Japanese submarine I-54 (1926)

The Japanese submarine I-54 (伊号第五四潜水艦, I-gō Dai-gojūyonsensuikan) was a Kaidai-class cruiser submarine of the KD3A sub-class built for the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) during the 1920s. She supported Japanese forces during the invasion of Malaya in December 1941 and the Dutch East Indies campaign in early 1942.

Sister ship I-55 in harbor
Empire of Japan
Name: I-54
Builder: Sasebo Naval Arsenal
Laid down: 15 November 1924, as Submarine No. 77
Launched: 15 March 1926
Completed: 15 December 1927
Renamed: 20 May 1942, as I-154
Struck: 20 November 1945
Fate: Scuttled, 1946
General characteristics
Class and type: Kaidai-class submarine (KD3A Type)
  • 1,829 t (1,800 long tons) surfaced
  • 2,337 t (2,300 long tons) submerged
Length: 100 m (328 ft 1 in)
Beam: 8 m (26 ft 3 in)
Draft: 4.82 m (15 ft 10 in)
Installed power:
  • 6,800 bhp (5,100 kW) (diesels)
  • 1,800 hp (1,300 kW) (electric motors)
  • 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph) surfaced
  • 8 knots (15 km/h; 9.2 mph) submerged
  • 10,000 nmi (19,000 km; 12,000 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph) surfaced
  • 90 nmi (170 km; 100 mi) at 3 knots (5.6 km/h; 3.5 mph) submerged
Test depth: 60 m (200 ft)
Complement: 60


Following World War I, the Imperial Japanese Navy re-evaluated the use submarine warfare as an element of fleet strategy due to the successful deployment of long-range cruiser-submarines for commerce raiding by the major combatant navies. Japanese strategists came to realize possibilities for using the weapon for long range reconnaissance, and in a war of attrition against an enemy fleet approaching Japan.[1] Two large, long-range Japanese submarines had already been built under the Eight-six fleet program as prototype (I-51 and I-52), however, the arrival on 20 June 1919 of seven German U-boats received by Japan as war reparations at the end of World War I led to a complete re-design. The Japanese quickly hired hundreds of German submarine engineers, technicians and former U-boat officers unemployed by the defeat of Germany in World War I, and brought them to Japan under 5-year contracts. The American ONI (Office of Naval Intelligence) estimated that some 800 German advisors had gone to Japan by the end of 1920. The Japanese also sent delegations to Germany, and were active in purchasing many patents.[2]


The four Kaidai Type 3a vessels were the first mass-produced Japanese fleet submarines. Based largely on the indigenous Kaidai Type II (I-52) a strengthened double hull, their design was also influenced by the largest of the German submarines in Japanese hands, the SM U-125.[3] The hull had almost the same outer dimensions as the I-52, but the increased thickness of the inner hull permitted a diving depth of 60 meters. Internal volume was slightly increased by making the hull slightly trapezoidal in cross-section, at the expense of 300 tons of additional displacement. External differences included an anti-submarine net cutter on the bow, as well as an O-ring for towing purposes.

They displaced 1,829 metric tons (1,800 long tons) surfaced and 2,337 metric tons (2,300 long tons) submerged. The submarines were 100 meters (328 ft 1 in) long, had a beam of 8 meters (26 ft 3 in) and a draft of 4.82 meters (15 ft 10 in). The boats had a diving depth of 60 m (200 ft) and a complement of 60 officers and crewmen.[4]

Sulzer was retained as the manufacturer for the diesel engines, which had a slightly improved performance over the engines in the I-52. For surface running, the boats were powered by two 3,400-brake-horsepower (2,535 kW) diesel engines, each driving one propeller shaft. When submerged each propeller was driven by a 900-horsepower (671 kW) electric motor. They could reach 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph) on the surface and 8 knots (15 km/h; 9.2 mph) underwater. On the surface, the KD3As had a range of 10,000 nautical miles (19,000 km; 12,000 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph); submerged, they had a range of 90 nmi (170 km; 100 mi) at 3 knots (5.6 km/h; 3.5 mph).[5]

The boats were armed with eight internal 53.3 cm (21.0 in) torpedo tubes, six in the bow and two in the stern. They carried one reload for each tube; a total of 16 torpedoes. They were also armed with one 120 mm (4.7 in) deck gun for combat on the surface.[6]

Construction and career

Built by the Sasebo Naval Arsenal, I-54 was laid down as Submarine No.77 (第七十七号潜水艦, Dai-nanajunana-gō sensuikan), on 15 November 1924, but was redesignated as I-54 before the end of the year.[7] The boat was launched on 15 March 1926 and completed on 15 December 1927.[4]

Service history


I-54 was assigned to the Kure Naval District on commissioning. On 15 March 1932, she suffered from a steering failure was slightly damaged when she accidentally rammed her sister ship, I-55 off the Goto islands, damaging her bow and flooding a compartment. After repairs, she was placed on reserve status until November 1934.

She was again assigned to the reserves from 1 November 1937 to March 1938, and from 19 June 1941 to August 1941.[7]

In late November 1941, I-54 was assigned to Submarine Division 18, which also included I-153 and I-55, was a part of Submarine Squadron 4,[7] and was based at Sanya, Hainan Island, China in December in preparation for the coming conflict in the Pacific.

World War II

First war patrol

Just before the attack on Pearl Harbor, I-54 began a patrol north of Kuantan to support "Operation E", the Japanese invasion of Malaya.[7] Hostilities began in East Asia on 8 December 1941.[7] On 14 December 1941, the Dutch submarine K.XII unsuccessfully attempted to ram either I-54 or I-55 west of the Anambas islands.

Second war patrol

From 20 December, I-54 was based at Cam Ranh Bay, French Indochina. I-54 was then reassigned to patrols of the Sunda Strait in support of the Japanese invasion of the Netherlands East Indies through early-March 1942. She sank two unidentified merchant vessels south of Java on 20 February and unsuccessfully attacked an Allied tanker on 24 February. She sank another unidentified merchant vessels on 25 February, and one more on 3 March.[7] She refueled at Staring-baai in the Celebes on 8 March 1942 and was ordered back to Japanese home waters on 16 March.

At Kure

At Kure, her designation was changed to Japanese submarine I-154 (伊号第五四潜水艦, I-gō Dai-Hyaku-gojūyon sensuikan) on 20 May 1942 and she was assigned to training duties thereafter due to obsolescence. In December 1943, I-154 was repainted in a new experimental camouflage paint scheme, and participated in tests in the Seto Inland Sea in January 1944 to determine the effectiveness of the paint from both surface warships and from the air: however, the experiment was a failure.[7]

From 31 January 1944, I-154 was transferred to the reserves, and docked without a crew at Kure. She was removed from the navy list on 20 November 1945. After the surrender of Japan, I-154 was seized by Allied forces and was scuttled in the Seto Inland Sea in May 1946.[7]


  1. Peatty, pp. 212–14
  2. Boyd, pp. 17–18
  3. Stille, p. 4
  4. Carpenter & Polmar, p. 93
  5. Chesneau, p. 198
  6. Bagnasco, p. 183
  7. Hackett & Kingsepp


  • Bagnasco, Erminio (1977). Submarines of World War Two. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-962-6.
  • Boyd, Carl (2002). The Japanese Submarine Force in World War II. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-015-0.
  • Carpenter, Dorr B. & Polmar, Norman (1986). Submarines of the Imperial Japanese Navy 1904–1945. London: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-85177-396-6.
  • Chesneau, Roger, ed. (1980). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1922–1946. Greenwich, UK: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-85177-146-7.
  • Hackett, Bob & Kingsepp, Sander (2013). "IJN Submarine I-154: Tabular Record of Movement". combinedfleet.com. Retrieved 6 November 2015.
  • Evans, David C. (1997). Kaigun: Strategy, Tactics, and Technology in the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1887–1941. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-192-7.
  • Jentschura, Hansgeorg; Jung, Dieter & Mickel, Peter (1977). Warships of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 18691945. Annapolis, Maryland: United States Naval Institute. ISBN 0-87021-893-X.
  • Stille, Mark (2007). Imperial Japanese Navy Submarines 1941–45. Osprey. ISBN 1846030900.
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