By Darren Scannell

In the 1960's the United Kingdom developed and built the Oberon class submarines. At the time, they were state of the art conventional subs, despite being based on a late-WWII German hull design. They were originally fitted with two stern-facing 'short' torpedo tubes, but the advent of reliable guided torpedoes made these obsolete. The Oberon class boats provided an economical yet potent weapons system for over 30 years. The Oberons were extremely quiet and created a benchmark to which others aspired, often being undetectable in naval ASW exercises and scoring hits on the 'surface targets'.

Oberon-class submarines have been operated by several countries including the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Chile and Brazil. Most have been decommissioned, but I believe there is still one in service with Chile. There are several examples of the class on display as museums in Britain and Australia and Canada is working on putting one on display as well.

In the RN, the policy of an all nuclear submarine fleet saw the Oberons and their successors, the Upholder class, phased out by the mid 90's. The Australian boats have had electronic and weapon systems updates since they were commissioned and are were fazed out as the Collins-class become operational.

In the early- to mid- 1980's, all three Canadian boats went through SOUP (Submarine Operational Update Program) refits, which updated various systems, including the sonar and the torpedoes carried. A fourth O-boat (OLYMPUS) was later purchased from the RN, to be used as a stationary training platform, and a fifth (HMS OSIRIS) was purchased and used for spare parts. The Canadian boats are now being replaced with the ex British Upholders.

Brazil and Chile's boats also had mid life systems updates. Both countries are purchasing the German 209 type design for their Navy's.

HMS Onyx was the only non-nuclear submarine to take part in the Falklands War. She carried 20 men from the SAS and the Special Boat Squadron (SBS) in addition to her full crew. She was so crowded that she was nick-named 'The Sardine's Revenge'.

Date Commissioned
Date Commissioned
Date Commissioned
United Kingdom

Orpheus Nov 1960 Oberon Feb 1961 Odin May 1962
Olympus July 1962 Onslaught Aug 1962 Otter Aug 1962
Oracle Feb 1963 Otus Oct 1963 Osiris Jan 1964
Ocelot Jan 1964 Opossum June 1964 Opportune Dec 1964
Onyx Dec 1967


Oxley April 1967 Otway April 1968 Onslow Dec 1969
Ovens April 1969 Orion June 1977 Otama April 1978

Ojibwa Sept 1965 Onondaga June 1967 Okanagan June 1968

Humaita June 1973 Tonelero Dec 1977  Riachuelo March 1977

 O'Brien  April 1976 Hyatt Sept 1976

Displacement: 2,030 tons surfaced / 2410 tons submerged
Dimensions: Length: 295 ft (89.92 m), Beam: 26.5 ft. (8.8 m), Draught: 18.25 ft. (5.48 m)
Propulsion: 2 3,680 hp Admiralty Standard Range V16 diesels, 2 3,000 hp electric motors, 2 shafts, 6000 shp
Crew: 68
Sonar: Type 187 Active-Passive,  Type 2007 passive
Armament: Six forward 21" tubes two rear 21" "short" tubes with 24 torpedoes.
Speed surfaced: 12 knots Speed dived : 17 knots

HMS ONYX - Liverpool, UK

HMS OCELOT - Chatham, UK

HMCS OKANAGAN - Halifax, Canada
Going on patrol for the last time - Sept. 2000

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