S-14 through S-17

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Design and Construction Notes

Simon Lake and his Lake Torpedo Boat Company (LTB) had been awarded several contracts to build N, O, and R-class submarines to his unique designs during the years 1914-1917. The Navy had been less than impressed with his company's performance. His boats were perpetually late in delivery, and they contained certain technical features that Lake insisted be included in the boats, but that the Navy did not want. These features included, among others, watertight superstructures and midships diving planes. Also, Lake's designs generally lacked in quality control and used entirely different internal equipment from the numerous EB designs, and that made logistical support and crew training much more difficult.

However, the Navy was keen on maintaining a commercial competitor to EB in order to keep EB from developing a monopoly while the Navy stood up its own submarine design and construction capability. Thus, despite Lake's poor performance, the Navy awarded him one contract for a 800 ton S-boat for the FY-17 program. At this point the Navy was fed up with Lake's drama and decided that the S-2 (SS-106) would be the last of his designs that they would accept. To keep him going and to help round out the massive S-class program, the Navy offered him two contracts to build copies of the internal Bureau of Construction & Repair's design. Lake, his pride stinging from the rejection of S-2 but badly needing the cash infusion, accepted the contracts. Most likely seeing the handwriting on the wall, Lake's company dove into the first contract with gusto, promptly laying the keels for S-14 to S-17 at his Bridgeport, CT. yard.

These four boats were direct copies of the C&R S-3 design, with the only exception being that the Navy ordered Lake to use a six cylinder, four cycle, 700 hp engine from the Busch-Sulzer Company of St. Louis. These engines, although considered to be underpowered, were quite reliable and were liked by the Navy. This contract pre-dated the C&R shift to below water bow planes, so S-14 to S-17 had the S-3 style above water retractable bow planes in a slit in the forward superstructure.

All four boats served the Navy well through the end of WWII, although they only served in training and local patrol work in U.S. waters during the conflict.

S-14 (SS-119)

USN photo # 19-N-6475, courtesy of NARA.
USN photo # 19-N-6475, courtesy of NARA.
S-14 at the Lake Torpedo Boat Company shipyard in Bridgeport, CT. on January 3, 1921. The S-14 was launched from the same yard on October 22, 1919. She still wasn't commissioned at this time. That happened on February 11, 1921.

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S-15 (SS-120)

USN photo 19-N-6478, courtesy of NARA.
USN photo 19-N-6478, courtesy of NARA.
S-15 under construction at the Lake yard, Bridgeport, CT. on January 3, 1921. She was nearly complete and would be commissioned 12 days later. Note that in both this photo and the one of S-14 above, the 4"/50 caliber Mk 9 deck gun has yet to be installed.

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S-16 (SS-121)

U.S. Navy photo.
U.S. Navy photo.
A fine photo of S-16 alongside at an unknown location, approximately mid 1920's. This is a summertime photo as the crew has rigged up awnings topside. It could have possibly been taken in Coco Solo, Panama.

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S-17 (SS-122)

Photo courtesy of Historylink101.com
Photo courtesy of Historylink101.com
S-17 on the ways at the Lake Torpedo Boat Company, Bridgeport, CT. This is her launching day of May 22, 1920. The VIP viewing stand has been built at her bow and a crowd is gathering below her. It must have been a rainy day, as numerous guests are using umbrellas. S-17 still had 10 months of work ahead until her commissioning. At this point the conning tower and fairwater is in place, but she has not yet received her deck gun, periscopes or shears, or her bridge structure.

See more S-17 photos

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