The USS Gudgeon was one of six Tang class submarines built in 1949-52 to incorporate lessons learned in wartime, especially from Germany’s XXI boats.
The ‘Tang’ (SS-563) and ‘Darter’ (SS-576) classes commissioned in the 1950s were an attempt to assimilate the lessons of the German Type XXI design. Unfortunately the advanced Fairbanks Morse ‘pancake’ radial diesel was not successful, and they were re-engined with conventional machinery.
One of the first innovations incorporated into the Tangs was the General Motors 16-338 lightweight, compact, high-speed “pancake” engine. Very different from the classic diesel engines that nearly all preceding submarines used, which were laid out with a horizontal crankshaft and two rows of eight cylinders each, this new engine had a vertical crankshaft, and the cylinders were arranged radially like an aircraft engine. Four of these 13+1⁄2-foot-tall (4.1 m), 4-foot-wide (1.2 m), eight-ton engines could be installed in a single engine room, thus deleting an entire compartment from the submarine’s design.
Construction and delivery followed without significant difficulty, but when the boats went to sea in the early 1950s, the new engines did not work well. Their compact design made them difficult to maintain, and they tended to leak oil into their generators. In 1956, the Navy decided to replace the “pancake” engines with ten-cylinder Fairbanks-Morse opposed-piston diesels. To accommodate the larger engines, the boats had to be lengthened some nine feet in the engine room, and even then, only three could be installed. Accordingly, in 1957 and 1958, the first four Tangs were lengthened, while Gudgeon and Harder, still on the ways, were built to the new length, with the new engines.
Harder (14 June 1951), Trout (21 August 1951), Trigger (3 December 1951)
Builder: Electric Boat Tang (19 June 1951), Wahoo (16 October 1951), Gudgeon (11 May 1952)
Displacement: 1821 tons (surfaced), 2260 tons (submerged)
Dimensions: 269920 x 27920 x 18900
Machinery: 3 FM diesel engines, 2 electric motors, 2 shafts. 3400 bhp/4200 shp = 15.5/18 knots
Range: 11,500 nm at 10 knots surfaced, 129 nm at 3 knots submerged
Armament: 8 x 210 torpedo tubes (6 bow, 2 stern), total 26 torpedoes