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A submarine is a watercraft capable of independent operation below the surface of the water. It differs from a submersible, which has only limited underwater capability. The term submarine most commonly refers to large crewed autonomous vessels; however, historically or more casually, submarine can also refer to medium sized or smaller vessels.

Because of the particular challenges of the living conditions (eg lack of privacy, overcrowding) psychologists have been involved in research into their use, the selection of crew etc.


A typical nuclear submarine has a crew of over 80. Non-nuclear boats typically have fewer than half as many. The conditions on a submarine can be difficult because crew members must work in isolation for long periods of time, without family contact. Submarines normally maintain radio silence to avoid detection. Operating a submarine is dangerous, even in peacetime, and submarines have been lost in accidents.

Women as part of crew[]

Most navies prohibited women from serving on submarines, even after they had been permitted to serve on surface warships. The Royal Norwegian Navy became the first navy to allow female crew on its submarines in 1985. The Royal Danish Navy allowed for female submariners in 1988.[1] Others followed suit including the Swedish Navy (1989),[2] the Royal Australian Navy (1998) and Canadian Navy (2002). In 1995, Solveig Krey of the Royal Norwegian Navy became the first female officer to assume command on a military submarine, HNoMS Kobben.[3]

The British Royal Navy also does not permit women to serve on its submarines because of "medical concerns for the safety of the foetus and hence its mother" due to the potentially compromised air quality onboard submarines.[4]

Women have served on U.S. Navy surface ships since 1993 but do not serve on submarines. The Navy only allows three exceptions for women being on board military submarines: Female civilian technicians for a few days at most; Women midshipmen on an overnight during summer training for both Navy ROTC and Naval Academy; Family members for one-day dependent cruises.[5]

Both the U.S. and British navies operate nuclear-powered submarines which deploy for periods of six months or longer, whereas other navies which permit women on submarines operate conventionally powered submarines, which deploy for much shorter periods, usually only for one or two months.[6] No nation using nuclear submarines currently permits women to serve onboard them.[7] Removing the ban in the U.S. Navy has been put to congressional lawmakers by Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen, following a review by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus and Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead.[8]

See also[]


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