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#1
Old 03-26-2010, 02:19 PM
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Submersible Battleships

Were there ever any proposals for submersible big-gun battleships? All the WWI and WWII subs I've seen only had light deck guns. Surely someone considered building a sub equipped with gun turrets that could surface, shell a target then slip away submerged.
#2
Old 03-26-2010, 02:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hypno-Toad View Post
Were there ever any proposals for submersible big-gun battleships? All the WWI and WWII subs I've seen only had light deck guns. Surely someone considered building a sub equipped with gun turrets that could surface, shell a target then slip away submerged.
Well, that's more or less how WWI subs *worked*. (And, to a lesser extent, WW2 boats). Sure, they had torpedos - but the preferred method of engaging the enemy's cargo ships was to travel within gun range, surface, and start shelling them. The deck guns were light, but they were adequate to the task of taking out merchant vessels.

As for building bigger subs with bigger deck guns - I'm sure someone must have at least considered the notion, but that would have rather defeated the point. Subs were meant to be relatively inexpensive commerce-raiders. Remember, in particular, that subs of that period were *slower* underwater than on the surface - they probably couldn't really catch much other than a cargo ship.

As sub technology advanced, I guess it's possible that they might have evolved in the direction you suggest - but the greatest advantage of subs is stealth, and so the focus was on improving weapons that subs could use without sacrificing that advantage.

Last edited by Mr. Excellent; 03-26-2010 at 02:26 PM. Reason: all glory to the Hypno-Toad!
#3
Old 03-26-2010, 02:31 PM
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And later, subs were used as hidden mobile launch platforms for nuclear ICBMs, which you could consider to be the successor to the "big gun".
#4
Old 03-26-2010, 02:39 PM
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And we have submarines that can launch non-nuclear cruise missiles, making them useful for engaging surface ships out of torpedo range.
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Old 03-26-2010, 03:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hypno-Toad View Post
Were there ever any proposals for submersible big-gun battleships? All the WWI and WWII subs I've seen only had light deck guns. Surely someone considered building a sub equipped with gun turrets that could surface, shell a target then slip away submerged.
They did at the end of WW1. The Monitor class. The M1 had a single big gun and was involved in a collision in the English Channel which tore the gun emplacement off and sank the sub.
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Old 03-26-2010, 03:05 PM
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There's no problem making a battleship submersible.

Making it come back up after you submerge it - that can be a problem.
#7
Old 03-26-2010, 03:08 PM
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The Surcouf had a pair of 10" guns in a twin turret. That's not quite a battleship but certainly bigger than the usual submarine's armament.

[ETA] Bah! 8" guns. Stupid metric to english conversion brain.

Last edited by RadioWave; 03-26-2010 at 03:10 PM.
#8
Old 03-26-2010, 03:11 PM
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How's the work on super-cavitation torpedoes and subs going? Is it working, or hype? Is it going to turn subs into underwater battleships and fighters?
#9
Old 03-26-2010, 03:13 PM
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Okay, seriously, it would have been a huge engineering problem. An WWII-era Iowa-class battleship had a loaded displacement of 57,540 tons. The largest WWII-era submarines had a displacement of around 5000 tons; most were under 3000 tons. So you would have been trying a build a submarine that was a ten or fifteen times increase in size - a huge leap.

Last edited by Little Nemo; 03-26-2010 at 03:13 PM.
#10
Old 03-26-2010, 03:19 PM
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Yeah, but the Surcouf and M1 were the kind of thing that I was really thinking of.
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#11
Old 03-26-2010, 04:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RadioWave View Post
The Surcouf had a pair of 10" guns in a twin turret.
Thanks for this link - a very interesting story.
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Old 03-26-2010, 09:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Hypno-Toad View Post
Yeah, but the Surcouf and M1 were the kind of thing that I was really thinking of.
And for another wiki-link, HMS X1, which survived to be scrapped.
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Old 03-27-2010, 09:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Pushkin View Post
And for another wiki-link, HMS X1, which survived to be scrapped.
Interesting!
#14
Old 03-27-2010, 08:58 PM
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Other than Surcouf and M1, 6" was about the upper limit for submarine gun caliber. I believe a few WWI U-boats mounted one or two 150mm guns, and the US "V-boats" mounted two 6" guns.
#15
Old 03-28-2010, 05:08 PM
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The K-class boats, of which the M-class were a development, had two 4-inch guns and a 3-inch. The class had an infamous safety record and six were lost in various accidents, one of which, K-13, eerily presaged the Thetis disaster twenty-one years later.
#16
Old 03-29-2010, 05:32 PM
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A rather good science fiction treatment is John Barnes's Patton's Spaceship, in which an Axis victory in WWII was followed by a Resistance whose main land holdings were Southeast Asia, and which had converted the Arizona to a full-fledged submersible battleship, among other bizarre-but-fascinating developments. (I was particularly amused by the friendship between Gens. Patton and Giap.)
#17
Old 03-29-2010, 06:41 PM
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The M1 article pretty much went where I expected.

"Although the gun had a 20 mi (32 km) range, it was normally fired using a simple bead sight at periscope depth with only the barrel above the water. It was important for the submarine's gun to sink or disable the target with the first shot, because the gun could only be loaded on the surface."

Led me to think - "but what about the water already in the barrel?", which led to;

"In 1923, water leaking into the barrel of the gun resulted in extensive damage to the muzzle when it was fired."
#18
Old 03-29-2010, 06:54 PM
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That's what I was wondering...how much damage to a gun barrel occurs due to constant submersion in saltwater? Presumably you could rig an airtight plug for the end of the barrel so it wouldn't get inside it, but the outside?
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Old 03-29-2010, 07:51 PM
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Originally Posted by Mk VII View Post
The K-class boats, of which the M-class were a development, had two 4-inch guns and a 3-inch. The class had an infamous safety record
A dubious war for the class indeed, best summed up in the Battle Of May Island
#20
Old 03-29-2010, 09:31 PM
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US Navy, prior to WWII, Argonaut and Nautilus (or maybe Narwal) were originally designed as "submarine cruisers", with dual 4" guns. The idea didn't work out. They were actually USED as submirsible cargo or troop transport vessels. I'm just going by memory, here. Someone's going to get on Google and tell me I'm wrong. Likely they will be correct, and I'll be full of excrement.
#21
Old 03-29-2010, 11:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Cheshire Human View Post
US Navy, prior to WWII, Argonaut and Nautilus (or maybe Narwal) were originally designed as "submarine cruisers", with dual 4" guns. The idea didn't work out. They were actually USED as submirsible cargo or troop transport vessels. I'm just going by memory, here. Someone's going to get on Google and tell me I'm wrong. Likely they will be correct, and I'll be full of excrement.
USS Argonaut was a minelaying submarine, though she had 2 6" guns.

Narwal and Nautilus were the ones you were thinking about.
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Old 03-30-2010, 12:03 AM
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The Japanese in WWII also had subs that carried small aircraft in airtight deck hangars: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B1_type_submarine
#23
Old 03-30-2010, 01:22 AM
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Originally Posted by audit1 View Post
USS Argonaut was a minelaying submarine, though she had 2 6" guns.

Narwal and Nautilus were the ones you were thinking about.
Yes, now that you mention it, that sounds better. See, I said I was probably full of it
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