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USS Hunley (AS 31) photographed by her builder ca 1962.

USS Hunley (AS 31) photographed by her builder ca 1962.
Click on this photograph for links to larger images of this class.

Class: HUNLEY (AS 31)
Design: SCB Project No. 194
Displacement (tons): 13,476 light, 19,746 full
Dimensions (feet): 599' oa, 570' wl x 83' e/wl x 28' max nav
Armament: 2-3"/50T; (1976) 4-20mmS
Accommodations: 61 officers, 1195 enlisted
Speed (kts.): 19
Propulsion (HP): 15,000
Machinery: Diesel electric, 1 screw

31HUNLEY16 Nov 1959Newport News SB28 Nov 196028 Sep 196116 Jun 1962
32HOLLAND31 Aug 1961Ingalls SB5 Mar 196219 Jan 19637 Sep 1963

ASNameTDecommStrikeDisposalFateMA Sale
31HUNLEY30 Sep 19943 May 19951 May 1999MA/T5 Jan 2007
32HOLLAND30 Sep 199612 May 200024 Feb 2001MA/T4 Jun 2013

Class Notes:
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 the POLARIS Fleet Ballistic Missile (FBM). In October 1956 the POLARIS program received the highest national priority, equal to that of the Air Force's THOR. By May 1957 the Navy had decided that the primary tactical delivery ship wold be a submarine and that the gas ejection principle, which employed a single vertical tube for each missile, would be employed for launching. The program acquired even more urgency in the fall of 1957 when the Soviets launched the first two Sputniks. The program involved not only missiles and submarines but support for them, and on 3 December 1957 CNO as chairman of the SCB asked BUSHIPS for feasibility and cost studies for tenders for FBM submarines, both new construction and conversions from AS types in the reserve fleet. Two days later BUSHIPS reported the results of very brief studies of two new-construction designs, one with storage for eight POLARIS missiles and one for sixteen, along with a study of a conversion of an AS 23 class C3 hull with eight missiles which would have only austere tender support capabilities but would cost a fifth as much and take half as long to build.

A working level meeting of the Ship Characteristics Board on 13 December 1957 generated additional desirable characteristics not covered in the BUSHIPS studies. Studies began in January on a new construction tender that became AS-31 along with conversions of the AS 23 and AS 11 classes and a separate "missile support ship," a missile transport converted from the AK 156 (C1-M-AV1) type that would allow reducing missile stowage requirements for the tenders. (This idea reappeared in the FBM conversions of AK 259-260 and AK 279-282.) The Navy soon decided that the revised characteristics precluded the conversion of the AS 23 type, which lacked enough ship volume, while the AS 11 conversion could meet most of the proposed characteristics. Design work for the new construction HUNLEY (AS-31) proceeded in parallel with that for the AS 11 class conversion (PROTEUS, AS-19, SCB 190).

On 13 February 1958 BUSHIPS summarized the result of new quick feasibility studies for a new construction tender. Schemes I and II were 564-foot by 76-foot designs that used the basic hull and machinery of the MARINER type merchant ship while Scheme III was a completely new 585-foot by 80-foot design that also used the basic MARINER propulsion machinery. Schemes I and II fell short in some areas (Scheme I in nuclear reactor work and Scheme II in missile stowage and relief crew accommodations), while Scheme III could meet all characteristics. The tending facilities in the new designs duplicated those developed for the PROTEUS conversion except that the habitability standards were upgraded to meet present day standards (although facilities for the relief crews only had to meet the requirements for troops embarked in amphibious warfare surface ships and not for ship's company). Rear Admiral Raborn (BUORD Special Projects) had insisted that the ship have stowage space for off-loading a full load of 16 missiles from a submarine in addition to carrying the 18 replacement missiles, a requirement that was met in Scheme I (35 tubes) and Scheme III (36 tubes). BUSHIPS Code 1500 (Rear Admiral Rickover) insisted that the tender be able to do reactor maintenance up to and including replacement of reactor fuel elements, a demand that BUSHIPS initially resisted but eventually accepted.

The results of the 13 February 1958 meeting were reported to the Chief of BUSHIPS on 24 February 1958. His initial reaction was that the cost estimates for new construction tenders with the necessary capabilities were too high and they should be set aside in favor of a combination of converted tenders and "missile support ships." However on 14 March 1958 the SCB prepared a staff proposal for characteristics for a new AS(FBM), Project 194, that essentially replicated the February studies with Raborn's modifications but without Rickover's fuel element replacement. During the summer of 1958 the Bureau conducted studies of four different types of propulsion systems for the ship (diesel-electric, geared-diesel, turbo-electric, and geared-turbine) integrated into complete ship designs. Ultimately the Bureau decided on diesel electric, the main reason being that in the 14,000 horsepower region a diesel plant was more economical than a steam plant and also took up about 15% less space. The approved characteristics for a new Submarine Tender (AS), SCB Project No. 194, were promulgated on 22 August 1958 and updated on 17 July 1959 with four changes between 16 December 1959 and 17 October 1962.

On 19 August Rickover's office called BUSHIPS to ask if turbo-electric propulsion had been considered and to state that Rickover thought it was most important for these new submarine tenders to be equipped with steam plants "to make the tender crews more 'steam conscious' (and) to provide these crews with repair experience of steam equipment on their own ship that would make them more efficient in repairing steam equipment on the submarines." This battle was still unresolved as of July 1959. Ultimately Rickover lost it for the AS 31 class (which would have been severely delayed by a change in machinery) but won it for the AS 33 and later classes.

As of January 1959 the design included a single 65,000 pound capacity whirley crane (named for its ability to turn 360 degrees) mounted on a gantry that traveled fore and aft from about frame 94 to frame 129. The primary design consideration was to have a single crane to handle both boats and missiles. Excessive weight and the desire to add more ship volume in the superstructure under the crane and improve control over the missile made this design unfeasible. By August 1959 this crane had been changed in the contract design to a rotating hammerhead crane (still of 65,000 pound capacity) with a center support pedestal and circular track carrying a rotating drive. In the late 1960s this crane was in turn replaced by two higher-capacity boom cranes like those in the AS 33 class.

Approved characteristics for a POSEIDON conversion for AS 31-32, SAIC Project No. 736.73, were promulgated on 18 October 1971 and updated on 4 December 1972. AS 31-32 were decommissioned in 1994-1996 after the Navy abandoned the use of forward deployable tenders to support operating forces.

Ship Notes:
31HUNLEYFY 1960. Converted April-June 1964 to handle the POLARIS A3 missile. POSEIDON overhaul, SCB Proj. 736.73, ordered 6 Jul 1972 at NSY Puget Sound, begun 1 Apr 1973, completed 22 Jan 1974. To MA custody in JRRF 12 Oct 1995. Departed MA custody 7 Mar 2007 enroute Southern Scrap Materials, New Orleans.
32HOLLANDFY 1962. POSEIDON overhaul, SCB Proj. 736.75, ord. 13 Aug 1973 at NSY Puget Sound, begun 3 Sep 1974. To MA custody 26 May 2000. Departed MA custody 10 Jul 2013 under domestic sale to ESCO Marine Inc, Brownsville.

Page Notes:
Compiled: 31 Jul 2021
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2021
Special sources: NARA: (AS 31-32): RG 19 Entry P 62 Boxes 73 (SCB 194) and 95 (Design Job Order File 89-58).