Sturgeon class submarine

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The Sturgeon-class (colloquially in Navy circles, the 637 class) attack submarine (SSN) were the "work horses" of the submarine attack fleet throughout much of the Cold War. They were phased out in the 1990s and early 21st century, as their successors, the Los Angeles, followed by the Seawolf and Virginia class boats, entered service.



They were equipped to carry the Harpoon missile, the Tomahawk cruise missile,and the MK-48 and ADCAP torpedoes. Torpedo tubes were located amidships to accommodate the bow-mounted sonar. The bow covering the sonar sphere was made from poly-carbonate to improve the bow sonar sphere performance though for intelligence gathering missions, the towed-array sonar was normally used as it was much more sensitive array. The sail-mounted dive planes rotate to a vertical position for breaking through the ice when surfacing in Arctic regions.

Noise reduction

Several Sturgeon boats were modifications of the original designs to test ways to reduce noise.

  • Narwhal, which was nearly a sub-class of its own, was completed with an S5G reactor which was cooled using natural convection rather than pumps and did not have reduction gears, but utilized a sophisticated multi-stage turbine in an attempt to reduce the noise footprint from the reduction gears. The turbine arrangement was not considered successful because of its complex warm-up and cooldown procedures.
  • Glenard P. Lipscomb was completed using a large electric motor for main propulsion rather than direct drive from the steam turbines. The Lipscomb’s trial of electric propulsion was not considered successful due to lack of reliability and she was decommissioned in 1989.
  • Puffer was outfitted with Raytheon Harmonic Power Conditioners (a.k.a "the cloaking device") which eliminated an electrical bus noise problem that was inherent in the class. This successful feature was later outfitted on the entire class.


Beginning with Archerfish, units of this class had a 10-foot (3 meter) longer hull, giving them more living and working space than previous submarines. Parche received an additional 100-foot (30 meter) hull extension containing cable tapping equipment that brought her total length to 401 feet (122 m). A number of the long hull Sturgeon-class SSNs, including Parche, Rivers, and Russell were involved in top-secret reconnaissance missions, including cable tap operations in the Barents and Okhotsk seas.

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