Underwater Boats: All About Submarines

What Is a Submarine?

A submarine is a vessel that can move on the water's surface and independently propel itself under the water as well. Submarines have a completely different design from other ships due to this ability. Although submarines were first used during the Civil War in the 1860s, it wasn't until World War I that they became an import tool in warfare, when Germany used submarines to attack merchant ships on the surface of the Atlantic Ocean. Submarines played an even larger role during World War II and were used by both the Axis and Allied powers in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. During the 1960s, the nuclear-powered submarine played an important role in the Cold War. Unlike earlier submarines, nuclear-powered subs were able to stay underwater for much longer and could launch nuclear missiles from underneath the water's surface. Today, submarines still play an important role in strategic planning for militaries around the world.

Parts of a Submarine

Submarines are made up of a variety of parts that help the ship move on the surface and under the water. They also power life support functions and let the ship attack enemies. The propeller spins to push the ship through the water. The engine compartment is where the ship's power supply is. Modern subs have a nuclear reactor that turns the turbine that drives the propeller to spin. Batteries make up 25% of the overall weight of a submarine and provide power support and ballast. Torpedo launch tubes are used to launch weapons against enemies. Sonar detects mines, fishing lines, and other hazards to the ship. The diving plane controls the ship's buoyancy and helps the ship get underwater. The periscope and electronic monitors help the crew see what's around (and above) them in the water. And rudders are on the bottom of the submarine to help it turn.

Submarines in Wars

There are four types of underwater warfare: mine warfare, mine countermeasures, anti-submarine warfare, and submarine warfare. The first submarine used in war was during the Civil War, when the H.L. Hunley, a Confederate ship, sank a Union boat. The Hunley was eventually sunk, and all eight members of its crew were lost. The Germans used submarines called U-boats to sink the ships of their enemies during World War I. They also sank the ships of countries not involved in the war. It was the sinking of the Lusitania, a civilian boat, that helped draw the United States into the conflict. Germany again used U-boats to attack boats in the Atlantic shipping lanes during World War II; however, the United States used this same technique against Germany's ally Japan in the Pacific. After World War II, nuclear-powered submarines became an important part of how nations showed their military power. Today, militaries still use submarines to patrol oceans around the world.

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