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Submarines are underwater ships, also referred to as boats, that can stay submerged for long periods of time
They are used for a wide range of purposes, with militaries using nuclear submarines to carry out tactical missions, defend aircraft carriers, and keeping enemy submarines and ships away. Most submarines today are powered with nuclear power, which makes them very fast and helps keep them submerged for longer periods of time.
Submarines have played an important role in a number of wars, including World War I, World War II, the American Civil War, and the Cold War. They were used to attack opposing forces as well as cut off supply ships, playing a tactical role.
Nuclear-powered submarines are an important part of the military and many countries use submarines as part of their defense strategies. They are used more as a defense tactic rather than for attacks, and are popularly referred to as the 'silent service'. Submarines are mainly used as a defense for military aircraft carriers and for taking down enemy submarines and ships which get too close.
The first submarine which was used by the United States Navy was developed in 1775 and called the 'Turtle'. It was a one-man submarine and could be controlled independently by the occupant. During the American Civil War (1861-1865) both sides used submarines for offense and defense purposes.
Submarines were also quite prevalent in both World War I and World War II and were used by Germany to take down supply ships that were headed towards Britain. These vessels were called U-Boats and were designed specially to carry out attacks on Allied Forces. Submarines also played a major role during the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. Both countries had a submarine force and several fleets dedicated to taking down the other side's vessels and shooting ballistic missiles at opposing ships.
Submarines for the US Navy, fueled by nuclear power are built at Mare Island, California and Kittery, Maine.
Submarines are hybrid vehicles, which use electricity generated by diesel engines as well as nuclear fission. They use small nuclear reactors and steam turbines to power an electric motor, which makes them move through the water. For fresh air to filter into the submarine, devices called snorkels are attached, which help take in air from the surface while submerged.
However, the first submarines did not use any of the advanced technology that there is today, and were powered by steam, gas, and human power. The first submarine which did not use human power for propulsion used compressed air instead. This was the French submarine 'Plongeur' in 1863.
Electricity is needed in order to power the onboard equipment such as computers and communication devices. As these ships remain submerged for long periods of time, they need a reliable source of fuel that can burn underwater and provide energy to power all systems. This comes from diesel engines or small nuclear reactors which generate power through nuclear fission. In the past, electric motors were used, however, there were many problems with them so they have been replaced.
The diesel engine only works when the submarine is above water, and it works by charging the batteries that are present. Once the batteries are full, the submarine can submerge and remain underwater until the charge runs out. Due to this, nuclear engines are preferred as they provide no limit to how long a submarine can stay underwater. The first nuclear-powered submarine, called the USS Nautilus, was invented in 1954. This meant submarines could travel faster and significantly increased the amount of time submarines could stay underwater in one go. This is the reason why most modern submarines are powered by nuclear reactors.
How does a submarine remain submerged? Ballast tanks contain air, which helps to keep the submarine afloat on the surface. Once it is time to submerge, the ballast tanks open up and the air escapes and seawater rushes in. This increases the weight of the vessel and causes it to slowly sink, at which time the propellers take over.
How does a submarine surface? For a submerged submarine to come back up to the surface, the seawater in the ballast tanks is slowly displaced by high-pressure air, which makes it lighter, helping it climb upwards. Once the submarine reaches the surface, low-pressure air is used to force seawater remaining in the tanks out, which keeps the submarine floating on the surface.
Submarines have devices called periscopes which help people to observe things above the surface. When submarines are submerged at the length of the periscope, around 65 ft (20 m), they are considered to be at periscope depth. Submarines are usually driven by crews of people, and the number of people depends on the size of the submarine. A pilot helms the controls and diving planes to steer the submarine. The next person in charge is the diving officer, who keeps a check on the divers and crew, as well as performs safety checks on the vessel itself. There are also many engineers and other key people, who are in charge of specific parts of the submarine. For example, the members of the Blast Control Panel (BCP). Besides engineers, there are medical workers present onboard in case of any emergencies.
Submarines can typically travel at 23 mph (37 kph), or 20 knots underwater! However, one submarine has been reported to reach a speed of 35 mph (56.3 kph) or 30 knots.
Submarines usually communicate with ships and onshore bases using specialized telephonic equipment, which is similar to a radio system. This equipment emits sound waves instead of radio waves, which can travel through water and convey voice as well as typed messages. The equipment used in the setup consists of microphones to capture sound as well as audio amplifiers.
Submarines use a system called Sonar (Sound Navigation and Ranging) to locate other submarines in the area as well as to detect obstacles. Sonar is similar to the echolocation system used by bats. Sound waves are emitted by sonar equipment, which bounce off of any obstacles and make their way back to the submarine. The location of obstacles can then be calculated. Computers inside a submarine are able to accurately calculate the distance of the object away from the ship based on time, sound, and other factors.
Submarines use inertial guidance systems to navigate through the water, as light cannot really make its way through the upper layers of the ocean, and GPS does not work when the submarine is submerged. These factors make it difficult to navigate based on sight alone. The inertial guidance system uses gyroscopes to determine a ship's location from a fixed position. The system needs to be recalibrated occasionally using satellite, radio, radar, and GPS at the surface, though it accurately gives the location of another submarine with a range of 100 ft (30.4 m).
Submarines are usually used for underwater warfare, and naval submarines are equipped with torpedoes, missiles, and high-powered nuclear weapons. The use of these along with their advanced tracking system helps to target ships and boats from below as well as other enemies. They can also work on targets that are on land.
Submarines are not simply used by the military, they are also used in a variety of missions like deep-sea exploration, salvage missions, and for the research of marine life. Research subs are also capable of diving much deeper than Navy submarines, which usually only go down to 800 ft (245 m). Research submarines can go 10,000 ft (3,050 m) deep, however, this is still not enough to explore the deepest point in the oceans, such as the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench which lies at around 36,200 ft (11,035 m) deep. The Second World War U-boats could go down to depths between 660-920 ft (200-280 m).
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