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Flagship Facts: Top-Secret SS United States Designs Published for the First Time, November 1977

The SS United States' top-secret design and performance figures were published for the first time by John R. Kane of Newport News Shipbuilding on November 3rd, 1977.

Kane’s paper, “The Speed of the SS United States,” was presented at the meeting of the Hampton Roads Section of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers. Read more here about the declassified secrets of the world’s fastest ocean liner:

Full speed ahead for America's Flagship! The SS United States is pictured here on her sea trials. Image courtesy of Charles Anderson.

Over her 17-year service career, the SS United States was the epitome of transatlantic luxury and comfort. Without a doubt however, there was always more to America's Flagship than meets the eye!

Her design incorporated the most rigid U.S. Navy standards, including strict compartmentalization to combat flooding, and dual engine rooms to provide power in case one was immobilized. The low and graceful superstructure was built entirely in aluminum, which gave the ship a dead weight of 45,400 long tons, compared to the 77,000 long tons for the similarly sized Cunard Queens. Her lighter weight allowed her to take full advantage of the astonishing 247,785 horsepower produced by her turbines.

While designer William Francis Gibbs closely guarded the formulas for the SS United States' performance, security was finally lifted after the ship's retirement. Revealing the secret to the speed of the SS United States, Kane wrote:

It is, in simple terms, to combine the maximum driving power you can achieve with the lightest displacement compatible with the work the ship must do, and with the longest, finest and cleanest lines that will serve to make a good wholesome seakeeping ship. Plus, one might add, infinite patience and care in the refinement of detail.

At any time, the staterooms of America's Flagship were ready to give way to bunks, with her 500,000 square feet primed to house 15,000 U.S. military servicemen. Once mobilized, she could take them all 10,000 miles — 40% of the earth's entire circumference — without having to refuel even once.

While, she was never pressed into service, the SS United States' unique ability to convert from luxury liner to Cold War weapon is one of the countless reasons the ship is such an essential part of our nation's history. Make your donation and help us save America's Flagship today!

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