U.S. SSN-981 Swordfish class Fast Attack Submarine:

Development of the Swordfish class fast attack submarine was begun soon after the first Tigershark class submarine was laid down. Unlike the Tigershark class, the Swordfish class is far more of a “clean sheet” design. Even so, the design leveraged some of the new technology from the previous submarine class while further refining and improving the design.

Unlike the Tigershark class, the Swordfish class fast attack submarine was not designed as a multi-role submarine. Instead it was designed for the role of fast attack submarine with no provision for Marines or Navy Seals. While it was designed with both long range and cruise missile launchers, these were also considered useful in engaging surface ships.

Later the United States Navy developed a variety of new submarine class including troop transports submarines and even submersible escort carriers. The all cumulated with the huge SCVN-87 Ticonderoga class submersible carrier. Even with all of these new submarine types however, as effective as these new submarines might be, there was still a requirement for fast attack submarines.

As the Swordfish class fast attack submarine pre-dates the Greyback and Trident class submarine classes, much of the technology incorporated in those later classes was developed originally for the Swordfish class. Even much of the technology in the Francis Scott Key class ballistic missile submarine was developed for the Swordfish class. It could be argued that all of those classes owe their existence to the Swordfish class fast attack submarine.

While designed as hunter / killer submarines, the Swordfish class fast attack submarines did also operate as escorts for both other submarines and surface ships on occasion. Whenever possible, the older Tigershark class performed such roles but there were never enough to cover all commitments with regard to escort duties. Eventually the United States Navy planned to retire the older fast attack submarines and then the Swordfish class would be the only submarine design for escort duties.

Still, the officers and crews of the Swordfish class fast attack submarines hated such duties. It should be said that the officers and crews of the older Tigershark class never really like such duties either, even though they were in some ways better suited to such roles. There is something about fast attack submarine officers and crew that they don’t like to be tied down to other vessels, preferring to be the lone hunter.

Part of the reason behind the Tigershark class was to give enough time to properly develop the Swordfish class. Still, the program for these new fast attack submarines was given the highest priority. Several other programs were shelved in order to concentrate on the Swordfish class. With the potential beginning of a “New” Cold War, there was a desperate need among United States Navy circles for replacements for obsolete submarines.

As a result of the rush of construction, several submarine shipyards that had been closed were re-opened and production facilities were increased in others. Prior to this, production was shared between Groton, Connecticut and Newport News, Virginia but these yards simply could not keep up with new submarine production. Yard reactivated for submarine construction included Portsmouth Naval Yard and Mare Island Naval Yard.

By the time of the Great Cataclysm, there were a larger number of Swordfish class than all other United States Navy submarines combined and they became the largest component when the New Navy was formed. After the New Navy formed, underwater construction facilities were built to produce more of these submarines. The New Navy operates fifty-eight Swordfish class fast attack submarines divided between the New Navy’s various fleets. At the moment, construction of vessels is designed presently to keep up with losses of submarines only.

Unlike the older Tigershark class, the Swordfish class fast attack submarine is designed with a modified teardrop shaped hull, breaking with the tradition of cigar shaped hulls. This allowed for lower water resistance for both reduced hull noises as well as a greatly increased top speed. First tested on the Tigershark class, the Swordfish class is powered by a fusion reactor. Power is greatly increased over the older boat and the Swordfish has a top speed of around forty-five knots, actually faster than the old Soviet Alfa class submarine.

Because of the noise it makes, it rarely operates at such speeds however. Various measures aboard the Swordfish are designed to reduce engine and hull noises. These include the machinery being isolated from the hull, an electrical transmission system instead of geared turbines, a pump jet propulsor, and the hull being covered by advanced sound absorbing rubber tiles. At the time of its introduction, the Swordfish class was considered among the quietest submarine classes.

With regard to weaponry, the Swordfish class are armed with eight forward firing 21 inch torpedo tubes compared to four mounted on the older Tigershark class. They are mounted just forward of the main sail of the submarine and the submarine carries a total of ninety-six torpedoes. While long range and cruise missiles could be fired from the tubes, these boats almost never carry them in their launchers due to carry a large number of long range and cruise missiles carried in launchers outside the main pressure hull. For missile batteries, the Swordfish has four long range with two forward and two aft of the sail as well as four capital missile batteries with two on either side of the sail. Also forward and aft of the sail are blue-green lasers in retractable mounts.

While the sonar systems mounted on the Tigershark class were adapted from the previous later Virginia class submarines, new hull and towed array sonar systems were developed for the Swordfish class submarines. More than weapon systems, these sonar arrays make the Swordfish class fast attack submarines incredibly dangerous to their enemies. Luckily the Coalition does not appear to have been able to have gotten their hand on any of these advanced sonar systems.

Initially these submarines were equipped only with a relatively short range radar system. This was until the introduction of the Greyback and Trident class submarine classes. Both will often launch their craft while on the surface are considered extremely vulnerable to air attack under such conditions. As a result, it was decided to mount a rotating active phased array radar system in the sail of the Swordfish class in order for them to act as radar pickets. The Swordfish itself does not have to surface but just extend the radar out of the water. As an active phased array radar system, the radar can use frequency skipping to make it far harder to detect than it might otherwise be. It can be used as fire control for its long range missile batteries in order to engage missiles or aircraft. The Swordfish class is expected to perform the same role for the U.S.S. Ticonderoga when it is on the surface. It is believed that most, if not all, Swordfish class fast attack submarines have been retrofitted with this radar system.

Additional automation allows for a reduction in crew compliment compared to the previous Tigershark class submarines even though the Swordfish class is far heavier armed. Even so, the Swordfish class submarine can be considered extremely cramped. Unlike New Soviet submarine classes, the United States Navy had highly trained crews of both enlisted and officers. This tradition has continued to be followed by the New navy where their crews are far better trained than those of the Coalition Navy.

Authors Note: While Rifts: Underseas indicates that the New Navy operates only the USS Ticonderoga, Trident class Submersible Carriers, and Stingray and Sea Dragon class submarines, this writeup (and other new Navy Submarine designs) is designed to give the New Navy a larger variety of submarine classes.

In addition with respect to time line, these designs may or may not reflect our modern time line. The time line of these writeups diverged from our time line starting around 1999. Consider the universe that these designs are created for to be an alternate universe not bound by ours.

Model Type: SSN-981.

Class: Ocean, Fast Attack Submarine.

Crew: 78; 6 Officers, 8 Chief Petty Officers, and 64 Enlisted (Has a high degree of automation).

Troop Capacity: None.

Robots, Power Armors, and Vehicles:

M.D.C. by Location:


[1] Sail mounted SPX-2S Active Phased Array Radar System (sail):



533 mm (21 inch) Torpedo Tubes (8, sides / front of submarine):

150 each.


Long Range Vertical Launch Missile Batteries (4, 2 forward / 2 aft of sail):

250 each.


Cruise Vertical Launch Missile Batteries (4, 2 each side of sail):

300 each.


Retractable Blue-Green Laser Cannon Mounts (2, forward / aft of sail):

200 each.


Main Sail:



[2] Bow Planes (2):

200 each.


[3] Pump Jet Propulsor (1):



[4] Main Body:



[1] Destroying the SPX-2S rotating phased array radar panel will destroy the vessel’s main fire control systems against air target but the vessel has backup systems with a shorter range (Equal to robot vehicle sensors.) Note that the submarine does not need to surface in order to use the radar system but only the radar had to be brought above the surface.

[2] Destroying the submarine’s bow planes will reduce the submarine’s ability to change depths but will not eliminate it. It also makes it difficult for the submarine’s crew to control the submarine giving a penalty of -25% to all underwater piloting rolls.

[3] Destroying the submarine’s pump jet propulsor causes serious problems. The submarine will no longer be able to use forward momentum and the bow planes to keep the submarine level. It is recommended that ballast tanks are immediately blown so submarine comes to the surface.

[4] Depleting the M.D.C. of the main body destroys the submarine’s structural integrity, causing it to sink. If the submarine is underwater, the entire crew will die unless protected by environmental armors that can withstand the pressure that the submarine is under. If on the surface, there are enough flotation devices and inflatable life rafts to accommodate everyone aboard.


Water Surface: 35 knots (40.3 mph/64.8 kph).

Underwater: 45 knots (51.8 mph/ 83.3 kph).

Maximum Depth: 2.5 miles (4 km).

Range: Effectively Unlimited due to fusion engines (needs to refuel every 20 years and requires maintenance as well). Vessel carries 8 months of supplies for crew on board.

Statistical Data:

Height:  40 feet (12.2 meters) not including periscopes and antenna.

Width:   52 feet (15.8 meters).

Length:  370 feet (112.8 meters).

Displacement: 8,800 tons surfaced and 9,600 tons submerged.

Cargo: Submarine is very cramped, 20 tons (18.1 metric tons) of nonessential equipment and supplies. Each enlisted crew member has a small locker for personal items and uniforms. Boat’s officers have a bit more space for personal items although still extremely cramped. Most of the boat’s spaces are taken up by extra torpedoes, weapons, and engines.

Power System: Nuclear fusion; average energy life of 20 years. Normally refuels every 10 years.

Black Market Cost: Not for sale; many nations and organizations would pay hundreds of millions to billions of credits for a new and undamaged Swordfish class fast attack submarine.

Weapon Systems:

  1. Two (2) Retractable Blue Green Laser Cannon Mounts: These cannons are mounted with one in front of the main sail and one behind the main sail and fully retractable under concealing deck plates so that they do not disrupt water flow at high speeds. They are considered useful both underwater and on the surface. As a blue-green laser, they have a greater range underwater than they would otherwise. The weapon system is used mainly as close defense against torpedoes underwater and against aircraft when on the surface.

    Maximum Effective Range: In Atmosphere: 2 miles (3.2 km). Under Water: 1 mile (1.6 km).

    Mega-Damage: Each cannon inflicts 2D4x10 M.D.C. per blast.

    Rate of Fire: Each can fire four (4) attacks per melee round.

    Payload: Effectively Unlimited.

  2. Eight (8) 533 mm Heavy Torpedo Tubes: On each side of the submarine just forward of the main sail are four torpedo tubes. Tubes are 21 inches (533 mm) wide and torpedoes can be used against both surface ships and submarines. For warheads, heavy torpedoes should be treated as having long range missile warheads. Along with standard torpedoes, the launcher can also theoretically fire missiles (long or cruise) in special canisters and rocket boosted ASW torpedoes. As far as is known, missiles have never been carried aboard the Swordfish class in this manner. Submarine carries ninety-six reloads for torpedoes (in addition to eight torpedoes in the tubes) and can theoretically carry up to one hundred and ninety-two mines in place of torpedoes.

    Maximum Effective Range: 40 miles (34.8 nautical miles / 64 km) for torpedoes.

    Mega-Damage: By heavy torpedo warhead type (See revised Rifts torpedoes for details), can theoretically fire missiles (long range or cruise missiles) in special canisters as well (See revised bomb and missile tables for details.)

    Rate of Fire: Can fire heavy torpedoes one at a time or in volleys of two (2), three (3), four (4), or eight (8) heavy torpedoes. Reloading takes one full melee round.

    Payload: Eight (8) heavy torpedoes total [Has ninety-six (96) additional heavy torpedoes for reloads.]

  3. Four (4) Cruise Vertical Launch Missile Batteries: These are mounted with two on either side of the sail and are located outside of the main pressure hull. With a limited payload, they are considered extremely powerful but of limited effectiveness with long range missiles being more flexible and inflicting almost comparable damage. Cruise missiles have minuses to hit small targets although the system can engage more than one target simultaneously. Missiles can be fired while the submarine is underwater with a maximum depth of around 150 feet (45.7 meters.)

    Maximum Effective Range: As per cruise missile type (See revised bomb and missile tables for details.)

    Mega-Damage: As per cruise missile type (See revised bomb and missile tables for details.)

    Rate of Fire: Can fire cruise missiles one at a time or in volleys of two (2), three (3), or four (4) cruise missiles per melee round and can be fired at multiple target at the same time.

    Payload: Two (2) cruise missiles per launcher for eight (8) cruise missiles. Submarine does not carry any additional cruise missiles for reloads.

  4. Four (4) Long Range Vertical Launch Missile Batteries: One pair of launcher is in front of the main sail while the second pair are located behind the main sail. As with the cruise missile batteries, the long range missile batteries are located outside of the pressure hull. While developed mainly to engage surface and land targets, the system is also effective at engaging aircraft. Anti-Submarine rocket launched torpedoes also can be fired from the launchers (See revised Rifts torpedoes for details.) Designed to be able to engage one than one target at the same time. Long range missile batteries can be used on the surface or fired while the submarine is underwater with a maximum depth of around 150 feet (45.7 meters.)

    Maximum Effective Range: As per long range missile type (See revised bomb and missile tables for details.)

    Mega-Damage: As per long range missile type (See revised bomb and missile tables for details.)

    Rate of Fire: Can fire long range missiles one at a time or volleys of two (2), four (4), or eight (8) long range missiles per launcher per melee round. Maximum total between launchers is thirty-two (32) long range missiles per melee round and can be fired at multiple target at the same time.

    Payload: Thirty-two (32) long range missiles per launcher for a total of one hundred and twenty-eight (128) long range missiles.

  5. Eight (8) Advanced Decoy Drones: The submarine carries eight advance decoys drones. They are a small automated vehicles that creates a false sonar image designed to mimic the submarine’s sonar signature. It has a small propulsion system that can simulate movement [has a maximum speed of 23.0 mph (20 knots / 37.0 kph)] and maneuvers. In addition to be able to be used to decoy torpedoes, they can sometimes be used to trick another vessel while the submarine moves into position. If decoys are not destroyed, they can usually be recovered and repaired if they can be retrieved. Rifts Earth decoys systems are assumed to not be effective against Phase World / Three Galaxies guidance and targeting systems due to technological differences.

    M.D.C.: 20.

    Range: Not applicable. Decoys do however have a duration of 30 minutes (120 melee rounds) once launched.

    Effects: The decoy has an 80% chance of fooling ordinary non military sonars and non smart guided torpedoes, the decoy has a 50% chance of fooling military level sonars (like those of the Coalition) and non “smart” torpedoes, and the decoy has a 25% chance of fooling advanced military sonars (Like those of the New Navy and Triax) and “smart” torpedoes.

    Rate of Fire: Boat can launch one decoy drone per melee round.

    Payload: Eight (8) decoy drones.

  6. Noisemakers: The submarine carries noisemakers in order to decoy torpedoes. They are most effective against normal torpedoes and less effective against “smart” torpedoes. Considered in many ways to be the last line of defense against incoming torpedoes and similar systems are carried on most submarines. The noisemakers are launched from the middle of the submarine.

    Effects: 50% of decoying normal torpedoes and 20% of decoying smart torpedoes.

    Rate of Fire: Two (2) noisemakers at a time (Can be reloaded in one melee round).

    Payload: Twenty (20) noisemakers.

Special Systems:

The submarine has all systems standard on a robot vehicle plus the following special features:

[ Altarain TM, Bandito Arms TM, Brodkil TM, Chipwell Armaments TM, Coalition States TM, Cyber-Knight TM, Federation of Magic TM, Free Quebec TM, Golden Age Weaponsmiths TM, Horune TM, Iron Heart Armaments TM, Kankoran TM, Kittani TM, Kydian TM, Larsen’s Brigade TM, M.D.C. TM, Mechanoids TM, Mega-Damage TM, Megaversal Legion TM, Millennium Tree TM, Mutants in Orbit TM, Naruni Enterprises TM, Naut’Yll, New Navy TM, New Sovietskiy TM, NGR TM, Nog Heng TM, Northern Gun TM, Phase World TM, Psyscape TM, Rifter TM, SAMAS TM, S.D.C. TM, Shemarrian TM, Splugorth TM, Stormspire TM, Sunaj TM, Tolkeen TM, Triax TM, Wellington Industries TM, Wilk’s Laser Technologies TM, Xiticix TM, and Zaayr TM are trademarks owned by Kevin Siembieda and Palladium Books Inc. ]

[ Beyond the Supernatural®, Heroes Unlimited®, Nightbane®, Ninjas & Superspies®, Palladium Fantasy®, and Rifts® are registered trademarks owned by Kevin Siembieda and Palladium Books Inc. ]

Image drawn and copyrighted by Kitsune (E-Mail Kitsune). & Mischa (E-Mail Mischa).

Mischa has no art home page at present but many other items on my site.

Writeup by Kitsune (E-Mail Kitsune).

Copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, & 2017, Kitsune. All rights reserved.