for Submariners

by Hamilton 1:1 Communications, LLC

Barbel Class (Fast Attack Diesel Submarines)

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The Barbels combined the multipurpose orientation of the Tang with the first operational use of the USS Albacore's teardrop hull form.


USS Barbel was the first fleet submarine built using the principles of a streamlined hull developed using the experimental USS Albacore (AGSS-569). They were of double hull design with 1.5-inch thick HY80 steel. At the time of construction, these three sister ships were the most technologically advanced submarines in the world.


This class was the first to incorporate a centralized arrangement of ship controls and combat operations, or "attack center". The design incorporated a revolutionary teardrop hull shape that enabled superior underwater handling with the latest control, communication, and offensive systems.


Three diesel submarines were approved for the FY1956 building program. The first, Barbel (SS-580) was awarded in August 1955, with Blueback (SS-581) and Bonefish (SS-582) following in June 1956.


Only consisting of three ships, the Barbell class combined proven WWII-era diesel-electric motor technology with a revolutionary tear-drop hull shape, high-strength steel, and other improvements that were incorporated into later submarine designs. The technological advance was driven by the transition in submarine warfare from the older Fleet Boat system to the modern nuclear-powered vessels of the Cold War.


However, the Barbels were a transitional design. After independently studying nuclear power in the Nautilus test ship and the teardrop hull shape with the Albacore test submarine and the active-duty Barbell Class, these technologies were combined to create the modern nuclear submarines used by the U.S. Navy from the Cold War to the present.

Barbel (SS-580), built by Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine and commissioned in 1958, was decommissioned in 1989, partially scrapped in the 1990s and finally sunk as a target ship in 2OO1. Her hulk lies off the California coast under 3,600 feet of water. Barbel has become museum:

Blueback (SS-581) was the last diesel-electric submarine to join the US Navy, and was also the last to leave. She was decommissioned 1 October 1990, and laid up in the Pacific Reserve Fleet in Bremedon, Washington. Her name was struck from the Naval Register 30 October 1990 after more than 30 years of service.

Bonefish keel laid down, 3 June 1957, at New York Shipbuilding Corp, Camden, NJ; Launched, 22 November 1958; Commissioned, USS Bonefish (SS-582), 9 July 1959; Decommissioned, 28 September 1988


Bonefish (SS-582) suffered a battery fire off Florida in April 1988 and led to the early decommissioning of the class 1988-90. At the time, they were the last operational diesel submarines of the US Navy. The Bonefish fire in the battery compartments gutted the submarine, and killed three sailors. The damage was so extensive that the sub had to be deactivated and decommissioned. Later in 1988, the sub was scrapped in her entirety. She was struck from the Naval Register, 28 February 1989; Final Disposition, sold for scrapping, 17 August 1989, by the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service




1,750 tons (1,778 t) light

2,146 tons (2,180 t) full
2,637 tons (2,679 t) submerged


Length: 219 ft. 6 in (66.90 m) overall

Beam: 29 ft (8.8 m)

Draft: 25 ft (7.6 m)



712 ft (217 m) operating,

1,050 ft (320 m) collapse



8 officers,

69 men


3 x Fairbanks Morse diesel engines total 9,450 bhp (7.05 MW),

2 × General Electric, electric motors total 4,800 bhp (3.6 MW) one screw.



12 knots (22 km/h) surfaced,

25 knots (46 km/h) submerged



90 minutes at full speed,

102 hours at 3 knots (5.6 km/h)



6 × 21 in. (533 mm) bow torpedo tubes,

18 torpedoes