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This Old U.S. Navy Submarine Could Still Fight Russia, China, Iran and North Korea

Kyle Mizokami

Key Point: Sixty-two submarines of this class were constructed over twenty years.

The Los Angeles–class nuclear attack submarines were the most successful American submarines of the Cold War. The United States built sixty-two Los Angeles–class subs, more than any class except for the Gato class of World War II. Fast, powerful and heavily armed, the submarines are slowly being replaced by Virginia-class attack boats.

The Los Angeles–class submarines, also known as the 688 class, were first designed in the early 1970s. The first ship, Los Angeles (SSN-688), was laid down in 1976. The submarines were produced at a Cold War pace, with production averaging three to five submarines annually, significantly higher than the current pace of two Virginia-class submarines produced annually. The Navy sustained this rate of production until 1992. Over the twenty years the class was produced, various systems, including propulsion, bow and towed sonar, and even hull material were upgraded to reflect the latest technology.

At 360 feet long and 6,927 tons submerged, the Los Angeles–class submarines were designed to be 20 percent longer and 50 percent larger by displacement volume than their predecessors, the Sturgeon class. They are also reportedly much faster: while the Sturgeon class could make twenty-six knots submerged, the Los Angeles class can allegedly make a swift thirty-seven knots.

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