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USS Adder (A-2 / SS-3)

Attack Submarine / Experimental Submersible

USS Adder began construction in 1900 and formed part of the rather meager beginnings of the United States undersea fleet.
Authored By: Staff Writer | Edited: 5/5/2016
National Flag Graphic


Year: 1903
Ships-in-Class: 7
Named Ships: USS Plunger (SS-2); USS Adder (SS-3); USS Grampus (SS-4); USS Moccasin (SS-5); USS Pike (SS-6); USS Porpoise (SS-7); USS Shark (SS-8)
Roles: Hunter; Direct-Attack;
Complement: 7
Length: 64 ft (19.51 m)
Width: 12 ft (3.66 m)
Height: 11 ft (3.35 m)
Displacement (Surface): 110 tons
Propulsion: Not Available.
Speed (Surface): 8 kts (9 mph)
Speed (Submerged): 7 kts (8 mph)
Operators: United States
Today the United States Navy fields the largest and most powerful naval force in recorded history capable of reaching any point on the globe through sheer size, numbers and capabilities. This was not always the case for the Navy came from humble beginnings in its liberation from British Crown rule. Its ships and crews managed their own share of victories and losses to become the fighting force it is in modern times. Its undersea force took its own evolutionary route that began with the "Turtle" of 1775 and emerged into more serviceable models by the turn of the 20th Century. The first (modern) commissioned submarine for the USN became the six-man USS Holland (SS-1) and this vessel managed a service life spanning some ten total years.

Another notable vessel of turn-of-the-century fame became USS Adder, ordered from the Crescent Shipyard of Elizabeth, New Jersey and laid down on October 3rd, 1900. She was launched on July 22nd, 1901 and was commissioned on January 12th, 1903. She was a Plunger-class submarine, a group numbering seven total vessels of which five were completed through Crescent. These served primarily in training of future submariners and various experiments.

The early part of Adder's career was spent with the Naval Torpedo Station in Newport as an test platform until she was relocated to the Norfolk Naval Shipyard prior to 1904. There, she was assigned as part of the Reserve Torpedo Flotilla in January of 1904 and served in this manner for a time before she was decommissioned for the first time on July 26th, 1909. From there, her services were needed in the Philippines to which her hull was transport by collier ship during October. She was recommissioned for service on February 10th, 1910 and formed part of the 1st Submarine Division of the Asiatic Torpedo Fleet. In 1911, she became simply known as "A-2" and undertook various roles related to training and testing from then on, spending her time in this region of the world throughout World War 1 (1914-1918). In December of 1919, she was decommissioned for a second time and her designation was revised to "SS-3" in July of 1920. This occurred prior to her being sunk as a target in September of that year. The vessel was struck from the Naval Register on January 16th, 1922.

As built, USS Adder managed a displacement of 107 tons (long) and fielded an overall length of 64 feet, a beam of just 12 feet and a draught of 11 feet. Her straightline speed in ideal conditions could reach 8 knots when surfaced and less than 7 knots when submerged. Her crew complement numbered seven and her installed armament constituted just one 18" (460mm) torpedo tube. She carried three reloads.

Despite never seeing combat service, the data garnered from Adder's operational days no doubt paved the way for larger, more capable USN undersea vessels that followed.


1 x 460mm (18") torpedo tube; 3 x torpedo reloads

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