Midget submarine

Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
, 19 October 1945

A midget submarine is any submarine under 150 tons,[1] typically operated by a crew of one or two but sometimes up to six or nine, with little or no on-board living accommodation. They normally work with mother ships, from which they are launched and recovered and which provide living accommodation for the crew and 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 would now be considered midget submarines, such as the United States Navy's USS Holland (SS-1) and the British Royal Navy's HMS Holland 1 (both named for the same designer).

Military submarines


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

Midget submarines are best known for harbor penetration, although only two World War II boats, the British

Ko-hyoteki-class submarines were originally designed to take part in decisive fleet actions. However, as circumstances changed, they were given the task of harbor penetration. Germany's various World War II designs were mostly designed to attack Allied shipping off landing beaches and harbors, 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 in the form of, for example, detachable side loads and nose sections. Alternatively they may function as

limpet mines


In civilian use, midget submarines are generally called submersibles; commercial submersibles are used in, for example, underwater maintenance, exploration, archaeology, and scientific research. Other commercially available submersibles are marketed as novelty tourist attractions and as specialised tenders for wealthy yacht owners. Also, a growing number of amateur submariners homebuild submersibles as a hobby.[2][3]

Types by nation


  • FNRS-2 pioneering research submersible


  • S.X.506 a 70-ton 5-man crew midget submarine designed by Italian shipbuilder Cosmos as a development of earlier S.X.404 by the same firm. Displacement is 58/70 t (surfaced/submerged), length is 23 m, beam is 2 m, draft is 4 m, and speed is 8.5/7 kn (surfaced/submerged). At a speed of 7 kn, range is 1200/60 nmi (surfaced/submerged). Payload includes externally attached torpedoes and swimmer delivery vehicles, and up to 8 divers can be carried in addition to the 5-man crew.[4]


  • MIR
    for research and submarine rescue


  • FNRS-4 second generation research submersible
  • Nautile research submersible to depth of 6 kilometers
  • SP-350 Denise diving saucer

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.[5][6]



Hindustan Shipyard Limited.[12]


The Indonesian Navy has shown[when?] 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.[citation needed]

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.



An Italian CB-class submarine in the Nikola Tesla Technical Museum in Zagreb, Croatia
  • Siluro a Lenta Corsa (SLC), also known as Maiale (pig), a low speed human torpedo. On 3 December 1941, Sciré departed La Spezia carrying three Maiale to conduct what became the Raid on Alexandria (1941). At the island of Leros in the Aegean Sea, six Decima Flottiglia MAS crewmen came aboard, including Lieutenant Luigi Durand de la Penne. On December 18 Sciré released the manned torpedoes 1.3 miles from Alexandria commercial harbor, and they entered the harbor when the British opened the boom defence to let three of their destroyers pass. After many difficulties, de la Penne and his crewmate Emilio Bianchi successfully attached a limpet mine under HMS Valiant, but had to surface as they attempted to leave and were captured. They refused to answer when questioned and were detained in a compartment aboard Valiant. Fifteen minutes before the explosion, de la Penne asked to speak to the Valiant's captain and informed him of the imminent explosion but refused to give other information. He was returned to the compartment and neither he or Bianchi were injured by the detonation of the mine. The other four torpedo-riders were also captured, but their mines sank Valiant, the battleship Queen Elizabeth, the Norwegian tanker Sagona and badly damaged the destroyer HMS Jervis. The two battleships sank in only a few feet of water and were subsequently re-floated. Nevertheless, they were out of action for over a year.
  • Bathyscaphe Trieste was first to explore the Challenger Deep of the Mariana Trench
  • CA type First series was a 2-man midget submarine the second series carried a crew of three.[14]
  • CB type 45 ton 4 man design first introduced in 1941[14]
  • CE2F/X100 post-war torpedo chariot
  • MG 120: MG 120 Shallow water attack submarine (SWATS) is a development of MG 110 in Pakistani service with the displacement is increased to 130 t submerged, range is 1600 nmi @ 7 kn surfaced, 60 nmi @ 4.5 kn submerged, and the number of divers carried is drastically increased to 15.[15]
  • MG 130: MG 130 is a development of MG 120 with AIP module called UAPE (Underwater Auxiliary Propulsion Engine) based on a closed circuit diesel fueled by liquid oxygen, which provides an underwater range of 400 nmi (740 km).[15]


Japanese Type A Midget Submarine recovered in 1960 off Pearl Harbor, Hawaii
DSV Shinkai
  • Type B Kō-hyōteki-class Midget Ha 45 prototype built 1942 to test Type A improvements.[18]
  • Type C Kō-hyōteki-class Midget Ha 62–76 similar to Type A with crew of 3 and range increased to 350 nautical miles (650 km) at 6 knots (11 km/h) surfaced or 120 nautical miles (220 km) at 4 knots (7.4 km/h) submerged.[18]
  • Type D Kō-hyōteki-class, also called Kōryū class (115 completed) improved Type C with crew of 5 and range increased to 1,000 miles (1,600 km) at 8 knots (15 km/h) surfaced and 320 miles (510 km) at 16 knots (30 km/h) submerged.[19]
  • Kairyū-class submarine
  • Kaiten submarine suicide torpedo.
  • DSV Shinkai research submersible, capable of diving to a depth of 6.5 kilometres (4.0 miles)

North Korea

South Korea

  • S.X.756: Developed by Italian shipbuilder Cosmos as a successor of earlier S.X.506 midget submarine in Colombian service. Length is increased to 25.2 m and beam is increased to 2.1 m in comparison to its predecessor S.X.506, and displacement is increased to 73/80 t (surfaced/submerged). Crew is increased by one to a total of 6, but the total number of divers carried remained the same at 8. Range is 1600 nmi @ 6 kn surfaced, and 60 nmi @ 4 kn submerged, and payload remains the same.[4]
  • Dolgorae class midget sub


  • MG 110 class midget submarine: Developed by Italian shipbuilder Cosmos as a successor of earlier S.X.756 midget submarine in South Korean service. MG 110 is a slightly enlarged version of S.X.756 with length increased to 27.28 m, diameter increased to 2.3 m, and displacement increased to 102/110 t (surfaced/submerged). Range is 1200 nmi surfaced, and the submerged range remain the same. Payload and crew are also identical to that of its predecessor S.X.756 midget submarine.[4]


  • Type 7103 DSRVs
  • Osprey class submersibles
  • Sea Pole class bathyscaphe
  • Dragon class bathyscaphe
  • Harmony class bathyscaphe
  • Mobile diving bell
  • QSZ-II submersible


  • Blotniak
  • Living torpedoes


  • 2 Italian Cos.Mo.S CE2F/X100 post-war torpedo chariots
  • 2 Italian Cos.Mo.S S.X.404 midget submarines: S-1 Haijiao (海蛟), S-2 Hailong (海龍), in service from October 8, 1969, to November 1, 1973. S.X.404 is a 70-ton 4-man crew submarine design by Cosmos. Four were sold to Colombia and two to Taiwan in the 1970s.[20] Displaced is 40/70 t (surfaced/submerged), speed is 11/6.5 kn (surfaced/submerged), range is 1200/60 nmi (surfaced/submerged) @ respective maximum speed. Payload included externally attached torpedoes or mines, or swimmer delivery vehicles.[4]


  • CB class, during World War II, Romania owned five midget submarines.[21]



Foca I (SA-41) and Foca II (SA-42) at Cartagena
  • Foca class submarine (design begun in 1957, entering service in 1962): A total of 2 units built, SA 41 & SA 42. Displacement is 16/20 t (surfaced/submerged), with a crew of 3, and armed with two 21 in torpedo tubes. Stricken in 1971.[24] Not to be confused with World War II era Italian Foca-class submarine.
  • Tiburón class submarine (design begun in 1958, entering service in 1964): A total of 2 units built, SA 51 & SA 52. Displacement is 78/81 t (surfaced/submerged), with a crew of 5, and armed with two 21 in torpedo tubes. Stricken in 1971.[24]



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

  • Type 200: Displacement: 200 t surfaced, length: 25 m, beam: 4.2 m, draft 3.1 m, speed: 8 kn surfaced, range: 2100 nmi @ 8 kn surfaced, endurance: 2 weeks, armament: 2 21-in torpedo tubes with a maximum of 4 torpedoes, crew: 6 + 12 divers.[27]
  • Type 300: Displacement: 300 t surfaced, length: 30 m, beam: 4.2 m, draft 3.1 m, speed: 12 kn surfaced, range: 3100 nmi @ 8 kn surfaced, endurance: 2 weeks, armament: 2 21-in torpedo tubes with a maximum of 6 torpedoes, crew: 12.[27]

United Kingdom

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 1958–early 1960s marked the end of midget submarines designed for combat in the Royal Navy.

United States

The US X-1 at sea
  • Advanced SEAL Delivery System: canceled in 2009 due to cost overruns and reliability issues, and the only sub was destroyed in a fire in 2008.[32]
  • Aluminaut: the first aluminium submarine, used to recover sunken items, including DSV Alvin and an unarmed nuclear bomb.
  • Bathyscaphe Trieste
  • DSV Alvin (DSV-2): performed thousands of dives, including one that explored the wreck of the RMS Titanic.[33]
  • Code name: GIMIK(“Gizmo #1” and “Gizmo #2”) Office of Strategic Services Project HEU covert infiltration semi-submersibles for Operation NAPKO during WWII.[34][35][36]
  • Code name: SKIFF: (#1 and #2): Central Intelligence Agency craft nearly identical in design to GIMIK.
  • Nemo (DSV-5): an acronym for Naval Experimental Manned Observatory, a test vehicle operated by the Navy from 1970 to 1986. Nemo was a spherical submersible with a transparent acrylic hull, and its primary purpose was to evaluate the utility of the panoramic vision enabled by its design. Nemo was found to be an effective observation platform, despite not being able to hover in place, and acrylic-hulled submersibles have continued to be built and operated in the US.[37]
  • Naval Undersea Museum.[38]
  • Navy SEALs to and from a mission site. It is the planned replacement for the cancelled Advanced SEAL Delivery System.[39]
  • USS X-1: an experimental US Navy midget submarine of the 1950s, used to explore how to defend harbors against attacks by very small submarines.[40]

Former Yugoslavia

See also


  1. ^ "Is the U.S. Prepared to Face Midget Subs?". 24 May 2010.
  2. ^ "Personal Submersibles project page". www.psubs.org. Retrieved 13 August 2017.
  3. ^ "More Euro-Subs ..." www.euronaut.org. Archived from the original on 13 August 2017. Retrieved 13 August 2017.
  4. ^ . Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i Helgason, Guðmundur. "Midget submarines - U-boat Types - German U-boats of WWII - Kriegsmarine". uboat.net. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
  6. ^ "German Midget submarine operations - U-boat Operations - uboat.net". uboat.net.
  7. ^ a b c d e Lenton, H.T. GERMAN WARSHIPS of the Second World War Arco Publishing (1976) pp. 285–286
  8. ^ Taylor, J.C. German Warships of World War II Doubleday & Company (1967) p. 109
  9. ^ Taylor, J.C. German Warships of World War II Doubleday & Company (1967) p.110
  10. ^ Lenton, H.T. GERMAN WARSHIPS of the Second World War Arco Publishing (1976) p.212
  11. ^ .
  12. ^ a b Datta, Sujan (26 October 2014). "'Midgets' on navy mind". The Telegraph. New Delhi. Archived from the original on April 24, 2015. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
  13. ^ "6 Made-in-India Submarines for Navy for 53,000 Crores".
  14. ^ .
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ISSN 0032-4558. Retrieved 2 October 2011. {{cite book}}: |journal= ignored (help
  17. ^ "NOAA's Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL)". Retrieved 11 November 2014.
  18. ^ a b Watts, Anthony J. Japanese Warships of World War II Doubleday & Company (1967) p.213
  19. ^ Watts, Anthony J. Japanese Warships of World War II Doubleday & Company (1967) p.216
  20. .
  21. ^ Robert Gardiner, Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1922-1946, Naval Institute Press, 1980, pp. 311 and 361
  22. .
  23. ^ "Project APL. Deepstorm.ru". Retrieved 11 November 2014.
  24. ^ a b "Spanish Foca & Tiburón midget subs". Retrieved 24 June 2013.
  25. ^ "Sea Dagger midget sub". Retrieved 11 November 2014.
  26. ^ "UVS-1300 Malen". Retrieved 12 December 2014.
  27. ^ .
  28. .
  29. .
  30. ^ Colville, Tom. "Welfreighter". Archived from the original on 2005-09-22. Retrieved 2008-06-29.
  31. Honolulu Star Advertiser
  32. .
  33. ^ McCullough, George. "GIMIK OSS Project "FEU" in World War II" (PDF).
  34. ^ Anderson, Jim; Smith, Dirk (December 2014). "GIMIK and SKIFF A tale of two semi-submersibles" (PDF). Studies in Intelligence. 58 (4): 19–29 – via Central Intelligence Agency.
  35. ^ "Gimik | Battleship Cove". Battleship Cove. Retrieved 2023-10-14.
  36. ^ Pike, John (7 July 2011). "Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicle DSRV". GlobalSecurity.org. Retrieved 4 May 2019.
  37. ^ Ryan, Mary (2011). "Rescuing Submariners: From DSRVs to the SRDRS" (PDF). Undersea Quarterly. 15 (2). Naval Undersea Museum Foundation: 1–6. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-03-25.
  38. (PDF). Subcommittee on Intelligence, Emerging Threats and Capabilities Hearing on Fiscal Year 2015 National Defense Authorization Budget Request from the U.S. Special Operations Command and Posture of the U.S. Special Operations Forces. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office. Retrieved January 23, 2019.
  39. ^ "Navy Tests First Midget Submarine As Close In Weapon". Popular Mechanics, February 1956, p. 124, bottom of page.

External links