The Barbel class of submarines were the last diesel-electric propelled submarines build for us by the United States Navy. The three members of the class were attack submarines: the USS Barbel, USS Blueback and USS Bonefish.
The Barbel class incorporated numerous radical engineering improvements over previous electric-diesel submarines. After the test submarine USS Albacore proved improved performance could be generated by a teardrop-shape hull, the Barbel class was the first class of American submarine to incorporate the new design. They were also the first three American submarines to use an attack center within the hull, rather than the traditional conning tower located in the sail.
The order to build the Barbel was placed with the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard at Kittery, Maine, in August 1955. She was launched in July 1958 and commissioned in January 1959. The Ingalls Shipbuilding Corp. of Pascagoula, Miss., received the order to build the Blueback in June 1956; she was launched in May 1959 and commissioned in October 1959. The same day the Blueback was ordered, the New York Shipbuilding Corp. of Camden, N.J., received the order to build the Bonefish. The final member of the Barbel class, numerically, actually went to sea before the Blueback; the Bonefish was launched in November 1958 and commissioned in July 1959.
Though the Barbel class and other diesel-electric submarines quickly became obsolete as quieter nuclear-powered submarines capable of staying at sea far longer were developed, all three submarines served for nearly 30 years. The Bonefish was the first member of the class to be decommissioned, after a major fire led to her retirement in 1988. The Barbel was retired in 1989 and the Blueback, the final member of the class to serve on active duty, was decommissioned in October 1990.
Only one of the three members of the class, the Blueback, survives. The Barbel was sunk as a target during a live-fire exercise, and the Bonefish was scrapped. The former Blueback is now a display at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland, Ore.
Class overview Builders:
Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Kittery, Maine
Ingalls Shipbuilding, Pascagoula, Mississippi
New York Shipbuilding, Camden, New Jersey
Preceded by: Skate-class attack submarine
Succeeded by: Skipjack-class fast attack submarine
Built: 1956 – 1959
In commission: 1959 – 1990
Type: Fast Attack Submarine
Displacement: 1,750 tons (1,778 t) light 
2,146 tons (2,180 t) full
2,637 tons (2,679 t) submerged 
402 tons (408 t) dead
Length: 219 ft 6 in (66.9 m) overall 
Beam: 29 ft (8.8 m) 
Draft: 25 ft (7.6 m) max 
Propulsion: Fairbanks-Morse diesel engines, total 9,450 bhp (7.05 MW)
2 × General Electric electric motors, total 4,800 bhp (3.6 MW)
one screw  Speed: 12 knots (22 km/h) surfaced
25 knots (46 km/h) submerged 
Endurance: 90 minutes at full speed
102 hours at 3 knots
Test depth: 712 ft (217 m) operating
1,050 ft (320 m) collapse
Complement: 8 officers, 69 men
Armament: 6 × 21 in (533 mm)  bow torpedo tubes, 18 torpedoes