November 14, 2009


One of the Japanese craft, the I-201, was capable of speeds of about 20 knots while submerged, making it among the fastest diesel submarines ever made. Like other Japanese subs, it had a rubberized coating on the hull, an innovation intended to make it less apparent to sonar or radar.

The other, the I-14, was much larger and slower and designed to carry two small planes, Aichi M6A Seirans. The aircraft, which had folding wings and tails and could carry a torpedo or 1,800-pound bomb, were housed in watertight hangars inside the submarine. They could be brought onto the deck and launched by a catapult.

I had no idea that the Japanese had subs this advanced — though these didn’t manage to do any damage before being sunk. More background here. And this article says the planes were intended to launch germ warfare attacks. That’s a plausible role for small-plane attacks on big cities, and the Japanese, of course, had an extensive biowar research program. Another reason to be glad the war ended when it did. . . .

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