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The First U.S. Naval Ship Powered by Electric Motors

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The first U.S. Navy surface ship powered by electric motors was the USS Jupiter.

USS Jupiter

She was later converted into the first aircraft carrier (see image below) and renamed the USS Langley.

USSLangley

According to MIT’s site on electric ship history here, “the early electrically powered naval vessels employed two electrical systems: one for propulsion and the other for services such as lights, radar, sonar, cargo pumps, cranes and any other required systems.” After the 1940s most electric-drive ships fell out of favor because of the inefficiency of having two separate electric systems.

USSLangley

This from the Naval History and Heritage Command site here.

“USS Jupiter, a 19,360-ton collier (originally classified as a “Fuel Ship”) built at the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, was commissioned in April 1913. The Navy’s first surface ship propelled by electric motors, she was an engineering prototype for the turbo-electric propulsion system widely used in Navy capital ships built during the later “Teens” and the 1920s. Jupiter provided transportation and coal carrying services for the Pacific fleet until October 1914, when she transited the Panama Canal to begin operations in the Atlantic. During the First World War, she carried cargo to Europe and supplied coal to combat and logistics forces on both sides of the Atlantic. Jupiter decommissioned in March 1920 to began conversion to an aircraft carrier. Renamed Langley in April 1920 and designated CV-1 when the Navy implemented its hull number system in July 1920, she recommissioned two years later as the first ship in the Navy’s seagoing air fleet.”

USSLangley

The damaged USS Langley.


Unfortunately, she was abandoned and scuttled after receiving Japanese bomb damage south of Java, 27 February 1942.