Explorer-class submarine

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Explorer class submarine.jpg
Explorer-class submarine (HMS Explorer (S30))
Class overview
Builders: Vickers-Armstrongs, Barrow-in-Furness
Preceded by: Amphionclass
Succeeded by: Porpoise class
Cost: £2,000,000
In commission: 19581965
Completed: 2
General characteristics
Type: Submarine
  • 780 tons surfaced
  • 1,000 tons submerged
Length: 54 m (178 ft)
Beam: 4.78 m (15 ft 8 in)
Draught: 3.4 m (11 ft)
Speed: 46 km/h (25 kn) (submerged)
Complement: 49

The two Explorer-class submarines were experimental vessels built for the Royal Navy to test a propulsion system based on the use of highly concentrated hydrogen peroxide (high-test peroxide, HTP) and diesel fuel to achieve high underwater endurance and speeds.

Royal Navy Maritime warfare branch of the United Kingdoms military

The Royal Navy (RN) is the United Kingdom's naval warfare force. Although warships were used by the English kings from the early medieval period, the first major maritime engagements were fought in the Hundred Years War against the Kingdom of France. The modern Royal Navy traces its origins to the early 16th century; the oldest of the UK's armed services, it is known as the Senior Service.

High-test peroxide (HTP) is a highly concentrated solution of hydrogen peroxide, with the remainder predominantly made up of water. In contact with a catalyst, it decomposes into a high-temperature mixture of steam and oxygen, with no remaining liquid water. It was used as a propellant of HTP rockets and torpedoes, and has been used for high-performance vernier engines.

Diesel fuel liquid fuel used in diesel engines

Diesel fuel in general is any liquid fuel used in diesel engines, whose fuel ignition takes place, without any spark, as a result of compression of the inlet air mixture and then injection of fuel. Diesel engines have found broad use as a result of higher thermodynamic efficiency and thus fuel efficiency. This is particularly noted where diesel engines are run at part-load; as their air supply is not throttled as in a petrol engine, their efficiency still remains very high.


Germany had started experimenting with this technology early in the Second World War and developed it into the Walter cycle. They had built some experimental boats. One of these, the U-boat German submarine U-1407, which had been scuttled at the end of the war, was salvaged and eventually recommissioned into the Royal Navy as HMS Meteorite.

Hellmuth Walter was a German engineer who pioneered research into rocket engines and gas turbines. His most noteworthy contributions were rocket motors for the Messerschmitt Me 163 and Bachem Ba 349 interceptor aircraft, so-called Starthilfe jettisonable rocket propulsion units used for a variety of Luftwaffe aircraft during World War II, and a revolutionary new propulsion system for submarines known as air-independent propulsion (AIP).

U-boat German submarine of the First or Second World War

U-boat is an anglicised version of the German word U-Boot[ˈuːboːt](listen), a shortening of Unterseeboot, literally "underseaboat." While the German term refers to any submarine, the English one refers specifically to military submarines operated by Germany, particularly in the First and Second World Wars. Although at times they were efficient fleet weapons against enemy naval warships, they were most effectively used in an economic warfare role and enforcing a naval blockade against enemy shipping. The primary targets of the U-boat campaigns in both wars were the merchant convoys bringing supplies from Canada and other parts of the British Empire, and from the United States to the United Kingdom and to the Soviet Union and the Allied territories in the Mediterranean. German submarines also destroyed Brazilian merchant ships during World War II, causing Brazil to declare war on the Axis powers in 1944.

HMS <i>Meteorite</i> German world war II submarine

HMS Meteorite was an experimental U-boat developed in Germany, scuttled at the end of World War II, subsequently raised and commissioned into the Royal Navy. The submarine was originally commissioned into the Kriegsmarine in March 1945 as U-1407. It was built around a Walter engine fuelled by high test peroxide (HTP).

This eventually led to the construction of the two Explorer-class experimental vessels, which used steam turbines, the steam being generated using heat from the catalysed interaction of HTP and diesel oil. They used the Porpoise-class hull, modified with retractable superstructure fittings to help streamlining. Being purely experimental craft they had no torpedo tubes or radar fitted, only one periscope and were equipped with backup diesel engines to recharge the batteries and propel them on the surface. [1]

Steam turbine type of turbine device which uses steam from a boiler to rotate the turbine blades

A steam turbine is a device that extracts thermal energy from pressurized steam and uses it to do mechanical work on a rotating output shaft. Its modern manifestation was invented by Sir Charles Parsons in 1884.

British <i>Porpoise</i>-class submarine British class of attack submarines

The Porpoise class was an eight-boat class of diesel-electric submarines operated by the Royal Navy. This class was originally designated patrol submarines, then attack. They were the first conventional British submarines to be built after the end of World War II. Their design was, in many ways, influenced by the German World War II-era Type XXI U-boats.

The first, Excalibur, was commissioned in March 1958. They were very fast boats, with a top underwater speed of around 49 km/h (26.5 kn) for period up to 3 hours and 22 km/h (12 kn) for 15 hours on one turbine. [1] Because of the use of hydrogen peroxide as a hair bleach, the submarines were nicknamed the Blonde class. As well as providing experience with this type of technology, they also allowed the Royal Navy to practise against fast moving underwater targets. However the use of HTP was not successful, and there were several explosions, which resulted in the second nickname of Exploder being applied to the class and Explorer in particular, while Excalibur had the nickname "Excruciater". [2] The subsequent use of HTP to power torpedoes led to the loss of HMS Sidon and the loss of the Russian submarine Kursk.

HMS <i>Sidon</i> (P259) Royal Navy submarine sunk in Portland Harbour by explosion of a faulty torpedo

HMS Sidon was a submarine of the Royal Navy, launched in September 1944, one of the third group of S class built by Cammell Laird & Co Limited, Birkenhead, named after the naval bombardment of Sidon in 1840. An explosion caused by a faulty torpedo sank her in Portland Harbour with the loss of 13 lives.

When the United States developed a nuclear reactor which could be installed in a submarine, the HTP project was abandoned. It was decided that it was not worth converting the class into normal diesel submarines. As a result, Explorer was sold for £13,500 to Thos W Ward for breaking up; Excalibur in turn was also subsequently sold to Thos W Ward. [3]

Nuclear reactor device to initiate and control a sustained nuclear chain reaction

A nuclear reactor, formerly known as an atomic pile, is a device used to initiate and control a self-sustained nuclear chain reaction. Nuclear reactors are used at nuclear power plants for electricity generation and in propulsion of ships. Heat from nuclear fission is passed to a working fluid, which in turn runs through steam turbines. These either drive a ship's propellers or turn electrical generators' shafts. Nuclear generated steam in principle can be used for industrial process heat or for district heating. Some reactors are used to produce isotopes for medical and industrial use, or for production of weapons-grade plutonium. Some are run only for research. As of early 2019, the IAEA reports there are 454 nuclear power reactors and 226 nuclear research reactors in operation around the world.

Thos W Ward

Thos. W. Ward Ltd was a Sheffield, Yorkshire, steel, engineering and cement business which began as coal and coke merchants then expanded to recycling metal for Sheffield's steel industry, engineering and the supply of machinery.

Other countries have since developed the concept of the non-nuclear air-independent propulsion submarine to the point where it is a safe technology albeit as an auxiliary power source to a conventional diesel-electric drive, although hydrogen peroxide has long been abandoned and liquid oxygen is generally now preferred.

Air-independent propulsion (AIP) is any marine propulsion technology that allows a non-nuclear submarine to operate without access to atmospheric oxygen. AIP can augment or replace the diesel-electric propulsion system of non-nuclear vessels.


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Russian submarine <i>Kursk</i> (K-141) Oscar-II class cruise missile submarine

K-141 Kursk was an Oscar II-class nuclear-powered cruise-missile submarine of the Russian Navy.

Submarine Watercraft capable of independent operation underwater

A submarine is a watercraft capable of independent operation underwater. It differs from a submersible, which has more limited underwater capability. The term most commonly refers to a large, crewed vessel. It is also sometimes used historically or colloquially to refer to remotely operated vehicles and robots, as well as medium-sized or smaller vessels, such as the midget submarine and the wet sub. The noun submarine evolved as a shortened form of submarine boat; by naval tradition, submarines are usually referred to as "boats" rather than as "ships", regardless of their size.

Attack submarine Submarine designed to destroy other ships

An attack submarine or hunter-killer submarine is a submarine specifically designed for the purpose of attacking and sinking other submarines, surface combatants and merchant vessels. In the Soviet and Russian navies they were and are called "multi-purpose submarines". They are also used to protect friendly surface combatants and missile submarines. Some attack subs are also armed with cruise missiles mounted in vertical launch tubes, increasing the scope of their potential missions to include land targets.

<i>Tang</i>-class submarine submarine class

The Tang-class submarines were an American class of submarines developed from the Greater Underwater Propulsion Power Program (GUPPY) conversion program for World War II submarines, which incorporated German Type XXI U-boat technology into the United States Navy's submarine design. They comprised the state of the art in post-World War II conventionally powered submarine design; some of their features were incorporated into the nuclear-powered submarines that replaced them in the 1950s and beyond.

A nuclear submarine is a submarine powered by a nuclear reactor. The performance advantages of nuclear submarines over "conventional" submarines are considerable. Nuclear propulsion, being completely independent of air, frees the submarine from the need to surface frequently, as is necessary for conventional submarines. The large amount of power generated by a nuclear reactor allows nuclear submarines to operate at high speed for long periods of time; and the long interval between refuelings grants a range virtually unlimited, making the only limits on voyage times being imposed by such factors as the need to restock food or other consumables.

Midget submarine Submarine under 150 tons

A midget submarine is any submarine under 150 tons, typically operated by a crew of one or two but sometimes up to 6 or 9, with little or no on-board living accommodation. They normally work with mother ships, from which they are launched and recovered and which provide living accommodation for the crew and support staff.

British L-class submarine

The British L-class submarine was originally planned under the emergency war programme as an improved version of the British E-class submarine. The scale of change allowed the L class to become a separate class.

An elektroboot was a submarine designed to operate entirely submerged, rather than as submersibles that could submerge as a temporary means to escape detection or launch an attack.

Beginning in ancient times, humans sought to operate under the water. From simple submersibles to nuclear-powered underwater behemoths, humans have searched for a means to remain safely underwater to gain the advantage in warfare, resulting in the development of the submarine.

HMS <i>Explorer</i> (submarine)

HMS Explorer was an experimental British submarine based on the captured German high test peroxide (HTP) powered U-boat U-1407. U-1407 had been scuttled following the German collapse at the end of the Second World War, was salvaged and eventually commissioned into the Royal Navy as HMS Meteorite. Her recovery was the impetus for a British research programme which resulted in the construction of two experimental submarines, HMS Explorer and HMS Excalibur. Built for speed trials, they were unarmed. Their HTP engines were essentially steam turbines, with the steam being generated by the interaction of HTP with diesel oil and a catalyst.

Type XVII submarine

The Type XVII U-boats were small coastal submarines that used a high-test peroxide propulsion system, which offered a combination of air-independent propulsion and high submerged speeds.

HMS <i>Excalibur</i>

HMS Excalibur was the sister ship of HMS Explorer, the two submarines being the only high-test peroxide (HTP) powered submarines to be constructed for the Royal Navy. She is the only ship to be named as such, in honour of the sword of Arthurian legend.

The R-class submarines were a class of 12 small British diesel-electric submarines built for the Royal Navy during World War I, and were forerunners of the modern attack submarine, in that they were designed specifically to attack and sink enemy submarines, their battery capacity and hull shape being optimized for underwater performance.

The S-99 experimental submarine was the only ship of the Soviet Project 617 submarine class that the Soviet Union built during the early Cold War and the only Soviet submarine which had a Walter engine fuelled by high test peroxide (HTP).

V80 may refer to :


  1. 1 2 Miller & Jordan. Page 63.
  2. Preston. Page 161.
  3. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 4 April 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-08.. Retrieved 7-3-2009.

Further reading