now more or less comfortable living conditions were provided on board the boat (as far as the word “comfort” can be applied to the submarine fleet).

Nevertheless, it was obvious to the sailors that the modernization potential of the boats was practically exhausted. There was one last chance: the GUPPY III program is the largest of all GUPPY programs, which included cutting and lengthening the durable hull of the boat (the work was carried out from 1959 to 1963).

The length of each of the upgraded 9 boats increased by 3,8 meters, the surface displacement increased to 1970 tons. The resulting reserve space was used to accommodate the modern hydroacoustic complex BQG-4 PUFFS. Automation has reduced the crew, - instead of increased torpedo ammunition and improved living habits on board. Following the model of GUPPY-IIA, the fourth diesel engine was dismantled from all boats. Part of the cabin was made of plastic.

USS Pickerel - a typical representative of GUPPY III

It is worth noting that the exact number of boats that took part in the GUPPY project is difficult to establish - many of them were repeatedly upgraded during the various stages of the program. Thus, the "firstborn" USS Odax and USS Pomodon were "upgraded" under the program GUPPY II, and another eight GUPPY II were subsequently upgraded to the standard GUPPY III. Despite the general established standards, all boats had some differences in design, layout and equipment - depending on the shipyard where the work was carried out.

Also, some of the boats were undergoing limited modernization as part of the Allied assistance programs - for example, four boats destined for the Italian and Dutch navies were upgraded under the GUPPY-IB program. Export ships received all the main advantages of the GUPPY program, with the exception of modern radio-electronic equipment.

USS Spinax, 1965 year - a typical representative of the Fleet Snorkel Program: the artillery was dismantled, some features of the GUPPY program are noticeable, but no major modernization has been carried out

In addition, there were informal modernization programs that are close in spirit to GUPPY. So, 28 boats of the military period subsequently received snorkels and some other elements of the GUPPY program associated with minimal changes in the design — the artillery and protruding external elements were dismantled, the hull lines were “ennobled”, and in some cases the electronic “stuffing” was replaced.

70 years in the ranks

Most of the boats of the war years that had undergone modernization under the various versions of the GUPPY program actively served under the stars and stripes until the middle of the 1970-s, when the mass entry into service of nuclear-powered ships drew a line under the DEPL’s career in the US Navy.

Uluc Ali Reis (formerly USS Thornback) - Turkish Navy submarine

However, those of the submarines who were lucky enough to go on the export, have lived a much longer and more intense life. GUPPY boats were in extremely high demand on the international maritime market. weapons - small, simple and relatively cheap, they were ideally suited for equipping fleets of small and not very wealthy countries. At the same time, their combat qualities markedly exceeded their size - even during the time of nuclear reactors and surgical precision rocket weapons, the upgraded diesel-electric submarines of the Second World War period retained considerable combat potential. The boats were extensively exploited around the world as part of the fleets of Argentina, Brazil, Turkey, Italy, the Netherlands, the Republic of Taiwan, Pakistan, Greece, Bolivia, Chile and even Canada.

Among export boats happened true long-livers. For example, USS Catfish, who had time to take part in the Falkland War as part of the Argentine Navy. Despite the depressing technical condition of the submarine, the British "sea wolves" cost a lot of effort to destroy the ARA Santa Fe (S-21) - the boat, barely crawling in the surface position, was beaten with anti-ship missiles and depth charges dropped from helicopters. At the same time, the damaged baby was able to reach the island of South. George and sit on the ground near the shore.

Wessex Royal Navy stalking Santa Fe, South Atlantic, 1982 year

But the most striking история associated with the two boats of the Taiwan Navy - USS Cutlass and USS Tusk, which became, respectively, "Hai Shi" and "Hai Pao". Both submarines launched in the 1944-45 years, as of the 2013 year, are still listed as combat training units, and periodically make outlets to the sea!
The incredible longevity of the American "Gatow", "Balo" and "Tench" during the Second World War has two obvious explanations:

1. The US Navy submarines initially had solid capabilities and were built with a large eye to the future. Suffice it to say that any “Gatou” was three times larger than the average German U-bot type VII.

2. Competent modernization of the program GUPPY, which allowed the old boats still 20-30 years after the war to serve on a par with new ships.

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    NOMADE 30 July 2013 07: 00
    Interesting article! To the author +!
  2. washi
    washi 30 July 2013 08: 18
    snorkel installation - a very good German invention,
    The invention is Russian. German - the first mass application
  3. Santa Fe
    30 July 2013 09: 57
    Trophy U-3008 (type XXI Electroboot)
    Key West, Florida. 1947 g. By the way, snorkel is clearly visible
  4. smart ass
    smart ass 30 July 2013 13: 55
    there were modernization programs ... and then americos learned to print money !!! Do you want atomic avik !! get ... you want 10 ??? Yes, not a question !!!
  5. cdrt
    cdrt 30 July 2013 15: 51
    Excellent article.
    How many saw in ZVO: Teng, Balao, Gato, modernized under the GUPPY program - it was interesting what it was.
    Thank you.
  6. Druid
    Druid 30 July 2013 23: 14
    Thanks to the author.
  7. old man54
    old man54 31 July 2013 03: 31
    The article is interesting, reads very easily, in one go. Thank you Kaptsov for regularly supplying VO with his works so regularly, keep it up! good
    Of course "+" put it, I wanted to object to something, to argue, but there was nothing to find out! laughing A grind empty, if only I would not want to say.
  8. Woldemar
    Woldemar 19 August 2013 14: 54
    Good article.
  9. Askold
    Askold 27 August 2013 14: 01
    Quote: Vasya
    snorkel installation - a very good German invention,
    The invention is Russian. German - the first mass application

    You probably think that the "snorkel" was invented by the Russian captain Gudima and installed on the submarine "Akula" during the First World War. For the first time, the "snorkels" were massively used by Russian submariners on almost all types of the first Russian submarines back in the Russian-Japanese war! Then they were just ordinary vertical tubes of small diameter and about 4 meters high. There were two of these pipes per boat - one in the bow and the other in the stern. And although they did not have an automatic valve in the upper part like a real German snorkel, but there was an ordinary valve manually closed by a sailor in a strong boat hull, but these "breathing pipes" performed their function perfectly! because they allowed Russian boats to go in any storm - because. that the waves could not reach the upper end of these pipes. And there were no radars at that time, and the Russian boats also had no one to hide from. But the seaworthiness was ensured the highest - even if they could walk in a twelve-point hurricane, they still would not have drowned with the hatches battened down and excellent ventilation with the help of these breathing tubes.