Submarine tender

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USS Frank Cable (back of picture), one of two submarine tenders maintained by the United States Navy. The attack submarine USS Salt Lake City (SSN-716) is in the foreground. USS Salt Lake City (SSN-716) and USS Frank Cable (AS-40) at Apra Harbor, Guam, on 23 May 2002 (6640652).jpg
USS Frank Cable (back of picture), one of two submarine tenders maintained by the United States Navy. The attack submarine USS Salt Lake City (SSN-716) is in the foreground.

A submarine tender is a type of depot ship that supplies and supports submarines.



Transfer of a Polaris submarine-launched ballistic missile between the submarine tender USS Proteus (AS-19) and the ballistic missile submarine USS Patrick Henry (SSBN-599) at Holy Loch, Dunoon, Scotland, in 1961. USS Proteus USS Partick Henry HolyLoch 1961.jpeg
Transfer of a Polaris submarine-launched ballistic missile between the submarine tender USS Proteus (AS-19) and the ballistic missile submarine USS Patrick Henry (SSBN-599) at Holy Loch, Dunoon, Scotland, in 1961.

Submarines are small compared to most oceangoing vessels, and generally do not have the ability to carry large amounts of food, fuel, torpedoes, and other supplies, nor to carry a full array of maintenance equipment and personnel. The tender carries all these, and either meets submarines at sea to replenish them or provides these services while docked at a port near the area where the submarines are operating. In some navies, the tenders were equipped with workshops for maintenance, and as floating dormitories with relief crews.

With the increased size and automation of modern submarines, plus in some navies the introduction of nuclear power, tenders are no longer as necessary for fuel as they once were. [1]


Canada's first Submarine Depot Ship was HMCS Shearwater


The term used in the Chilean Navy is "submarine mother ship", as for example the BMS (buque madre de submarinos) Almirante Merino.


Unable to operate a significant number of conventional surface tenders during World War II, Germany's Kriegsmarine used Type XIV submarines (nicknamed milk cows) for replenishment at sea.


The Russian Navy decommissioned all its Don and Ugra-class tenders inherited from the Soviet Navy by 2001. The last remaining ship of this class was INS Amba (A54), initially sold to the Indian Navy in 1968 for use with their fleet of Foxtrot-class submarines. She was reportedly decommissioned in July 2006.[ citation needed ]

The Netherlands

The Royal Netherlands Navy has one submarine support vessel, the HNLMS Mercuur (A900), commissioned in 1987, as a replacement of the HNLMS Onverschrokken (M886), then known as the HNLMS Mercuur (A 856). Commissioned in 1956, as an ocean going Aggressive-class minesweeper, built in the US, and later used as a submarine tender.

United Kingdom

In the Royal Navy, the term used for a submarine tender is "submarine depot ship", for example HMS Medway and HMS Maidstone. List of Royal Navy submarine depot ships

United States

In the United States Navy, submarine tenders are considered auxiliaries, with hull classification symbol "AS". As of 2017, the Navy maintains two such tenders, USS Emory S. Land (AS-39) and USS Frank Cable (AS-40).

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USS <i>McKee</i> (AS-41)

USS McKee (AS-41), named after Andrew McKee, was the third Emory S. Land-class submarine tender built by the Lockheed Shipbuilding and Construction Company of Seattle, Washington for the United States Navy.

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HNLMS Onverschrokken (A856), also known as HNLMS Mercuur (A856), was an ocean minesweeper of the Royal Netherlands Navy. Between 1954 and 1965 she was mainly used to clean up a huge amount of explosives and mines that had ended up in the sea during the Second World War. Later, in 1973 she was renamed as HNLMS Mercuur (A856) and used as submarine support ship till her decommissioning in 1987. Nowadays, she is a museum ship that can be visited in Vlissingen.

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  1. "USS McKee (AS 41)". Retrieved 2017-06-07.