Midget submarine

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Some 80 Japanese Type D ("Koryu") Midget Submarines in a drydock at Kure, October 19, 1945

A midget submarine is any submarine under 150 tons[1] typically operated by a crew of one or two but sometimes up to 6 or 8, with little or no on-board living accommodation. Midget submarines normally work with mother ships, from which they are launched and recovered, and which provide living accommodation for the crew and other support staff.

Both military and civilian midget submarines have been built. Military types work with surface ships and other submarines as mother ships. Civilian and non-combatant military types are generally called submersibles, and normally work with surface ships.

Most early submarines, such as the United States Navy's Holland and the British Royal Navy's Holland 1, would now be considered midget submarines.

Military submarines[edit]


Crew of a British X class midget submarine, part of the British Pacific Submarine Fleet.

The best known role for midget submarines is probably harbor penetration, although only two World War II boats, the British X-craft and the unsuccessful Welman submarine were specifically designed with this in mind. Japan's Ko-hyoteki class submarines were originally designed to take part in decisive fleet actions. However, as circumstances changed, they ended up tasked with harbour penetration. Germany’s various World War II designs were mostly designed to attack Allied shipping off landing beaches and harbours, although the Seehund had a great enough range to attack shipping off the Thames estuary.

Midget submarines have also seen some use in support roles. X-craft were used for reconnaissance, and the Seehund was used to carry supplies. A number of modern midget submarines have also been built for submarine rescue.


Midget submarines are commonly armed with torpedoes and mines. Alternatively, they may carry timed explosive charges.

Types by nation[edit]


China, People's Republic[edit]

Republic of China (Taiwan)[edit]




France also acquired a number of German midget submarines at the end of WW2.


German midget submarine Seehund, with a torpedo

Most German midget submarines were developed late in World War II in an attempt to stop the Allied invasion of Europe and used later to disrupt its supply lines. As a result, the submarines mostly engaged in open water attacks rather than harbour penetration.[14]


The Indonesian Navy has shown some interest in having a new Midget Class submarine, built by local shipyards, for coastal rather than open water patrol. The submarine was designed a number of years ago by a retired Indonesian Navy submariner officer, Colonel (Ret) Ir. R. Dradjat Budiyanto, Msc. The midget experiment project involves the construction of a submarine, designated MIDGET IM X −1, which will weigh about 150 – 250 tonnes, with a tubular frame design 24 – 30 meters long, and four torpedo tubes. The submarines will have minimum of 8 – 10 crew members including officers. They will have a 40 km range non-hull-penetrating optronic mast as the attack periscope, and a 20 km range navigation periscope.

Indonesian defence minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro has backed the project. Construction should commence at the Indonesian PT.PAL INDONESIA shipyard by late 2011, and will take about three or four years to complete. If this schedule is met, the Indonesian Navy expects to be commissioning the first Midget Class submarine in 2014.



An Italian CB class submarine


Japanese Type A Midget Submarine recovered in 1960 off Pearl Harbor, HI.

North Korea[edit]

North Korea's Sang-O-class submarine

South Korea[edit]






Foca I (SA-41) and Foca II (SA-42) at Cartagena



Turkish navy has evaluated two midget submarine designs from German firm ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems, Type 200 and Type 300 classes:

United Kingdom[edit]

X24 a British X class submarine on display at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum

The Royal Navy has used a number of midget submarines. Most were developed during the Second World War. The decommissioning of the Stickleback class marked the end of midget submarines designed for combat in the Royal Navy.

United States[edit]

The US X-1 at sea


See also[edit]


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  17. ^ Taylor, J.C. German Warships of World War II Doubleday & Company (1967) p.110
  18. ^ Lenton, H.T. GERMAN WARSHIPS of the Second World War Arco Publishing (1976) p.212
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  21. ^ a b "By sea & stealth: maritime special forces tend to arrive in hostile territory by sea and by stealth, but where once they would be delivered by rubber dinghies from a submarine now they are using Special Delivery Vehicles (SDV) and even midget submarines.". Retrieved December 1, 2005. 
  22. ^ Hearst Magazines (May 1942). "Jap Sub Had Guard to Cut Net in Harbor". Popular Mechanics. Hearst Magazines. pp. 71–. ISSN 0032-4558. Retrieved 2 October 2011. 
  23. ^ "NOAA's Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL)". Retrieved 11 November 2014. 
  24. ^ a b Watts, Anthony J. Japanese Warships of World War II Doubleday & Company (1967) p.213
  25. ^ Watts, Anthony J. Japanese Warships of World War II Doubleday & Company (1967) p.216
  26. ^ 10 lucruri de ştiut despre ... Submarinele româneşti. Historia.ro. (in Romanian)
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