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NavSource Online: Submarine Photo Archive
Manitowoc Gato / Balao Submarines
Introduction courtesy of David Johnston (USNR)
The Gato Class was originally supposed to end with the Tullibee . Her and Tinosa were authorized as an add on to the 70 Percent Expansion Program on 29 Apr 1941. This was done mostly to utilize the full construction capacity at Mare Island.
Hull numbers 361-364 were originally authorized on 6 Jun 1942 and assigned to Manitowoc as thick skinned Balaos. Supply delays getting sufficient quantities of the new steel was going to delay their construction and would have resulted in production at Manitowoc coming to a halt. In order to prevent this, Manitowoc was authorized to complete them to the Gato design using existing stocks of the thinner steel. Hull numbers 365-378 ended up being the first (and last) Balaos built there. All remaining submarines authorized for construction at Manitowoc wound up being canceled. No Tench class boats were built there.
While doing research for my article on the Gato class, I too noted the oddity of the Steelhead fairwater. All indications that I got showed her to be a standard Gato, except for her fairwater and periscope shears, which are typical of the Balao class. The only thing that made sense to me was that being the last Gato assigned to Portsmouth, the engineers there decided to experiment with the new fairwater and shears design and installed it on Steelhead. If you look closely, though, you can see that the cigarette deck is extended aft farther than it would have been on a Balao. This was probably done to accomodate the original position of the Main Air Induction Valve, which was situated farther aft on the Gatos than it was on the Balaos.
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