:: SURCOUF (1929) ::

Surcouf cruiser submarine (1929) High resolution picture

The Surcouf was a French "cruiser submarine" launched in 1929, something unique on her type. Initially classsified as "underwater cruiser", she was then the largest submarine ever built, until being surpassed by the Japanese I-400 class in 1943. Since submarines had been omitted on the restrictions posed by the Washington Naval Treaty, the French Navy attempted to take advantage of this by building three "cruiser" - or "corsair" - submarines, of which the Surcouf would be the only one to be completed. She earned the distinction of "cruiser submarine" not only because of her size but also because she possessed some facilities which were common in ordinary cruisers.

There were two 203-millimeter cannons integrated in the forward part of the very low-profile sail. These weapons were fed via a magazine holding sixty rounds, and fire control was managed by a director fitted with a five-meter rangefinder, installed high enough to view the horizon 11 kilometers afar. By using the periscopes to direct the fire, the observation range could be increased to 16 kilometers afar. If necessary, for this purpose could be used as well the reconnaissance seaplane which was housed in a very tight hangar located in the rear part of the sail. The submarine carried as well a 4.5-meter long motorboat and there was a cargo space which could accommodate goods or up to 40 persons (prisoners from a corsair mission or operatives for a special mission).

But regardless of the impressive specifications of the Surcouf, she was plagued with a number of serious mechanical problems: while on surface she rolled badly in rough seas, trimming was difficult to adjust during a diving, and it would take over two minutes to descend to a depth of 12 meters, which rendered the submarine vulnerable to enemy aircraft. Eventually, the Surcouf would suffer an ill fate, when in the night of the 18th February 1942 she resulted sunk in mysterious circumstances in the Caribbean Sea, when heading towards the Panama Canal. Hypotheses are that she could have been rammed by a United States freighter and perhaps sunk by 6th Heavy Bomber Group which had mistaken her for an U-boat.

Class: Surcouf (1 unit)

Type: Cruiser submarine

Length: 110 meters

Beam: 9 meters

Draught: 7.2 meters

Displacement (surfaced): 3300 tonnes

Displacement (submerged): 4373 tonnes

Propulsion: 2 x shaft, 2 x Diesel engine Sulzer 3800 horsepower, 2 x electric motor 1700 horsepower

Speed (surfaced): 18.5 knots (34.3 kilometers/hour)

Speed (submerged): 10 knots (18.5 kilometers/hour)

Range (surfaced): 10000 nautical miles (18520 kilometers) at 10 knots

Range (submerged): 70 nautical miles (130 kilometers) at 4.5 knots

Test depth: 80 meters

Complement: 118

Armament: 4 x 550-millimeter torpedo tube (at prow), 2 x deck triple torpedo launcher (astern, with one 550-millimeter and two 400-millimeter torpedo tubes on each launcher), 14 x 550-millimeter torpedo, 8 x 400-millimeter torpedo, 2 x 203-millimeter 50-caliber cannon, 2 x 37-millimeter antiaircraft cannon, 2 x 13.2-millimeter twin machine gun, 1 x reconnaissance aircraft

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