Submarine design was revolutionized between 1945 and 1960. Far-reaching
changes in hull design, electronic sensors, power plants, and weapons
transformed the World War II submarine, a surface craft that could submerge
briefly underwater, into the Cold War submarine, a fast, long-range underwater
boat that rarely needed to surface at all. Nuclear power was the final
step. Nuclear-powered submarines played a major role in the Cold War as
underwater ballistic missile launch platforms. They were complemented
by fast attack submarines, which kept close tabs on enemy submarines,
ready to strike at the first sign of a hostile launch. Although the United
States ceased building diesel-electric submarines in favor of nuclear-powered
boats, diesel-electrics continued in service throughout their useful livesfor
some, into the 1980s.
Models of an Ohio-class Boomer and Los Angeles-class Fast
Attack. These are examples of modern U.S. nuclear-powered submarines.