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USS Bushnell (AS-15) on 20 May 1943
Click on this photograph for links to larger images of this class.

Class:        FULTON (AS-11)
Design:        Navy AS-11
Displacement (tons):        9,734 light, 18,000 lim.
Dimensions (feet):        529.5' oa x 73.3' e x 25.5' lim.
Original Armament:        4-5"/38 (1941: AS-11)
Later armaments:        4-5"/38 8<25-20mm (1942-44: AS 11-12);
4-5"/38 4-1.1"Q 10<22-20mm (1942: AS-12);
4-5"/38 4-40mmT 23-20mm (1943-44: AS 11-12, 15-16, 18-19); 4-5"/38 4-40mmT 8<16-20mmT (1945-55: all); 4-5"/38 4-40mmT (1952-55: AS-19);
4-5"/38 (1957: AS-12, 15-19);
2-5"/38 (1958-63: all); 1-5"/38 (1961-63: AS-19);
none (1972-74: AS-11, 16, 18-19); 4-20mmS (1975-76: AS 11-12, 16, 18-19)
Complement:        1051 (1944)
Speed (kts.):        15.4
Propulsion (HP):        11,520
Machinery:        G.M. diesel electric, 2 screws

AS Name Ord. Builder Keel Launch Commiss.
11 FULTON 1 Sep 38 NYd Mare Island 19 Jul 39 27 Dec 40 12 Sep 41
12 SPERRY 12 Jun 40 NYd Mare Island 1 Feb 41 17 Dec 41 1 May 42
15 BUSHNELL 3 Oct 40 NYd Mare Island 23 Dec 41 14 Sep 42 10 Apr 43
16 HOWARD W. GILMORE 3 Oct 40 NYd Mare Island 21 Dec 42 16 Sep 43 24 May 44
17 NEREUS 10 Nov 41 NYd Mare Island 11 Oct 43 12 Feb 45 27 Oct 45
18 ORION 30 Dec 40 Moore DD, Oakland 31 Jul 41 14 Oct 42 30 Sep 43
19 PROTEUS 30 Dec 40 Moore DD, Oakland 15 Sep 41 12 Nov 42 31 Jan 44

AS Name Decomm. Strike Disposal Fate MA Sale
11 FULTON 17 May 91 20 Dec 91 17 Nov 95 Sold --
12 SPERRY 30 Sep 82 30 Sep 82 1 Feb 99 MA/T ca Sep 11
15 BUSHNELL 30 Jun 70 15 Nov 80 3 Jun 83 Target --
16 HOWARD W. GILMORE 30 Sep 80 1 Dec 80 1 May 99 MA/T 10 Feb 06
17 NEREUS 27 Oct 71 13 Jun 89 7 May 93 MA/T ca Jul 12
18 ORION 30 Sep 93 30 Sep 93 1 May 99 MA/T 2 Jun 06
19 PROTEUS 1 Jul 99 13 Mar 01 ca Jun 07 Sold --

Class Notes:
FY 1939 (AS-11), 1941 (others). Construction of AS-11 was directed by SecNav on 20 Jul 38 in the Fiscal Year 1939 building program, which also included the second units of the DIXIE (AD-14) and CURTISS (AV-4) classes. Construction of AS-12 was directed by CNO on 6 May 39 as part of the original building program for Fiscal Year 1941. AS 15-19 were part of a large group of auxiliaries whose construction or acquisition was directed on 5 Aug 40 in the 70% Expansion Program along with many combatant ships. This program was the second increment of the Two Ocean Navy mobilization effort and was also funded in Fiscal Year 1941. On 25 Nov 43 two additional submarine tenders were ordered to the AS-11 design for delivery in 1946: AS-27 from the Mare Island Navy Yard and AS-28 from the Puget Sound Navy Yard. In the multiple reallocations of tender contracts during 1944, AS 27 became AD-33 (a C3 of the AD-26 class) and AS-28 became AD-32 (an improved variant of the AD-14 class, q.v.). The length of AS-12 was listed as 530.6'.

On 27 Sep 33 the Secretary of the Navy wrote to the Navy's General Board, stating that the latest military characteristics of naval auxiliaries had been drawn up in 1914-1917 and directing that these characteristics be brought up to date. At that time the Navy was preparing for a significant revival of combatant construction under the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 and the Vinson-Trammell Act of 1934 and realized that its existing auxiliaries, nearly all built during World War I, would soon be inadequate to support the expanding fleet. On 21 Dec 33 the Board forwarded to CNO a tentative revision of the characteristics for submarine tenders with a request for comments and recommendations. At about the same time it forwarded characteristics for the other types of large auxiliary vessels that the Navy had built between 1914 and 1917: destroyer tenders (AD), ammunition ships (AE), provision storeships (AF), hospital ships (AH), transports (AP), repair ships (AR), and oilers (AO), and it laid down a ten-year program for peacetime auxiliary vessel construction. (Wartime requirements would be handled by conversions of merchant ships.) The submarine tender was to support six submarines of contemporary design, have a sustained speed of at least 15 knots and an endurance of 6,000 miles at that speed, a main battery of 4-5" or 6" guns, Diesel main propulsion machinery if possible, and apparatus for lifting the "tail" of submarines (which had given HOLLAND (AS-3) and BUSHNELL (AS-2) their characteristic clipper bows). On 11 Jun 34 the Bureau of Construction and Repair (BuC&R) proposed a number of refinements to these characteristics. For the ship's draft, BuC&R proposed a deep load draft of 24' to 26', noting that if a lesser draft was needed it would probably be necessary to resort to twin screws. BuC&R cited the 16 knot speed of HOLLAND as the basis for its recommendation of 16.5 knots, for which it added that modern machinery would permit attaining an endurance of up to 10,000 miles. The Bureau also recommended including the torpedo protection that was incorporated in HOLLAND. CNO on 21 Jun 34 noted that HOLLAND more nearly fulfilled the requirements for a submarine tender than any other existing tender, as she had been designed and built as such, and that she could therefore be used as a basis for the design, subject to modifications based on various recommendations including a detailed report dated 21 Apr 34 from Commander, Submarine Division 12, to which HOLLAND was assigned. CNO also stated that "twin screws for a submarine tender are undesirable."

On 8 Jan 35 the General Board issued its final characteristics for submarine tenders, which included the speed, endurance, draft, and "torpedo protection equal to that of HOLLAND" recommended by BuC&R. The new characteristics increased the number of submarines to be tended to ten as recommended by Submarine Division 12, specified a single screw for the main propulsion plant, and stated that a single purpose main battery (without antiaircraft capability) was sufficient. The lifting apparatus was also deleted. Concerning the latter, HOLLAND reported on 22 Jan 36 that this equipment, which used the anchor engine and anchor cables to lift a weight of 300 tons, had not been used since the ship began tending the new large type of submarines. The Bureau of Engineering, however, stated on 24 Mar 36 that it believed that a submarine lifting gear like HOLLAND's would prove highly valuable for use on the modern 1,400-ton submarines. On 8 Apr 36 BuC&R replied that this lifting rig had originally been contemplated as rescue and salvage equipment and that BUSHNELL might have used hers to lift the bows or sterns of early single-hull submarines for maintenance but that the stern diving planes and propellers of the modern double-hulled submarines were deeply immersed and that lifting their sterns would be dangerous except in absolutely calm water. When CinCUS on 25 Oct 37 raised the issue of the omission of the clipper bow from the new design BuC&R replied on 7 Dec 37 that it had studied the matter further and that to bring the propellers and stern planes of a large submarine to the surface the stern would have to be lifted at least nine feet, which would be extremely hazardous and might cause local structural damage in the submarine's stern.

The General Board recommended revised characteristics for the type on 4 Dec 35 with two changes from its 8 Jan 35 version: the "torpedo protection equal to that of HOLLAND" was limited to the cargo ammunition magazines and the propulsion plant was changed from single screw to twin screws. CNO distributed these characteristics on 12 Dec 35 and BuC&R forwarded its preliminary design based on these characteristics to CNO and the other Bureaus on 27 Mar 36. CNO circulated it to forces afloat on 1 Apr 36. Except for torpedo stowage the capacity of the tender was based on tending two divisions of six submarines each, or 12 subs instead of the 10 in the characteristics. The design, which was based largely on the AD-11 class, contemplated a full load displacement of 15,750 tons, a waterline length of 520 feet, a beam of 73 feet, and a full load draft of 22.5'. As in AD-11 torpedo protection was included only in the way of the magazines to prevent a sympathetic explosion of cargo ammunition following a torpedo or mine hit. The main propelling machinery was in two completely independent units separated by an intervening compartment 44 feet long. The twin-screw Diesel propulsion machinery was to have 25% more power than was required to obtain the specified 16.5 knot sustained speed at full load displacement under trial conditions and was expected to yield over 17.5 knots on trials and 16.5 knots with four months' average bottom fouling. FULTON seems to have reached a maximum full load speed of 18.7 knots (17.0 knots sustained) on trials, but in 1945 she and her sisters were listed by the Navy as 15.4 knot ships. In accordance with the recommendations of CinCUS and BuOrd in connection with general auxiliary programs, the design included an armament of 4-5"38 dual purpose guns in enclosed roller-path mounts on the center-line controlled by a Mark 37 director.

On 13 Mar 35 CinCUS had recommended that newly designed auxiliaries incorporate limited facilities for providing emergency service to occasional patrol planes. These included hoisting facilities for and the ability to carry on deck for limited periods seaplanes up to and including patrol planes of the 4-engine type, which had a full weight of 46,000 pounds. With the advent of the Consolidated PBY Catalina in 1933 the Navy had acquired a viable long-range patrol plane which some officers hoped would also serve as a strike bomber in a Central Pacific offensive. The Navy therefore began designing into as many as possible of its new ships cranes or booms to support the big patrol seaplanes. The March 1936 submarine tender design included two 20-ton rotating electric cranes located aft which were to be used mainly for handling submarine parts and for hoisting boats but which could hoist a large patrol plane in an emergency including the Sikorsky XPBS-1 then under test. Arrangements were made for stowing such a plane on deck, and 3,000 gallons of aviation gasoline for patrol planes were to be carried.

BuC&R noted on 2 Dec 36 that the submarine tender was included in the first year of the proposed Auxiliary Building Program (1937) and that it was urgent that outstanding issues regarding the design be resolved so that contract plans and specifications might be available promptly in the event of authorization and appropriation. The Bureau circulated the contract plans and detail hull specifications to the Bureaus on 4 Aug 37 and to forces afloat eight days later. After slipping to the fiscal 1939 program the ship, FULTON, was ordered in September 1938 and laid down in July 1939. The 1936 auxiliary program included no additional submarine tenders but the war emergency led to the construction of more ships of the AS-11 class. The characteristics for the class were modified twice to reflect changes already made by BuC&R: on 13 Aug 37 the armament was changed to 4-5"/38 dual-purpose guns on the centerline with standard remote (director) control and on 4 Nov 39 the number of submarines to be supported was increased to twelve.

On 5 Apr 43 the Bureau of Ships recommended to VCNO that the 45,000-pound boat and aircraft cranes be eliminated from destroyer tenders, submarine tenders, and repair ships then under construction. The Bureau argued that the purpose of these cranes had been to lift aboard a damaged patrol plane if no other facilities were available, but that this function had "atrophied from disuse" and that boats and other weights could easily be handled by a much simpler installation of kingposts and booms. Elimination of the cranes would result in significant savings in weights and strategic materials. This modification appears to have been applied during construction to AS-15, which was unique among the large Navy-built World War II tenders in having a massive kingpost pair with booms instead of the large rotating cranes fitted in the others. The converted BRIAREUS (AR-12) also had her crane deleted for the same reason before completion.

PROTEUS was placed in reserve in 1946 and in 1958 was "In Service in Reserve" in the New London Group of the Atlantic Reserve Fleet. In the summer of 1956 the Navy's efforts to develop a strategic nuclear strike weapon converged on the small solid-fueled submarine-launched ballistic missile that soon became POLARIS. The program involved not only missiles and submarines but support for them, and on 3 Dec 57 CNO on behalf of the SCB asked BUSHIPS for feasibility and cost studies for tenders for FBM submarines, both conversions from AS types in the reserve fleet and new construction. These initial studies focused on a conversion of an AS-23 class C3 hull of which four were in reserve. On 23 Jan 58 the Ship Characteristics Board issued proposed characteristics that incuded many items not considered in December, and new studies began immediately on conversions of the AS-23 and AS-11 classes as well as a new construction tender that became AS-31. It was soon decided that the revised characteristics precluded the use of the AS-23 type which lacked enough ship volume, and design work for the conversion of the larger PROTEUS (AS-19) proceeded in parallel with that for the new construction HUNLEY (AS-31). Approved characteristics for the AS-19 submarine tender conversion, SCB Project No. 190, were promulgated on 18 Aug 58 and updated on 17 Jul 59 with a final change on 7 May 62. PROTEUS was lengthened by the insertion of a 44-foot long missile magazine forward of the machinery compartment and converted to a tender for Polaris SSBNs at NSY Charleston (S.C.) between 19 Jan 59 and 24 Jul 60.

The FULTON class submarine tenders--along with the similar DIXIE (AD-14) class destroyer tenders and VULCAN (AR-5) class repair ships--were big, useful ships that were able to adapt to radically changing requirements during their unusually long active careers. Of the 16 ships in these three iconic classes, nine remained in active service into the 1990s and one (AS-19) remained on the Navy list until 1999, albeit as a lowly IX. She was converted to a barracks barge (IX-518) in 1994 and lost her stacks, cranes, and other topside fittings. Two others, AS-12 and AS-17, were still awaiting disposal in 2011.

Ship Notes:
AS Name Notes
11 FULTON In USN reserve 1946-51 (decommissioned ca. 4 Apr 47, recommissioned 10 Apr 51). To NDRF 20 Oct 94. Sold by Navy, out of NDRF and to buyer 6 Dec 95, scrapping complete 21 Dec 96.
12 SPERRY To NDRF 16 Mar 98. Departed NDRF 28 Sep 2011 under domestic sale..
15 BUSHNELL In USN reserve 1947-52 (decommissioned 30 Apr 48, recommissined 21 Feb 52). Trf. to Submarine Squadron Eight, Norfolk, VA, for target use 3 Nov 81. Sunk as torpedo target by two Mk 48 torpedoes from ATLANTA (SSN 712) 145 nm ESE of Elizabeth City N.C.
16 HOWARD W. GILMORE Ex NEPTUNE 8 Jun 43. To NDRF 14 Feb 95. MA disposal contract awarded 10 Feb 06. Departed NDRF 30 Mar 06 for scrapyard at Chesapeake, Va. Scrapping reported complete 20 Nov 06, actual completion Apr 07.
17 NEREUS Earlier order: NYd Puget Sound (3 Oct 40). To NDRF 26 Apr 93. Departed NDRF 17 Jul 2012 under domestic sale.
18 ORION To NDRF 19 Sep 95. MA disposal contract awarded 2 Jun 06. Departed NDRF 27 Jul 06 for scrapyard at Baltimore, scrapped by 27 Jul 07.
19 PROTEUS In USN reserve 1947-59 (in service in reserve at New London 27 Sep 47). Stk. 30 Sep 92, reinstated and reclas. IX-518 1 Feb 94. To NDRF 24 Sep 99. Withdrawn from NDRF by Navy 7 Jun 07 for scrapping at Brownsville, Texas.

Page Notes:
AS        1939
Compiled:        12 Jul 2008
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2008