Submarines are small compared to most oceangoing vessels, and generally do not have the ability to carry large amounts of food, fuel, torpedoes, and other supplies, nor to carry a full array of maintenance equipment and personnel. The tender carries all these, and either meets submarines at sea to replenish them or provides these services while docked at a port near the area where the submarines are operating. In some navies, the tenders were equipped with workshops for maintenance, and as floating dormitories with relief crews.
The term used in the Chilean Navy is "submarine mother ship", as for example the BMS (buque madre de submarinos) Almirante Merino.
The Russian Navy decommissioned all its Don and Ugra-class tenders inherited from the Soviet Navy by 2001. The last remaining ship of this class was INS Amba (A54), initially sold to the Indian Navy in 1968 for use with their fleet of Foxtrot-class submarines. She was reportedly decommissioned in July 2006.
The Royal Netherlands Navy has one submarine support vessel, the HNLMS Mercuur (A900), commissioned in 1987, as a replacement of the HNLMS Onverschrokken (M886), then known as the HNLMS Mercuur (A 856). Commissioned in 1956, as an ocean going Aggressive-class minesweeper, built in the US, and later used as a submarine tender.
In the United States Navy, submarine tenders are considered auxiliaries, with hull classification symbol "AS". As of 2017, the Navy maintains two such tenders, USS Emory S. Land (AS-39) and USS Frank Cable (AS-40).
List of Royal Navy submarine tenders
The Don-class submarine tender was the NATO reporting name for a group of submarine tenders built for the Soviet Navy in the late 1950s. The Soviet designation was Project 310 Batur.Emory S. Land-class submarine tender
The Emory S. Land-class submarine tender is a class of three submarine tenders in the United States Navy and Military Sealift Command. USS Emory S. Land is the lead ship in the class, the others are USS Frank Cable and USS McKee. McKee was the first ship in the class to be decommissioned. The Emory S. Land class may be the last submarine tenders built for the United States Navy.Fulton-class submarine tender
The Fulton class was a class of United States Navy submarine tenders. The class took its name from the lead ship, USS Fulton (AS-11), which was commissioned 27 December 1940 by Mare Island Navy Yard and sponsored by Mrs. A. T. Sutcliffe, great-granddaughter of Robert Fulton. Fulton was commissioned on 12 September 1941.German submarine tender Saar
Saar was the first purpose-built submarine tender of the German Kriegsmarine, and served throughout World War II. She later served in the post-war French Navy as Gustave Zédé.Japanese aircraft carrier Ryūhō
Ryūhō (龍鳳, "Dragon phoenix") was a light aircraft carrier of the Imperial Japanese Navy. She was converted from the submarine tender Taigei (大鯨, "Big Whale"), which had been used in the Second Sino-Japanese War. One of the least successful of the light aircraft carrier conversions due to its small size, slow speed and weak construction, during World War II, Ryūhō was used primarily as an aircraft transport and for training purposes, although she was also involved in a number of combat missions, including the Battle of the Philippine Sea.Japanese aircraft carrier Shōhō
Shōhō (Japanese: 祥鳳, "Auspicious Phoenix" or "Happy Phoenix") was a light aircraft carrier of the Imperial Japanese Navy. Originally built as the submarine support ship Tsurugizaki in the late 1930s, she was converted before the Pacific War into an aircraft carrier and renamed. Completed in early 1942, the ship supported the invasion forces in Operation MO, the invasion of Port Moresby, New Guinea, and was sunk by American carrier aircraft on her first combat operation during the Battle of the Coral Sea on 7 May. Shōhō was the first Japanese aircraft carrier to be sunk during World War II.Japanese submarine tender Chōgei
Chōgei (長鯨, Long Whale), was the second and final vessel of the Jingei-class submarine tenders operated by the Imperial Japanese Navy, from the 1920s through World War II. Along with her sister ship Jingei, she was the first purpose-built submarine tender in the Imperial Japanese Navy.Japanese submarine tender Jingei
Jingei (迅鯨, Swift Whale), was the lead vessel of the Jingei-class submarine tenders operated by the Imperial Japanese Navy, from the 1920s through World War II. She was the first purpose-built submarine tender in the Imperial Japanese Navy.Japanese submarine tender Karasaki
Karasaki (韓崎), was the first submarine tender operated by the Imperial Japanese Navy. She was named after a cape on northern Tsushima Island.Japanese submarine tender Komahashi
Komahashi (駒橋), was an auxiliary vessel operated by the Imperial Japanese Navy, serving from the 1910s through World War II. Her classification changed numerous times during her operational life. Although officially designated as a submarine tender for most of her career, Komahashi very rarely functioned in this role, but was used instead as an oceanographic survey vessel throughout the Pacific, and as a kaibokan escort vessel for convoys of merchant ships during the Pacific War.Jingei-class submarine tender
The Jingei-class submarine tenders (迅鯨型潜水母艦,, Jingei-gata Sensuibokan) were a class of submarine tenders of the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN), and served from the 1920s through World War II. Two vessels of this class were built between 1922 and 1924 under the Eight-eight fleet plan.USS Aegir
USS Aegir (AS-23) was the lead ship of the Aegir-class submarine tender in the United States Navy during World War II.USS Anthedon
USS Anthedon (AS-24) was an Aegir-class submarine tender of the United States Navy during World War II.USS Apollo
USS Apollo (AS-25) was an Aegir-class submarine tender in the United States Navy.USS Canopus (AS-9)
USS Canopus (AS-9) was a submarine tender in the United States Navy, named for the star Canopus.
Canopus was launched in 1919 by New York Shipbuilding Company, Camden, New Jersey, as the passenger liner SS Santa Leonora for W. R. Grace and Company, but taken over by the U.S. Navy upon completion in July 1919 and commissioned as USS Santa Leonora. She was briefly employed as a trans-Atlantic troop transport before being decommissioned and transferred to the U.S. Army in September 1919.The ship was reacquired by the Navy from the Shipping Board on 22 November 1921. The ship was converted to a submarine tender, and commissioned at Boston on 24 January 1922, with Commander A. S. Wadsworth in command.USS Clytie (AS-26)
USS Clytie (AS-26) was an Aegir-class submarine tender in the United States Navy during World War II.USS Fulton (AS-1)
USS Fulton (AS-1) was constructed as a submarine tender in 1914, but was later was converted into a gunboat and redesignated PG-49.
Fulton should not be confused with USS Fulton (SP-247), a patrol vessel that operated from 1917 to 1919 while Fulton (AS-1) was in commission.USS L. Y. Spear
USS L. Y. Spear (AS-36) was the lead ship of her class of submarine tenders, in service to the United States Navy from 1970 through 1996.Ugra-class submarine tender
The Ugra class was the NATO reporting name for a group of submarine tenders built for the Soviet Navy in the late 1960s. The Soviet designation was Project 1886. One further ship, INS Amba was built for the Indian Navy to a modified design. The ships were intended to provide afloat support, including supplies, water, torpedoes, fuel, and battery charging; minimal repair facilities. Often employed as flagships/command ships for submarine squadrons
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