• Hi Guest! Forum rules have been updated. All users please read here.

US Navy CONFORM submarine

Triton

Donald McKelvy
Senior Member
Joined
Aug 14, 2009
Messages
9,723
Reaction score
404
Website
deeptowild.blogspot.com
Images of a model from the US Navy concept formulation (CONFORM) submarine project from the late 1960s. CONFORM was a possible follow-on to the Permit (SSN 594) and Sturgeon (SSN 637) classes devised by Naval Sea Systems Command (NavSea) circa 1967-68. By November 1968, the initial CONFORM studies had produced 36 design concepts, examining such alternative features as twin reactors, single turbines, contra-rotating propellers, deep-depth capability, and larger diameter torpedo tubes.

One CONFORM concept was to use a derivative of the S5G Natural Circulation Reactor (NCR) plant that Vice Admiral Hyman G Rickover was developing for the one-of-a-kind Narwhal (SSN 671). The NCR uses the natural convection of the heat exchange fluids (coolants) at lower speeds rather than circulating pumps, a major noise source of propulsion machinery in nuclear submarines.

The S5G was estimated to be capable of providing a submerged speed of more than 30 knots with a CONFORM submarine hull approximately the same size as Sturgeon, about 4,800 tons submerged. 20,000 shaft horsepower would power a counter-rotating propeller.

One of the most innovative features of the pictured CONFORM design was its periscopes and masts that folded down flush onto the hull rather than retracting vertically into the hull. This feature would have reduced pressure hull penetrations, provided more flexibility in internal arrangement, and possibly alleviated the need for a sail. A small bridge structure could be raised and then folded down flush onto the hull.

The "front end" of the CONFORM was to be greatly improved, with an increased number of weapons, advanced sonar, and a high degree of automation.

According to Polmar, the CONFORM project was "scuttled" by Vice Admiral Hyman G Rickover in favor of the Los Angeles class.

Source: Cold War Submarines: the Design and Construction of U.S. and Soviet Submarines
by Norman Polmar and Kenneth J. Moore, Brassy's, Inc., 2004.
 

Attachments

JohnR

CLEARANCE: Secret
Joined
Sep 8, 2006
Messages
353
Reaction score
4
I would image that developing the periscope with a hinge and "conventional" optics would be a challenge, also raising the periscope against water pressure if the submarine is going ahead would be interesting.

The concept would propably more workable with current technology non penetrating designs?
 

Longshaor

CLEARANCE: Restricted
Joined
Oct 1, 2006
Messages
37
Reaction score
1
It is an interesting design that, in some ways, was more andvanced than the Los Angeles (SSN 688) class boats that succeeded it. The incorporation of HY-130 steel, for example, which would have allowed for deeper diving for a given pressure hull thickness, was never (at least as of the Seawolf (SSN 21) class) used.

Rickover & McNamara certainly seemed not to care for eachother, and Rickover clearly did everything in his power to kill ConForm, though to be fair, his Naval Reactors Division was apparently very close to being over streched (working on the S5G reactor for Narwhal (SSN 671), submarine versions of both the D1G and D1W destroyer reactors, and what would become the A4W carrier reactor). By refusing to allocate resources to further development (reducing the size whle increasing the power output) of the S5G, he fatally undermined the ConForm project, though it took the incoming Nixon administation & a new SecDef to end the program.

Given that ConForm was an OSD (Office of the Secretary of Defense) formulated project, I'm wondering if detail design of things like the periscope hinges were ever done.

- Source: US Submarines Since 1945: An Illustrated Design History by Norman Friedman (Chapter 10: Los Angeles and Her Successor)
 

GTX

All hail the God of Frustration!!!
Senior Member
Joined
Apr 15, 2006
Messages
2,797
Reaction score
194
Website
beyondthesprues.com
Interesting - I've often wondered why there have not been more recent proposals with minimalist sails.

Regards,

Greg
 

Triton

Donald McKelvy
Senior Member
Joined
Aug 14, 2009
Messages
9,723
Reaction score
404
Website
deeptowild.blogspot.com
According to Polmar, the CONFORM hull design and use of HY-100 steel could provide a test depth as great as 2,000 feet (610 m).

Looking for cuts in new military programs to help finance the Vietnam War, the Navy had to justify why it had three new submarine programs: Turbine Electric Drive Submarine (TEDS)/USS Glenard P Lipscomb, CONFORM, and DIG (SSN 688) in 1968.

Friedman makes the case that Rickover believed that there was a pressing need to counter the new fast Soviet SSNs that could attack aircraft carriers with nuclear-tipped torpedoes off the carrier's bow. It was believed that the Permit (SSN 594) and Sturgeon (SSN 637) classes were too slow to intercept and destroy these boats. Of the choices available, in Rickover's view, the DIG reactor powered submarine (SSN 688) was the best choice because it was ready for production. Rickover didn't want to wait for the final CONFORM submarine design or wait for a contest between the DIG reactor powered submarine prototype and the CONFORM prototype to determine which one the US Navy should purchase. Rickover stated that he would refuse to approve the S5G in a CONFORM hull under his authority in the civilian Atomic Energy Commission, thus scuttling the CONFORM project.
 

Longshaor

CLEARANCE: Restricted
Joined
Oct 1, 2006
Messages
37
Reaction score
1
According to Friedman, the hull for ConForm was intended to be HY-130 with HY-100 as a fall-back if the former wasn't ready in time.

The Glenard P Lipscomb was a great example of the ongoing turf war between McNamara's people & Rickover. Where most military officers could not oppose McNamara because of his position as SecDef, Rickover as an AEC employee could use his Congressional contacts and support - as well as the office of the AEC - to undermine McNamara. To that end,he forced through the construction of a one-off experimental sub that would never see series production (which is why McNamara tried to kill it) as a sound test bed. The idea was that if the gear whine inherent in all other USN nuclear subs was removed, the designers would have a "clean" boat to test for other sources of radiated noise. The net result was a quiet, if very slow, boat. The DC direct-drive system, known as TEDS, was much larger than originally envisaged, and in service it proved both ineffecient and unreliable.

The interesting upshot of this battle was that
The TEDS fight did make OSD more wary of attacking Admiral Rickover; as a result, TEDS deeply influenced later decision in favor of Los Angeles.
-Friedman, US Submarines Since 1945, pg. 149.
 

Graham1973

CLEARANCE: Top Secret
Senior Member
Joined
Dec 16, 2010
Messages
1,435
Reaction score
177
Interesting project. Has anyone found more information?
 
Top