Narwhal Class, U.S. Submarines

Photograph of a Narwhal-class submarine

National Archives #19-N-29177


2730 tons standard displacement
3900 tons submerged
Dimensions 371' by 33'3" by 15"9"
113.08m by 10.13m by 4.80m
Maximum speed       17 knots surfaced
6.5 knots submerged
Maximum dive
300 feet
90 meters
Complement 89
Armament 4 21" bow/2 21" stern torpedo tubes (24 torpedoes)
2 6"/53 guns
2-shaft M.A.N. diesel-electric (5600 bhp surfaced, 1600 shp submerged)
Bunkerage 560 tons diesel oil
18,360 gallons (69,500 liter) gasoline (Nautilus)
Range 9380 nautical miles (17,370 km) at 10 knots surfaced
50 nautical miles (90 km) at 5 knots submerged
JK sonar
QCD sonar
Cargo 115 tons
Two bow and two stern exterior torpedo tubes added to Nautilus in early 1942 during her refit. Narwhal did not receive the extra tubes until early 1943.

The Narwhals were completed in 1930 as part of the V program, and were originally designated V-5 and V-6. They were the culmination of the cruiser sub concept in the U.S. Closely resembling Argonaut but with a heavier torpedo armament in place of mine laying capability, they were big and roomy, which made them natural candidates for transport missions such as the raid on Makin. They also incorporated a number of innovative safety and rescue features prompted by the losses of S-51 and S-4. However, they could rarely maintain the design speed of 17 knots, and they were clumsy, slow-diving boats that were easily detected surfaced or submerged. Subsequent submarine designs would be considerably smaller than the Narwhals.

Both ships spent most of the war on transport missions, which in addition to the Makin raid included landing a reconnaissance force at Attu. Nautilus was assigned to island reconnaissance duty in 1943, and spent 18 days taking 2000 pictures of potential landing areas at Tarawa.

Units in the Pacific:


Pearl Harbor


Under refit at San Francisco


Alden (1979)


Friedman (1995)

Ian and Tuck (2001)

Worth (2001)

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