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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
|31||HUNLEY||16 Nov 1959||Newport News SB||28 Nov 1960||28 Sep 1961||16 Jun 1962|
|32||HOLLAND||31 Aug 1961||Ingalls SB||5 Mar 1962||19 Jan 1963||7 Sep 1963|
|31||HUNLEY||30 Sep 1994||3 May 1995||1 May 1999||MA/T||5 Jan 2007|
|32||HOLLAND||30 Sep 1996||12 May 2000||24 Feb 2001||MA/T||4 Jun 2013|
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. In October 1956 the program received the highest national priority, equal to that of the Air Force's THOR. 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 on behalf 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 of which four were in the reserve fleet along with two diesel-powered hulls. A 492-foot C3 could be converted with storage for eight POLARIS missiles but would be able to provide only austere service for the submarines, while the equivalent new construction tender would be a 543-foot ship meeting all requirements but costing almost five times as much and taking over twice as long to build.
A working level meeting of the Ship Characteristics Board on 13 December 1957 generated many additional desirable characteristics not covered in the BUSHIPS studies. On 23 January 1958 the Ship Characteristics Board issued proposed characteristics for FBM tender conversions incorporating all items discussed on 13 December, including support for 9 vice 6 "SSGN(FBM)" submarines and stowage for 18 vice 12 POLARIS missiles. Studies began immediately on a new construction tender and conversions of the AS 23 and AS 11 classes as well as on 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). It was soon decided that the revised characteristics precluded the use of the AS 23 type which lacked enough ship volume (confirmed 12 March 1959), and the larger PROTEUS (AS 19) was ultimately converted as SCB Project No. 190 (approved characteristics promulgated 18 August 1958).
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 machiery. 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). Admiral Raborn (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). 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 to set aside all new construction AS studies because of their high cost compared to the conversions. 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 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.
|31||HUNLEY||FY 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.|
|32||HOLLAND||FY 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.|
Compiled: 31 Jul 2021
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2021
Special sources: NARA: (AS 31-32): RG 19 Item S-13 Entry P 62 Box 95 (Design Job Order File 89-58), RG 19 Item S-13 Entry P 62 Box 73 (SCB 194); (AS 19 conversion): NARA: RG 19 Item S-13 Entry P 62 Box 73 (SCB 190).