The first French post-World War II submarines were the 1,630 ton Narval class, the design of which was based on captured Type XXI German U-Boats.  These large submarines were followed by the much smaller 400 ton Arethusa class, which were designed to by sub hunter-killers.   In 1952, a request for a 700-750 ton submarine design was sent to the Service Technique des Constructions Navales (STCAN).  Other requirements included low radiated noise levels, good maneuverability, small crew, ease of maintenance and a deep diving capability. There were to be at least six torpedo tubes (of which two had to be stern tubes for anti-submarine torpedoes).   The Daphne class was the end result of this design request and construction of the first three (Daphne, Diane & Doris) commenced in 1958. In total, 11 Daphne class subs entered service between June 1964 and March 1970.  They were fitted with DUUA-1B active/passive sonar housed in the original humped bow.  They had eight internal torpedo tubes in the bow arranged in two vertical rows of four, plus four external stern tubes. Due to the compact design torpedo reloads were eliminated to economize on space.   In 1968, the Minerve was lost with all hands off of Cape Sicié and in 1970 Eurydice was lost with all hands off of St. Tropez.   The losses were deemed accidental and though the exact causes were never determined it is believed that a faulty snorkel design was to blame. In late 60s/early 70s the remaining submarines in service went through majors refits and the sonar was upgraded the new DUUA-2B which was housed in a prominent dome.  As a result of the new “igloo”, the silhouette was distinctively changed.   A later electronics upgrade added a hump to the bow stem.

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All of the remaining 9 submarines in French service were eventually decommissioned beginning with Diane in 1987 and ending with Sirene in 1997.   The submarines were either sunk as targets or scrapped with the exception of Flore which is currently at a submarine base in Lorient with plans to transform her into a museum. The Daphne class has also been highly successful as an export design.  Ten were built in French yards with four sold to Portugal, three sold to Pakistan and three to South Africa.  Spain built four in the Spanish yards with French technical assistance. Portugal sold one of its subs to Pakistan.  The Pakistani Hangor was the only Daphne class sub to actually participate in combat, sinking the Indian frigate Khukri during the 1971 Indo-Pak war.   Only the Portuguese submarine Barracuda remains in active service.  The Spanish Delfín is a museum in Torrevieja.

Daphne Class Specifications

Length

189.6 ft / 57.8 m

Beam

22.3 ft / 6.8 m

Draught

15.1 ft / 4.6 m

Displacement surfaced / dived (tons)

860 /1,038

Diving depth

984.3 ft / 300 m

Maximum speed dived/surfaced

16 knots / 13.5 knots

Range / Endurance

4,500 nm / 30 days

Armament

Torpedoes: 12 – 21.7 in (550 mm) 8 bow, 4 external stern tubes

Surface Search Radar

Thomson-CSF DRUA 31

Sonars

Thomson-Sintra DSUV 2

DUUA 2B

DUUX 2

Sources: Jane’s Warship Recognition Guide, 2nd Edition
Net Marine Website (
http://www.netmarine.net/eng/index.htm)
Global Security Website (
http://www.globalsecurity.org/)

Building the Kit -I am not going to cover the kit parts and box contents as this was already done by Falk Pletschser (http://www.steelnavy.com/L'ArsenalDaphneFPletscher.htm).  I would like to add that Heller once produced a 1/400 scale kit of this class of submarine but it has been long out of production and quite hard to find.  This kit is definitely not a resin copy of the old Heller offering but a new kit with much better detail.  One similarity is that the Heller kit did also provide the option for the as fitted or first refit bows but not the final refit version. I chose to build the model as the Venus as she appeared in the early 1970s after her first major refit.  I wanted to build the model using the second nose section with the “igloo” and also use the pennant number and ship name decals to add a little bit of color to the overall black paint scheme. It isn’t that clear in the images of the hull and nose parts in Falk’s inbox review but the hull has a tab protrusion that fits into a slot of the nose you decide to use.  This helps line the two parts up and provides some stability when you glue them together.  There was a little bit of a seam that I was able to fill in using Tamiya putty and some sanding.   I used a micro-drill to open up the holes in the nose for the forward dive plains.  The aft fixed planes fit neatly into their slots. The trickiest part with this build is the integrated aft diving plane and prop shaft assembly.  This requires sandwiching a propeller between an aft diving plane and a v-strut.  Then you attach the v-shaped brace connecting the plane to the strut.  Next you attach this assembly to the hull.  The last piece of the puzzle is the shaft.  You cut a piece of the brass rod provided down to size and glue into place between the v-strut and the fixed plane.  Repeat this process for the other side.  Since most of the parts for this subassembly are delicately cast small resin pieces, careful handling is required.

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The kit comes with resin antennas, snorkel and periscopes which are also delicate and require care when removing them from the casting block. I used Tamiya NATO Black which is a very dark gray that is more like an off-black for the overall hull color.  I used Testors Model Masters Brass for the propellers and WEM Colourcoats French Navy Gray for the antennas, snorkel and periscopes.   The decals went on great and responded well to Microscale Micro-Set solvent.  I first brushed on Tamiya Clear Gloss to the sail and let that dry before I applied the decals. Daphne class subs had some simple rigging for which I used .005 inch steel wire dipped in Blacken-It.  Some of the rigging had insulators which I simulated using drops of white glue.  The last touch was a French flag from the Gold Medal Models decal set on a wire flagstaff. This model makes a nice addition to my fleet of 1/400 scale French warships.  It is a relatively simple build though not as simple as the Agosta class kit thanks to the more complex propeller/plane configuration and attaching the bow nose of your choice.   I hope that more post WW2 Marine Nationale subs will be offered by L’Arsenal in the future.

Felix Bustelo

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