Top 10 Books On Submarines

One of the most iconic naval vessels is the submarine. Most navies around the world don’t have several of them in service due to the sheer amount of planning, designing, and construction that goes into manufacturing them.

They are known to be extremely difficult to build due to the high-pressure environments they operate in. Nevertheless, they are critical war vessels that could possibly turn the tide during a naval confrontation.

Submarines operate by staying underwater for long stretches, with only needing to surface to restock on supplies and change the crew. They generally carry around 20 sailors and naval personnel onboard in the smaller versions but can go all the way up to 60 men on board the larger nuclear-powered ones.

As they might spend significant time underwater in enemy territory, it is important to reduce the number of times they surface up. Because of the way anti-sub detection mechanisms work, every time a submarine dives down or surfaces up, the surrounding water particles are excited.

This excitation pattern helps can be used to spot submarines. Countries spend millions of dollars on installing expensive anti-sub detection systems to pick up on these vibrations and provide a warning.

Another concern is the wake and engine noise produced by a submarine. To power, these massive vessels, large RPM marine engines are used. They produce a lot of noise that travels through the water and can be picked up by anti-sub ships or other submarines. By analyzing the wake noise, countries can identify the submarine’s nation of origin.

Nuclear powered vessels and innovations in silent propulsion have helped reduce the engine and wake noise. An interesting anecdote in this regard is how despite the billions of dollars American warships spend on submarine detection, a Scandinavian submarine was able to sneak right up underneath it and score a direct hit during a war games training session.

With the advent of nuclear missiles and warships, submarines are also quickly making the shift to nuclear power. It is efficient, long-lasting, and considerably more silent with proper muffling. A full recharge of the core that powers the nuclear reactions may only be needed once in a century. The US currently boasts the largest number of active submarines in service, of which all are nuclear powered.

In this article, we will take a look at the top 10 books on submarines design. This is a niche field that not many people can specialize in. Also, entry into submarine building yards is restricted due to the sensitive nature of work that goes on. So, it is essential to have the best reference material on the subject.

The books on submarine in this list are not ranked in any specific order.

1. Modern Submarines: An Illustrated Reference Guide
By John Parker

One of the most concise guides on the topic, this book studies submarines through illustrations and photographs. It covers over 50 different submarines from around the world and closely follows their history. From conventional diesel submarines to the advanced nuclear subs, the book includes a brief description of these vessels. With 250 photographs covering the length and breadth of life on board a submarine, this book is an excellent starting point for beginners.

Fair warning, the author also takes a stand against the excessive development of submarines. Through the threat of an impending nuclear war, the reader is made to understand that while essential for any navy, submarine development can quickly “go mad” with a very high cost to pay.

Modern Submarines: An Illustrated Reference Guide to Underwater Vessels of the World, from Post-War Nuclear-Powered Submarines to Advanced Attack ... Over 50 Submarines with 250 Photographs
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Parker, John (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 96 Pages - 11/15/2009 (Publication Date) - Southwater (Publisher)

2. Submarine Technology for the 21st Century
By Stan Zimmerman

Instead of focusing on the submarine itself, author and ex-soldier Stan Zimmerman delve into the various technologies that make up the bulk of a submarine. Based primarily on combat submarines from around the world, this book is well researched and backs up facts and figures with reputed sources.

It is an excellent guide for actually designing a submarine to building anti-sub equipment. The simple language makes the 200 plus page guide interesting to read, and the wealth of information is remarkable. Thorough notes on every chapter cover important points, the latest information, and developments in various navies.

What really makes this book stand out is the approach it takes to covering complex topics such as nuclear power, fuel cells, acoustic and non-acoustic phenomena, anti-sub warfare etc. It particularly suits beginners and novices as it occasionally leaves out the difficult mechanics and math, and instead provides a concise view of the subject.

Submarine Technology for the 21st Century
  • Zimmerman, Stan (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 232 Pages - 07/06/2006 (Publication Date) - Trafford Publishing (Publisher)

3. Submarine Hydrodynamics
By Martin Renilson

As it is, the designing and construction of submarines are incredibly tough. When one encounters the hydrodynamics and mechanics behind the behaviour of such a body in water, it adds to the complexity. Author and expert hydro dynamist Martin Renilson deftly maneuver the reader through the interesting yet challenging field of submarine hydrodynamics. Over 300 pages long, it focuses on the practical nature of the submarine design.

This book is a must-have for any naval architect or engineer looking to study submarine mechanics since it lucidly covers the relevant topics. It is pertinent to point out that the book begins with the hydrodynamic principles first applied to ships, and then gradually shifts the reader’s attention to how these principles can be applied to submarine design.

It includes precise details on all aspects of submarine propulsion, resistance, manoeuvring, and experiments. The second edition is up to date with the latest developments in the industry.

Submarine Hydrodynamics
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Renilson, Martin (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 374 Pages - 04/20/2018 (Publication Date) - Springer (Publisher)

4. Submarine Design
By Ulrich Gabler

Published in the late 1980s, this comprehensive guide to the design and construction of submarines is a must-read for beginners to the field. It is concise and provides a solid foundation for the reader. Focusing primarily on the historical aspects and subsequent developments in the field, it gradually introduces advanced design concepts. The text is researched and well written.

It includes detailed sections on the history of underwater travel, the developments of the 20th century, the construction of civil and military submarines, the design concepts needed for naval architects, and the practical knowledge any personnel on board ought to know. From the vast experience of the author, the book takes a closer look at the notorious U boats designed by Germany during the World Wars.

Note, this book was intended primarily for the 20th century, and some topics may not still be relevant. Care must be taken when reading to understand that the book outlines procedures and equipment not in use today. However, for a foundation on the subject, this book serves its purpose.

Submarine design
  • Hardcover Book
  • Gabler, Ulrich (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 140 Pages - 09/24/1986 (Publication Date) - Bernard & Graefe (Publisher)

5. The Design and Construction of the Nautilus
By Capt. Demetri Capetanopoulos

The Nautilus was the submarine in Jules Verne’s bestselling novel “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” and has held a major place in fiction. While all the other books in this list are based on actual submarines in production from around the world, this is the sole one to be based on fiction. However, it stands out for its novel approach to submarine design.

What makes it a truly essential read for the budding naval architect is the manner in which the author constructs an entire submarine from scratch while taking you through the process. He remains faithful to the original text from the novel but also incorporates newer technology to keep the book relevant to the modern reader. It includes designs, construction notes, and operation theory for submarines. Whether it be for history buffs or engineers, this book makes a fun read.

The Design and Construction of the Nautilus
  • Hardcover Book
  • Capetanopoulos, Demetri (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 138 Pages - 10/13/2018 (Publication Date) - Boyle & Dalton (Publisher)

6. Cold War Submarines: The Design and Construction of US and Soviet Submarines
By Norman Polmar and K. J. Moore

The Cold War was a period of intense rivalry between the largest superpowers of the 20th century- USA and USSR. Numerous battleships were pressed into service to project power and world dominance. In the midst of these wraships, submarines played a major role in the Cold War.

From intelligence gathering to covert attacks, the personnel on board were active throughout the years. From authors and naval experts Norman Polmar and K J Moore, this book provides an in-depth study of what went into the design, construction, and operations of the Cold War-era submarines. With detailed interviews and archival material, the book is incredibly well researched. The book examines the various submarines that were built and includes exclusive photographs. Noteworthy is the detailed lines plan drawing that were prepared for each submarine.

The book covers the technology and developments in several key areas such as propulsion, hydrodynamic design, nuclear power, internal layout, and operational procedures. It is a must-read for anyone interested in the historical development and role of wartime submarines.

Cold War Submarines: The Design and Construction of U.S. and Soviet Submarines, 1945-2001
  • Polmar, Norman (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 432 Pages - 06/01/2005 (Publication Date) - POTOMAC BOOKS (Publisher)

7. US Submarines Since 1945
By Norman Friedman

Considered to be one of the most comprehensive books on the subject of American submarines, this book is a standard for both novices and experts in the field. Naval analyst and author Norman Friedman has produced several such warship design studies, and this book is an addition to that series. It includes detailed illustrations, photographs, and plans of the various naval submarines built following World War 2.

In addition, the book also looks closely at the various forces that shaped American submarine design after the mid-20th century. Political compromises, technical challenges, and the threats of operation in foreign waters have been analyzed in-depth to keep the reader well informed. The book includes historical data on the American submarine program, starting with the earliest underwater vessels to the modern nuclear-powered attack crafts. Special attention is paid to the auxiliary technology that powers subs, including sensors and weaponry.

U.S. Submarines Since 1945, Revised Edition: An Illustrated Design History
  • Hardcover Book
  • Friedman, Norman (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 320 Pages - 08/15/2018 (Publication Date) - Naval Institute Press (Publisher)

8. Concepts in Submarine Design- Cambridge Ocean Technology Series
By Roy Burcher

Part of the Cambridge Series on Ocean Technology (2), this book is a great reference book on the engineering and naval design concepts that are integral to submarine construction. With a detailed emphasis on the practical aspects of this field, it includes notes on manoeuvre procedures, design constraints and considerations during typical operations, and the correlation between various disciplines of engineering that come together.

Special attention is paid to important concepts such as propulsion, hydrodynamics, structural strength, and safety considerations. The book stands out for staying relevant to modern readers by including detailed algorithms and design codes that can be used for integrating computers into the design process. The various pitfalls that new designers and engineers face have also been briefly covered. This book is advised for those looking to gain a quick yet thorough understanding of the various concepts that go into the design of submarines.

Concepts in Submarine Design (Cambridge Ocean Technology Series, Series Number 2)
  • Burcher, Roy (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 316 Pages - 10/27/1995 (Publication Date) - Cambridge University Press (Publisher)

9. Astute Class Nuclear Submarine- Owner’s Workshop Manual
By Jonathan Gates

The Astute Class of the Royal Navy is their advanced attack submarine that leads the naval fleets. Beginning production in 2010, it quickly became a lethal attack vessel and more such submarines are being commissioned. In this book from author and defence consultant Jonathan Gates, we are offered a view into the design, construction, and operations that go into building the Astute Class submarines.

This submarine class is incredibly complex with the latest features integrated. The book delves into each of these specialized technologies and provides a detailed analysis. Considering the confidential nature of the sub, many details are still under wraps. However, some technical aspects are provided in this guide.

Some of the important topics covered in this book include the development, design process, procurement, component design, and the combat systems that are fully integrated into the design. For those interested in actual wartime manoeuvres, the book also includes scenarios of how a submarine fleet would actually operate during a potential attack.

Astute Class Nuclear Submarine Owners' Workshop Manual: 2010 to date - Insights into the design, construction and operation of the most advanced attack submarine ever operated by the Royal Navy
  • Hardcover Book
  • Gates, Jonathan (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 192 Pages - 06/05/2018 (Publication Date) - Haynes Publishing UK (Publisher)

10. Submarine Design and Development
By Norman Friedman

As an expert in this field, Norman Friedman’s second book on submarines also makes it to our top 10 books. Published in the late 20th century, it provides a detailed study on the design and developments that go into the submarine building. Despite being very thorough on the subject, it is still remarkably easy to read for even novices and beginners to the subject. Referred to as a “hardcore design book”, it delves into the various considerations that go into submarine design.

The book focuses primarily on the challenges, operational conditions, history, and world war era submarines in the first section. The last section then pays attention to technical naval design concepts and technology including SONAR, propulsion, communications, and manoeuvring mechanics. The book also includes a section on anti-sub technology used during that period.

Despite the age of the material in the book, it presents a solid foundation to the avid naval enthusiast. Certain design concepts outlined are relevant even to date.

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Do you know any other submarine book that should be added to this list?

Let’s know in the comments below.

You may also like to read – Top 12 Coolest Personal Submarines

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About Author

Ajay Menon is a graduate of the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, with an integrated major in Ocean Engineering and Naval Architecture. Besides writing, he balances chess and works out tunes on his keyboard during his free time.

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