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THE ABILITY TO STAY hidden deep under the waves makes the submarine a powerful and effective war ship. To travel underwater, a submarine needs a strong hull to resist high pressure, and engines for bothsurface and underwater use. Submarines were used effectively as deadly weapons for the first time in World War I. Today, there are two main types of military submarines in operation. A patrol submarine searches for and attacks enemy vessels. A missile submarine carries long range nuclear missiles.
The most powerful submarines are those that carry nuclear missiles, and are driven by nuclear engines. Each missile can destroy a large city, killing thousands of people. Nuclear engines allow a submarine to stay submerged for much longer than other submarines, which have to return to the surface to recharge their batteries.
Anatomy of a submarine
A submarine isancased in a strong steel hull. On top is a conning tower that stands above the water when the submarine is on the surface. Inside the submarine, rooms are arranged in two or three decks. Bulkheads seperate the submarine into several sections that can be shut off from each other in case of leaks in the hull.
Civil (non-military) submarines are called 'submersibles' and are used for carryins out specilized tasks deep underwater, from maintaining ocean pipelines to carrying out salvage operations, or marine research. Submersibles only dive for only a few hours.
1776 David Bushnell's Turtle is a waterproof wooden barrel, operated by hand and foot pedals.
1864 The human-powered, iron submarine Hunley is the first submarine to sink a ship. Its explosive charge is carried on a long pole.
1901 Holland VI is the first submarine with both petrol and electric engines.
1935-45 German submarines (U-boats) hunt Allied shipping in packs, sinking ships with torpedoes.
1960 US Navy submarines become the first to carry nuclear missiles.
1986 Crew on the US submersibles, the Alvin, photographs the wreckage of the Titanic, sunk in 1912.
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Military submarines carry underwater missiles called torpedoes. They are launched from tubes in the submarine's bow or stern. Homing systems, or signals from the submarine, guide morden torpedoes to their target.
Most military can dive to depths of about 750 m (2,500 ft). The deepest dive was by a US Navy submarine that achived a depth of 6.2 km (3.7 miles)!