When World War One ended the United States Navy was in the midst of a huge expansion. With another naval building race budding among the United States, Japan and Great Britain, the Washington Naval Limitations Conference was convened in one of the first examples of arms reductions talks. The resultant Washington Treaty of 1922 limited the major naval powers in all categories of naval construction. Not only was construction of the old measure of naval power, the battleship, restricted but a new type, the aircraft carrier was also limited. Not only was major warship construction limited but also that of small combatants. Destroyers and submarines were also limited. In both of these smaller categories, the huge USN building program of World War One imposed a ball and chain in new construction of these types. With hundreds of flush deck four stack destroyers built as a result of the war, no new USN destroyer design was forthcoming for a decade. In almost the same status was the USN submarine fleet.

With the R class and especially the large number of boats of the S class finished right after the War, submarine development was curtailed. Although not as deeply constrained as destroyer development, US submarine development through the 1920s and early 1930s was limited to a series of experimental designs. Each class was built in very small numbers or most often a solitary example. The Barracuda class of three boats of 1921 started an infatuation with large submarine designs by the USN. Two very large submarine designs followed with the Argonaut of 1925 and Narwal of 1927. The next example was another one off design, the USS Dolphin of 1930, which unsuccessfully attempted to incorporate big boat features into a hull half the size of the big boats. In 1931 the USN developed another design 400 tons smaller than the Dolphin, this was the two boat Cachalot class.

The Cachalot class comprised Cachalot SS 170 and Cuttlefish SS 171. Built between 1931 and 1933 this class used new construction techniques for the first time in USN boats. Welding was used throughout the construction, which reduced displacement and increased strength of these boats. All future American boats used welding introduced by the Cachalot construction. Unlike earlier experiments, that used unconventional types of propulsion arrangements, the Cachalot reverted to a conventional propulsion arrangement with the motors connected directly to the two propeller shafts.

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Built by Electric Boat of Groton, Connecticut at Portsmouth Navy Yard, the Cachalot displaced 1,170 tons surfaced with Cuttlefish displacing 1,210 tons surfaced (1,650 tons submerged). Cahalot was almost 272 feet in length with Cuttlefish slightly longer at 274 feet. Machinery consisted of two General Motors diesel engines for surface sailing (3,100ihp, 17 knots maximum) and two Electro/Dynamic Westinghouse electric motors for submerged propulsion (1,600ihp, 8 knots maximum). Range was 9,000nm at 12 knots on the surface with a very limited 10nm at 8 knots submerged. Armament was six 21-inch (533mm) torpedoes, four forward and two aft. Deck guns were one three-inch/40 (76mm) deck gun and four 0.30 machine guns, subsequently replaced by two 20mm/70 cannons. In 1938 the boats went into the yard for modernization, which changed the said design and added more powerful machinery.

Built by Electric Boat of Groton, Connecticut at Portsmouth Navy Yard, the Cachalot displaced 1,170 tons surfaced with Cuttlefish displacing 1,210 tons surfaced (1,650 tons submerged). Cahalot was almost 272 feet in length with Cuttlefish slightly longer at 274 feet. Machinery consisted of two General Motors diesel engines for surface sailing (3,100ihp, 17 knots maximum) and two Electro/Dynamic Westinghouse electric motors for submerged propulsion (1,600ihp, 8 knots maximum). Range was 9,000nm at 12 knots on the surface with a very limited 10nm at 8 knots submerged. Armament was six 21-inch (533mm) torpedoes, four forward and two aft. Deck guns were one three-inch/40 (76mm) deck gun and four 0.30 machine guns, subsequently replaced by two 20mm/70 cannons. In 1938 the boats went into the yard for modernization, which changed the said design and added more powerful machinery.

Loose Cannon Cacalot Class
In keeping with their tradition of producing the unusual and overlooked subject, Loose Cannon has produced 1:700 scale models of the Cachalot class. This kit includes not just one example of the class but the entire class. Of well, so there are only two in the class but Loose Cannon gives you both of them in the same box. It should not come as any surprised that most submarines of World War designs are rather small in 1:700 scale, especially considering that there is minimal superstructure and that most of the hull is underwater.

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The two hulls are identical and are cast on a casting sheet along with propeller guards. You will have to sand the bottom of the hull casting to remove the remnants of the casting sheet. If you look at the photographs of the hull casting, you’ll notice the remnants of the casting sheet. I simply removed the hull from the sheet by hand and did no sanding of the hull before photographing the part. However, sanding and smoothing the hull bottom is a relatively easy matter. As with any waterline submarine, almost all of the detail is on the deck. This class did not have a line of flood vents along the hull sides so hull side detail is limited. Most noticeable is the upper edge of the pressure hull going down in a tumblehome from the sides of the upper hull. The bow diving planes are folded onto the hull sides and the shape is consistent with photographs of the boats. However, two other details seem slightly off. The anchor well is found on the starboard side and the model has it closer to the deck than the waterline. However, a photograph of Cuttlefish found at page 221 of Submarines of World War Two, 1973, by Erminio Bagnosco, shows the anchor well much closer to the waterline than the deck. You could remove the anchor, fill the well, carve a new well lower on the hull and reattach the anchor but I consider this far too much work. I am much more inclined to leave it as it is but I could be wrong about the location of the anchor. My observation is made based solely on comparison of the hull with only one photograph. Additionally the bow seems to have too much curve. The bow cutwater appears to be a straight edge as opposed to having a curve to it as on the model. This observation is based upon a comparison of the model with two photographs, one is a mentioned above and the other of Cachalot found in the Loose Cannon instructions for the kit. This is a very easy correction in that a little sanding of the cutwater will remove the curve. There are also exhaust vents on the hull sides towards the stern.

The deck detail is outstanding. You should use thin coats of paint so as not to obscrure this excellent detail. There is extremely nice deck planking, with numerous access hatches, torpedo loading hatches and various deck fittings or plates. The presence of a locator outline for the sail will make it very easy to place the sail correctly. There are two rectangular fittings on the aft deck. At first I thought that they were trainable torpedo mounts as found in the prewar submarines of some other navies but the class did not carry these weapon mounts. They are very low but photographs do show their presence. Since they are on the deck above the deck exhaust ports, these fittings may be part of the exhaust system. Be extremely careful in removing the propeller guards from the resin sheet as they are easily broken. There are two resin runners that contain the other parts. These runners are different from each other. One runner contains a sail, deck gun, and two separate periscope housings. This runner appears to be a prewar configuration of the boats. The shape of the sail profile is slightly different from the boats as completed, so it probably represents the boats after the 1938 refit. Sail detail is good with an access door on the starboard, row of ports for conning the boat and thin solid bulkheads at the top of the sail. The three-inch good has good detail except that there is a curved portion under the breech block that does not appear in photographs. This is easily corrected with a hobby knife. My only complaint is that there are no locator holes for the two periscope housings.

The second runner also contains four parts; a revised sail, three-inch deck gun, 20mm gun and combined periscope housing. This is for a war time, pre-1944 boat. The sail was modified to include a round, segmented deck for a 20mm AA gun. This casting has the same starboard side access door, and conning portholes but the rear half of the sail no longer has the solid bulkhead. Instead it is open with outstanding detail on the circular base fitting for the 20mm. Two guns are included on this runner. One is a three-inch deck gun. On my sample the barrel was broken so what you see in the photograph is the recoil cylinder. Also included are a nice shieldless 20mm gun and a combined close-set periscope tower. The deck guns are easy to place, however, there are still no locator holes for the periscope housing. The instructions are minimal. They are one page and back-printed. The front page has a good history, which contains a detailed WWII history, which was used in the history above. There are also some generic instructions. Page two has a single profile of Cuttlefish and two photographs. There are no actual assembly drawings. As each boat only consists of seven parts and there are locator holes for the deck guns and locator outline for the sails, the only possible confusion comes in the exact location for the propeller guards and periscope housings. However the profile drawing helps with these parts. The pre-war boats could use a little more detail in that scantlings and railing could be found on the prewar versions.

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Verdict
Man Bites Dog! - How else would you describe a submarine attacked by a tanker? Loose Cannon again succeeds in presenting an unusual and obscure subject. Loose Cannon provides a whole class of submarines in 1:700 scale in one box. Of course the Cachalot class of 1933 only consisted of two boats. However, you can build one boat as a pre-war boat and the other as the war time version. The Loose Cannon Cachalot is available from Pacific Front Hobbies.

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