Turbo-electric transmission

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A turbo-electric transmission uses electric generators to convert the mechanical energy of a turbine (steam or gas) into electric energy and electric motors to convert it back into mechanical energy to power the driveshafts.

The battleship USS New Mexico, launched in 1917, was the world's first turbo-electric battleship.

Turbo-electric drives are used in some rail locomotives (gas turbines, e.g. with the first TGV) and ships (steam and more recently gas turbines). An advantage of turbo-electric transmission is that it allows the adaptation of high-speed turbines to slow turning propellers or wheels without a heavy and complex gearbox. It has the advantage of being able to provide electricity for the ship or train's other electrical systems, such as lighting, computers, radar, and communications equipment. Other advantages for ships include greater watertight subdivision[1][2] and quieter operations and safety (via instant thrust reversal by changing engine direct current polarity) for submarines.[3]

Ships with turbo-electric driveEdit

USS Langley, the US Navy's first aircraft carrier, was converted in 1920–22 to be the US Navy's first turbo-electric ship.
USS Tullibee, launched in 1960, was the US Navy's first turbo-electric submarine.



Aircraft carriersEdit

Destroyer escortsEdit

Troop shipsEdit


Auxiliary shipsEdit

Coast Guard cuttersEdit

Merchant shipsEdit

Uruguay. She was launched in 1927 as California, the world's first turbo-electric ocean liner.
Normandie, launched in 1932
Canberra, launched in 1960, was the first ship with alternating current (AC) turbo-electric transmission.
RMS Queen Mary 2, launched in 2003, has gas turbines and is the world's largest turbo-electric ship.
Arauca (shown here) and her sister ship Antilla were launched in 1939. Their propulsion systems suffered significant technical failures on their maiden voyages.

Ocean linersEdit

Coastal linersEdit


  • TEV Wahine
  • TEV Rangatira – possibly the World's last steam-powered turbo-electric merchant ship; scrapped 2005
  • Union Rotorua and Union Rotoiti were both built as gas turbine ships with electric transmission. Rotoiti was subsequently re-engined to diesel.

Cruise shipsEdit

Banana boatsEdit

General cargo shipsEdit

Bulk carriersEdit

Oil tankersEdit

See alsoEdit



  1. ^ Friedman, Battleships, pp 125, 135, 189, 216
  2. ^ Friedman, Cruisers, pp 86-87, 103
  3. ^ Friedman, Submarines, pp 136, 147-149


  • Friedman, Norman (1984). U.S. Cruisers: An Illustrated Design History. Annapolis, Maryland: United States Naval Institute. ISBN 0-87021-739-9.
  • Friedman, Norman (1985). U.S. Battleships: An Illustrated Design History. Annapolis, Maryland: United States Naval Institute. ISBN 0-87021-715-1.
  • Friedman, Norman (1994). U.S. Submarines Since 1945: An Illustrated Design History. Annapolis, Maryland: United States Naval Institute. ISBN 1-55750-260-9.

External linksEdit