Sister ship I-55 in harbor
Empire of Japan
Name: I-53
Builder: Kure Naval Arsenal
Laid down: 1 April 1924, as Submarine No. 64
Launched: 5 August 1925
Completed: 30 March 1927
  • As I-53, 1 November 1924
  • As I-153, 20 May 1942
Struck: 20 November 1945
Fate: Scuttled, May 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

The Japanese submarine I-53, later I-153 (伊号第五三潜水艦, I-gō Dai-Hyaku-gojūsan sensuikan) , 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.


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]

Design and description

The submarines of the KD3A sub-class were the first mass-produced Japanese-designed cruiser submarines.[3] 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.[4]

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.[5] 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.

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).[6]

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.[7]

Construction and commissiong

Built by the Kure Naval Arsenal, I-53 was laid down on 1 April 1924 as Submarine No. 64 (第六十四号潜水艦, Dai-rokujūyon-gō sensuikan)and renamed I-53 (伊号第五三号潜水艦, I-gō Dai-gojūsan-gō sensuikan) on 1 November.[8] The boat was launched on 5 August 1925 and completed on 30 March 1927.[5]

Service history


Upon commissioning, I-53 was attached to the Kure Naval District. On 5 September 1927, Submarine Division 18 was established within the district, and she was assigned to the new division.[8]

I-53 was operating on the surface in limited visibility in the Pacific Ocean off Honshu, Japan, on 27 February 1936 when she suffered an engine failure and the submarine I-55 accidentally rammed her 32 nautical miles (59 km; 37 mi) southeast of Daiosaki lighthouse. Both submarines suffered minor damage.[8]

By November 1941, Submarine Division 18, which also included I-54 and I-55, was a part of Submarine Squadron 4,[8] 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-53 began a patrol north of the Anambas Islands to support "Operation E", the Japanese invasion of Malaya. Hostilities began in East Asia on 8 December 1941 (7 December across the International Date Line in Hawaii, where Japan began the war with its attack on Pearl Harbor). After an uneventful patrol, I-53 arrived at Cam Ranh in Japanese-occupied French Indochina.[8]

Second war patrol

I-53 began her second war patrol on 29 December 1941, departing Cam Ranh, but suffered damage in heavy seas, forcing her to return to Cam Ranh on 31 December for repairs. Her repairs completed, she again departed Cam Ranh on 6 January 1942 and took up a patrol position northwest of Java. She returned to Cam Ranh on 24 January.[8]

Third war patrol

I-53 departed Cam Ranh on 7 February 1942 to begin her third war patrol. She transited the Lombok Strait on 20 February and entered the Indian Ocean, where she torpedoed and sank the Dutch 917-gross-register-ton auxiliary tanker Ben 2 – which was on a voyage from Surabaya, Java, to Australia with a cargo of 150-millimeter (5.9 in) artillery shells – 25 nautical miles (46 km; 29 mi) southwest of Banyuwangi, Java, on 27 February. On 28 February, she torpedoed the British 8,917-gross-register-ton armed cargo ship City of Manchester in the Indian Ocean at 08°16′S 108°52′E / 8.267°S 108.867°E / -8.267; 108.867 ("City of Manchester), inflicting further damage on the ship with gunfire. The burning City of Manchester soon sank. I-53 completed her patrol on 8 March 1942, arriving at Staring-baai, Celebes.[8]


Submarine Squadron 4 was disbanded on 10 March 1942, and I-53 was assigned to the Kure Guard Unit in Japanese home waters. Departing Staring Bay on 16 March, she arrived at Kure, Japan, on 25 March, and assumed duties as a training ship. She suffered minor damage when the submarine tender Chōgei grazed her in the Inland Sea on 6 May 1942, and on 20 May 1942 she was renumbered I-153.[8]

On 5 January 1943, I-153 took part in a Naval Submarine School submarine camouflage experiment in the Inland Sea in which she and the submarine I-156 had a black camouflage scheme applied to their upper hulls and conning tower sides.[8]

Submarine Division 18 was deactivated on 31 January 1944, and I-153 was placed in reserve and transferred to the Hirao Branch of the Ōtake Submarine School to serve as a training hulk. She was laid up at Hirao on 15 August 1945, the day hostilities ceased.[8]


I-153 was surrendered to the Allies and was stricken from the Navy list on 30 November 1945. Apparently, she was among several captured Japanese submarines sunk as gunnery targets by the Royal Australian Navy destroyer HMAS Quiberon and the Royal Indian Navy sloop HMIS Sutlej in the Inland Sea on 8 May 1946,[9][10][11] although some sources say she was scrapped in 1948 rather than sunk.[8]


  1. ^ Peatty, pp. 212–14
  2. ^ Boyd, pp. 17–18
  3. ^ Jentschura, Jung & Mickel, p. 170
  4. ^ Stille', p. 4
  5. ^ a b Carpenter & Polmar, p. 93
  6. ^ Chesneau, p. 198
  7. ^ Bagnasco, p. 183
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Hackett & Kingsepp
  9. ^ Hackett, Bob; Kingsepp, Sander (2015). "IJN Submarine HA-205: Tabular Record of Movement". combinedfleet.com. Retrieved 9 April 2016.
  10. ^ Anonymous, "Remaining Jap Subs Sunk", Townsville Daily Bulletin, May 10, 1946, p. 1
  11. ^ Anonymous, "Jap Submarines Demolition Convoy Caught in Gale", Kalgoorlie Miner, May 14, 1946, p. 3


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  • 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-153: 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, 1869–1945. Annapolis, Maryland: United States Naval Institute. ISBN 0-87021-893-X.
  • Stille, Mark (2007). Imperial Japanese Navy Submarines 1941-45. Osprey. ISBN 1846030900.