Maritime Topics On Stamps :

Submarines, Part 3,
1939 - 2000.

Our first part of the 'Submarines' topic explored the world of research submersibles. The second part covered naval submarines from their beginnings until the outbreak of World War Two. This new page represents our third part, telling of the years from WW-II to 2000.

On both stamps you can see the German submarine type VII. From 1939 to 1945 705 units of this type were build in different variations. The most common type VIIc was a one-hull boat with the following specs: length 220 ft, beam 20ft, 761 tdw, speed 17/7 knots above/below the surface, four torpedo tubes in the bow and one astern, load of 14 torpedoes total, one deck-gun, one anti-aircraft gun, later two of them. Crew 44 men, construction-approved depth 542 ft, crash-depth 919 ft. From 1943 on all the boats were equipped with a snorkel. Using the snorkel the subs were able to charge the batteries for the electric engines while staying submerged thus enabling them to travel vast distances without the need to surface.
The German subs sank around 3000 ships during the whole course of WW II. The type VII accounted for about 50%. But the casualties were extremely high as well. Take a look at Navicula's page The Battle for the Atlantic Ocean.

The German Hellmuth Walter developed an engine, which did not need any oxygene. He built various test-boats and managed to reach a maximum underwater speed of 26 knots. The main drawback of these subs was the very high fuel consumption rate. The boat never left the testing stage.

From 1943 on Germany resorted to exclusively building the type XXI subs and 119 boats were finished until 1945. The specs: length 252 ft, beam 26 ft, 1610 tdw, speed 15.5/17.5 knots above/below surface, six torpedo tubes in the bow, none astern, load of 23 torpedoes total (or 17 torpedoes and 12 mines), no deck-gun but four anti-aircraft guns. Crew 57 men, construction-approved depth 656 ft, crash-depth 1,148 ft, crash-dive time 18 seconds. The boat used RADAR, two periscopes, an acoustic distance measurement unit, one telescopic snorkel and a so called 'pill-thrower', to create fake echoes on the enemies SONAR.

During WW-II the Americans fought the Japanese in the Pacific Ocean. The Japanese submarine fleet consisted of 190 boats of 35 different types. They built boats of extreme sizes both very small and very big. On the stamp left you can see a Midget-A-Class. It was a very small boat for only two crew members. The length was 79 ft and it had two torpedo tubes. Five of these boats were used during the attack on Pearl Harbor, but all five were lost.
To the right you can see the US Gato-Class. The Americans built 73 subs of this type. They had six torpedo tubes at the bow and four astern. The American submarines sank ca. 1,300 Japanese ships, the Japanese 'only' 250 in return. The casualty list showed 52 American and 135 Japanese subs as well.

Some subs were built only to supply other submarines close to their area of operation. For example, on the stamp to the right you can see the German type XIV, an pure oiler and cargo submarine. Ten units of this type were build until the end of the war. The load consisted of fuel and torpedoes. The boat had a length of 220 ft, 1,668 tdw and no own torpedo tubes. Because of her large size the boats were very slow travelling and submerging. All ten boats were lost.

On the stamp to the left you can see the typical end of many submarines during WW II - destroyed by bombing planes. To the right you can see the sub 'Alderney'. It was build in 1945 in Great Britain and belonged to the A-Class. The sub had a length of 220 ft, four bow and four stern torpedo tubes. In 1955 it was rebuild, like the US GUPPY refits (Greater Underwater Propulsive Power Programme Yet). This was a program to increase combat readiness of the old 'Gato', 'Balao' and 'Tench' classes. The hulls got a more streamlined design and the engine were powered up to generate a higher underwater maximum speed.
After the war the Britains tinkered with the Walter-turbine, but abandoned the project soon.

In 1948 the Americans started to develop a nuclear plant for the propulsion systems. In 1952 construction of the 'Nautilus' started and in 1954 it was finished as the very first nuclear powered submarine. Some specs: length 325 ft, 4,091 displacement, speed 18/20 knots above/below surface, crew 111 men. The nuclear plant removed any range limits. In 1958 the 'Nautilus' travelled beneath the ice of the Noth Pole (left stamp).
To the right you can see the nuclear-powered USS 'Triton', launched in 1958. Some specs: length 446 ft, 5,940 displacement, speed 27/20 knots above/below surface. In 1960 the 'Triton' became widely known for her complete under water voyage around the world. The boat only had to stop once and surface at the Falkland Islands to disembark a sick seaman.
The boats used special air filters and recycle systems to re-use their air supply.

Great Britain and Russia constructed nuclear-powered subs as well. To the left you can see the British HMS 'Dreadnought'. She was launched in 1960 and fitted with an American nuclear plant which enabled her to travel up to 28 knots under water. She was designed as a hunter killer submarine, i.e. an anti-submarine submarine.
To the right you can see the Russian boat 'Leninskij Komsomol'. In 1962 this sub reached the North Pole under the ice as well. She belonged to the class 'N' and was categorized as a hunter killer sub. Only 15 subs of this type were build as the engine generated too much noise.

The 'Cold War' had started and the subs were supposed to lurk and chase each other.

The 'Nautilus' still was equippted with six torpedo tubes, but then the age of ballistic missiles began. In 1960 the American 'George Washington' launched two Polaris rockets, which travelled for 2,222 km before hitting home. After the Polaris the Poseidon missiles followed. To the left you can see the first French nuclear-powered sub 'Le Redoutable'. Launched in 1967, she was able to travel at a speed of up to 28 knots under water and was armed with 16 missiles.

The development of a new indocent navigation system enabled the subs to use precise under water positioning, which considerably raised missile accuracy.

The American 'Los Angeles' was the first of a new class of 62 nuclear-powered submarines which were build from 1972 to 1991. Some specifications: Length 328 ft, 6,082 tons, speed 32 knots below the surface. They were armed with four torpedo tubes, Tomahawk missiles for coastal targets and Harpoon rockets.
Nine of these boats were used during the Gulf War. Two of them fired Tomahawks from the eastern Mediterranian into Iraq.

But soon a 'Comeback' of the conventional subs followed. Why? Nuclear-powered subs are much more expensive than conventional ones, especially in terms of construction, upkeep and decontamination. Conventional subs are able to use the same weapons and have the same scaring effect. Even poorer countries can afford to purchase and maintain a small fleet.

To the right on the Turkish stamp you can see a conventional type 209 boat, build in Germany during the 70s. The subs had one Diesel- and one electric engine, their speed was 22 knots below the surface and they were armed with eight torpedo tubes in the bow.
Some countries have developped/are still busy developping the so-called AIP boat. AIP is the abbreviation for 'Air Independent Propulsion'. On the stamp mark you can see the German type 212, designed and constructed at the Howaldtswerke shipyard at Kiel. The engine uses fuel-cells which produce electrical currents using a chemical reaction.

Following are some examples from different countries and the known state-of-the- art of modern submarine warfare. Most of the time the development is much more advanced, but top secret.

China tries to keep up with international pace in nuclear-powered submarine warfare development. On the stamp you can see their new class XIA. The subs have 5,000 to 6,000 tons and are armed with 12 missile launch tubes. Their JL-2 missiles have 3-4 warheads and are supposed to have a range of up to 8,000 km.
France plans to build a fourth class of ballistic missile nuclear-powered submarines. To the right you can see the 'Le Terrible', which will be in service in 2008! The sub carries 16 vertically launched M45 ballistic missiles. The missile will have a warhead with six so-called 'multiple re-entry vehicles' with a range of up to 6,000 km. The subs surface-to-surface missile is the well-known Exocet rocket, four torpedo tubes in addition and, of course, computers in every corner you look.

Today the submarines of the Russian 'Typhoon' class are the largest in the world. They have been built since 1980 and are continously redesigned. Some specifications: Length 565 ft, beam 79 ft, 18,500 tons, speed 25 knots below surface, two nuclear power plants, maximum depth of 1641 ft. The armament includes six torpedo tubes, 20 Makajew ballistic missiles in silos in two rows, everyone with a warhead of ten multiple re-entry vehicles. With a maximum missile range of 8,300 km the sub is able to hit any strategic target in the world.

Travelling in pretty sunshine you can see a submarine of the British 'Vanguard' class. Maybe, the sun is used to derange from the terrible power of these boats. Their length is 492 ft, beam 43 ft, displacement 15,900 tons, speed 25 knots under water, two nuclear power plants. Payload are 16 vertically launched ballistic missiles of the Trident type, everyone with a warhead of 14 nuclear multiple re-entry vehicles. These rockets are able to destroy even underground bunkers and rocket silos.
Four subs exist in this class with the names 'Vanguard', 'Victorious', 'Vigilant' and 'Vengeance'.

On this stamp an American sub of the Ohio class is depicted. (The standard point border was removed from the scan to make for a more impressive picture.) These boats have a length of 561 ft, beam 43 ft, displacement 16,764 tons, speed 28 knots below the surface. The subs are able to stay submerged for upt to 70 days. There are 24 vertically launched ballistic missiles of the Trident type, four torpedo tubes are subordinate. 18 units have been constructed up to today and their combined payload is able to destroy the whole world.

Here are some abbreviations in connection with the US submarines:

  • IRBM - Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile, 3000 to 5500km

  • MIRV - Multiple Independent-Launched Re-entry Vehicles

  • SS - Submarine

  • SSA - Cargo Submarine

  • SSB - Ballistic Missile Submarine

  • SSBN - Nuclear-powered Ballistic Missile Submarine

  • SSG - Guided Missile Submarine

  • SSGN - Nuclear-powered Guided Missile Submarine

  • SSK - Hunter Killer Submarine

  • SSKN - Nuclear-powered Hunter Killer Submarine

  • SSN - Nuclear-powered (attack) Submarine

  • SSO - Oiler Submarine

  • SSP - Vehicle Transport Submarine

  • SSR - Radar Picket Submarine

  • SSRN - Radar Picket Submarine, nuclear-powered

If you like to see our first part about the research submersibles, click on this line.

If you like to see our second page, covering naval submarines from their beginning until the outbreak of WW II, click on this line.

If you like to see our page about the Atlantic-Battle during WW II, click on this line.

© 1998 - 2003 Bjoern Moritz, all rights reserved.

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