Submersible Aircraft Carriers


  • Liaison TripleA '11 '10

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I-400_class_submarine

    Too Cool.

    Thoughts?  Discussion?  We could have a VS line-up, but the Japanese would surely win!


  • 2020 2019 2018 2017 '16 '15 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    France fooled around with a similar concept when it built the submarine Surcouf (N N 3).


  • 2019 2018 2017 '16

    They could have really brought the war to americas doorsteps…They were allready equiped with a snorkel.
    Of course imagine that those types of submarines would have stayed in service, their meassurements would be gigantic, holding even more wartools ready for launch…


  • '15 Official Q&A '11 '10 Moderator

    Interesting.  Although at 3 aircraft, I’m not sure how much they could do….


  • 2020 2019 2018 2017 '16 '15 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    The concept of building a ship that combines features of a submarine, a cruiser and an aircraft carrier reminds me of the scene in the Charlie Chaplin movie The Great Dictator in which the Mussolini character asks the Hitler character, “Haven’t you heard of the new amphibious tanks that can roll on land, swim in the water and fly throught the air?” The Hitler character turns helplessly towards the Goebbels character, who answers dismissvely, “Oh, those.  They’ve been made obsolete by our new flying battleships.”



  • Had the Japanese placed any thought into attacking Allied shipping, the I-400 would have been the perfect weapon. Such a weapon could have made the West Coast a target.


  • '15 Official Q&A '11 '10 Moderator

    That’s a great point.  Before you said that, I was only thinking in terms of attacking the West Coast with them directly.  Obviously I didn’t put that much thought into it….


  • Liaison TripleA '11 '10

    If you read about it, and the plan for the planes.  The target was the Panama Canal - and taking it out of commission for months.

    If done at the beginning of the war… that would have hurt.


  • 2020 2019 2018 2017 '16 '15 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    @Gargantua:

    If you read about it, and the plan for the planes.  The target was the Panama Canal - and taking it out of commission for months.
    If done at the beginning of the war… that would have hurt.

    The following Humprey Bogart film…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Across_the_pacific

    …depicts a Japanese plan to do this.  The movie has its silly moments, and the plot has a number of holes in it, but it’s quite entertaining.



  • You should try to get your hands on I-Boat Captain then. Gives details on the 1-400 class and kaitens.



  • When I first read about the I-400, the first thing that sprung to mind was the idea of a second Pearl Harbor.  A chance for Japan to take out several carriers in a surprise attack.  If they had 10 of these with 30 aircraft and hit Pearl or any location with several carriers docked, they might have caused some serious setbacks.  Certainly damaging the Panama Canal would be strategically useful, especially if the Pacific Fleet had been destroyed.

    What was always overlooked when discussing how the US had such massive industrial capability was how Japan was never going to be able to strike at it.  The war was always going to hinge on Japans ability to keep the US bottled up to the West Coast.  Though there was an interesting line in the movie “Pearl Harbor” where it was suggested Japan could invade the United States and push as far as the Mississippi (might have been Chicago) before the US could stop them, which is intriguing.  I just can’t picture it happening.  The I-400 might have allowed Japan the capability to hit some targets in the United States.


  • Liaison TripleA '11 '10

    If you read about the history of the Interstate.  It was actually built as a DEFENSE system.

    Eisenhower was part of the design.  I remember reading studies, where the US military in the post WWI era, calculated it could take MONTHS to move troops from say NY to San Fran, and that infrastructure Desperately needed to improve.



  • @Epiphany:

    When I first read about the I-400, the first thing that sprung to mind was the idea of a second Pearl Harbor. A chance for Japan to take out several carriers in a surprise attack. If they had 10 of these with 30 aircraft and hit Pearl or any location with several carriers docked, they might have caused some serious setbacks. Certainly damaging the Panama Canal would be strategically useful, especially if the Pacific Fleet had been destroyed.

    What was always overlooked when discussing how the US had such massive industrial capability was how Japan was never going to be able to strike at it. The war was always going to hinge on Japans ability to keep the US bottled up to the West Coast. Though there was an interesting line in the movie “Pearl Harbor” where it was suggested Japan could invade the United States and push as far as the Mississippi (might have been Chicago) before the US could stop them, which is intriguing. I just can’t picture it happening. The I-400 might have allowed Japan the capability to hit some targets in the United States.

    You’ve raised some good points. The idea of a second Pearl Harbor–directed against the U.S.‘s carrier fleet–is an intriguing one. However, there is the chance that the Americans’ radar would have allowed early detection of the incoming planes, or even the subs themselves. To avoid the latter, the Japanese could have coated their subs in rubber, much like the Germans had done with some highly advanced submarines being built at the end of the war. Had the anti-radar rubber coating prevented detection of the subs themselves, and had they launched their air attack while relatively near the American carriers, it’s quite possible the U.S. wouldn’t have had time to scramble planes before the carriers were hit. A second group of rubber-coated Japanese submarines could have arrived from a different direction, to fire torpedoes into anything crippled by the air attack. (All of this assumes night attacks, using radar technology transferred from Germany.)

    Like you, I can’t picture the Japanese successfully invading a significant portion of North America. Even the D-Day invasion required an enormous buildup, and large-scale shipping capacity. Japan had to travel a much larger distance, which would have meant more transports would have been required. Japan didn’t have that kind of transport capacity at any point in the war; and the U.S. Army was soon strong enough to fend off any attack Japan might have launched.

    You are correct to say that this carrier sub would have allowed Japan to hit some targets in the U.S. They would have been able to do little or nothing against American factories, oil refineries, or the other usual targets of strategic bombing raids. Instead, the subs’ likely targets might have included bridges, dams, locks on canals. Because the physical damage these bombers could have done would have been very small, the objective would be to choose small, easily destroyed targets. In addition, the targets should be such that their loss would seriously disrupt the American production and war effort. The damage this would do would not be comparable to a normal strategic bombing effort. But at least it would do something, and would also force the U.S. to allocate a portion of its air force to defend the West Coast. If Germany or Japan began doing the same thing to the East Coast, even more of the U.S. air force would be tied down. While these measures, alone, wouldn’t have been enough to create an Axis victory, they would have represented a step in an Axis-favorable direction.



  • What I never understood was why this idea was dropped. With modern vertical take off and landing technology this could become a very powerful weapon. A carrier type weapon that can sneak right up to an enemy coast before unleashing its payload, and catch enemy air defenses, or air forces, napping on the ground.


  • Liaison TripleA '11 '10

    That’s what Nuclear Missle Subs are for.

    Why bother launching aircraft, when you can unload nuclear warheads.



  • @Gargantua:

    Why bother launching aircraft, when you can unload nuclear warheads.

    Because you don’t want to start a Nuclear war? Or because maybe that would be over-kill if you were say, just trying to take down the Syrian air force clandestinely, showing up and nuking the place might just be a bit too much


  • 2020 2019 2018 2017 '16 '15 '14 Customizer '13 '12 '11 '10

    @Clyde85:

    What I never understood was why this idea was dropped. With modern vertical take off and landing technology this could become a very powerful weapon. A carrier type weapon that can sneak right up to an enemy coast before unleashing its payload, and catch enemy air defenses, or air forces, napping on the ground.

    Aircraft require a lot of space: the planes themselves, plus storage tanks to hold the prodigious quantities of aviation fuel that jets consume, plus ammunition stores, plus spare parts, plus maintenance areas – plus all the specialized personnel who fly and support the planes.  It’s one of the reasons aircraft carriers are so big.  It would be asking a lot to provide enough space aboard a sub to hold and support just one modern jet – let alone a whole squadron.  Modern subs – especially ballistic missile subs – can be quite large when seen from the outside, but they have very little room to spare inside the pressure hull, given what has to be allocated to the crew and to essential machinery.



  • From a mere terror standpoint, the I-400 might have worked to make American’s a little more frightened and on edge.  Japanese citizens certainly weren’t thrilled when Doolittle hit Tokyo.  It isn’t always the amount of physical damage you cause; psychology can play a vital factor in war too.  America felt invincible having not really tasted the war.  Our reaction to being hit at Pearl would not have been the same to the Japanese knocking down the Empire State Building or the hitting the White House.  Imagine those happening immediately after the Doolittle Raid.

    I agree with Kurt that if the Japanese had specifically targeted things they knew they could destroy or that would seriously disrupt the war effort; such as bombing ball bearing factories or factories that produce batteries.  If you can hit the right targets, suddenly you have real disruption.  The I-400 could have afforded Japan some small measure of viable capability.  Small in the sense that it wouldn’t win the war, but I think it would have definitely been worth the investment for the capability alone.


  • 2019 2018 2017 '16

    good points you raised Epiphany , what comes to my mind thinking about it is,  “Unternehmen Greif” 1944 BOTB.
    The plan was causing confusion in the rear of the Allied lines and to force the Enemy to give out wrong Orders. And that was almost exactly what happend. It was getting that far that American Soldiers distrusted their own men and in some cases even killed own people in the confusions.

    Imaging small bombing raids combiend with dropped off Japanese soldiers causing confusions like that on several points in the U.S.
    Like you said:
    @Epiphany:

    From a mere terror standpoint, the I-400 might have worked to make American’s a little more frightened and on edge.  Japanese citizens certainly weren’t thrilled when Doolittle hit Tokyo.  It isn’t always the amount of physical damage you cause; psychology can play a vital factor in war too.  America felt invincible having not really tasted the war.  Our reaction to being hit at Pearl would not have been the same to the Japanese knocking down the Empire State Building or the hitting the White House.  Imagine those happening immediately after the Doolittle Raid.

    I agree with Kurt that if the Japanese had specifically targeted things they knew they could destroy or that would seriously disrupt the war effort; such as bombing ball bearing factories or factories that produce batteries.  If you can hit the right targets, suddenly you have real disruption.  The I-400 could have afforded Japan some small measure of viable capability.  Small in the sense that it wouldn’t win the war, but I think it would have definitely been worth the investment for the capability alone.

    A war brought to the doorsteps of America would be a Horroable thing…Pearl Harbor was still a little bit to far away…


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