Atlas Editions ATL7169112 French Marine Nationale Corsair-Class Submarine - Surcouf, France, 1943 (1:350 Scale)
"Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead!"
- Admiral Farragut sailing aboard his flagsphip Hartford while entering Mobile Bay, Alabama, August 23, 1864
Surcouf was a French submarine ordered to be built in December 1927, launched on October 18th, 1929, and commissioned in May 1934. Surcouf - named after the French privateer Robert Surcouf - was the largest submarine ever built until surpassed by the first Japanese I-400-class submarine in 1943. Her short wartime career was marked with controversy and conspiracy theories. She was classified as an "undersea cruiser" by sources of her time.
The Washington Naval Treaty had placed strict limits on naval construction by the major naval powers, but submarines had been omitted. The French Navy attempted to take advantage of this by building three "corsair submarines", of which Surcouf was the only one to have been completed.
Surcouf was designed as an "underwater cruiser", intended to seek and engage in surface combat. For reconnaissance, she carried a Besson MB.411 observation floatplane in a hangar built abaft of the conning tower; for combat, she was armed with six 550 mm (22 in) and four 400 mm (16 in) torpedo tubes and twin 203 mm (8 in) guns in a pressure-tight turret forward of the conning tower. The guns were fed from a magazine holding 60 rounds and controlled by a director with a 5 m (16 ft) rangefinder, mounted high enough to view a 11 km (5.9 nmi; 6.8 mi) horizon, and able to fire within three minutes after surfacing. Using her periscopes to direct the fire of her main guns, Surcouf could increase this range to 16 km (8.6 nmi; 9.9 mi); originally an elevating platform was supposed to lift lookouts 15 m (49 ft) high, but this design was abandoned quickly due to the effect of roll. In theory, the Besson observation plane could be used to direct fire out to the guns' 24 mi (21 nmi; 39 km) maximum range. Anti-aircraft cannon and machine guns were mounted on the top of the hangar.
Surcouf also carried a 4.5 m (14 ft 9 in) motorboat, and contained a cargo compartment with fittings to restrain 40 prisoners. The submarine's fuel tanks were very large; enough fuel for a 10,000 nmi (19,000 km; 12,000 mi) range and supplies for 90-day patrols could be carried.
Although she had her impressive specification, Surcouf proved to be plagued by mechanical problems: her trim was difficult to adjust during a dive, on the surface she rolled badly in rough seas, and she took over two minutes to dive to a depth of 12 m (39 ft), making her vulnerable to aircraft.
Pictured here is a 1:350 scale replica of the French Corsair-Class Submarine, Surcouf, moored in France, during 1943.
Now in stock!
Release Date: September 2015
Historical Account: "Silent Service" - The submarine has a long history in the USN. There were various projects in the 1800s, such as the USS Alligator. However, it began in earnest in the late 19th century, with the building of the SS-1, USS Holland. The boat was in service for 10 years and was a developmental and trials vessel for many systems on other early submarines.
The submarine really came of age in World War I. The USN did not have a large part in this war, with its action mainly being confined to escorting convoys later in the war and sending a division of battleships to reinforce the British Grand Fleet.
However, there were those in the USN submarine service who saw what the Germans had done with their U-boats and took careful note.
Doctrine in the inter-war years emphasized the submarine as a scout for the battle fleet, and also extreme caution in command. Both these axioms were proven wrong after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. The submarine skippers of the fleet boats of World War II waged a very effective campaign against Japanese merchant vessels, doing to Japan what Germany did to the United Kingdom. They were aggressive and effective, and operated far from the fleet.
In addition to their commerce raiding role, submarines also proved valuable in air-sea rescue. There was many an American aircraft carrier pilot who owed his life to the valor of USN submarine crews, including former U.S. President George H. W. Bush.