Why the US and Other Countries Didn't Make a Similar Submarine to Counter U-boats

Riley Sundew

Updated Saturday, October 14, 2023 at 10:38 PM CDT

Why the US and Other Countries Didn't Make a Similar Submarine to Counter U-boats

During World War II, the German U-boats posed a significant threat to Allied forces, especially in the Atlantic Ocean. The question arises: why didn't the US or other countries develop a similar submarine to counter the U-boats? While it may seem like a logical solution, there are several reasons why this wasn't the case.

Firstly, it's important to understand that submarines were not primarily designed to engage in direct combat with other submarines. The technology at the time made it far more efficient to hunt submarines with destroyers rather than relying on submarines themselves. Torp***es used during that period were fire-and-forget, meaning they traveled in a straight line until they hit something or ran out of fuel. This made it difficult for submarines to directly attack and destroy other submarines. In fact, throughout naval history, direct sub-to-sub battles have been exceedingly rare, and only a few instances of submarines being directly engaged and sunk by another submarine exist.

The United States did have a capable submarine fleet, but their primary focus was on attacking Japanese shipping and naval vessels in the Pacific. Similarly, other countries also had their own strategic priorities during the war. It's worth noting that many countries, including the US, had a long history of submarine development even before World War II. The US had submarines as early as 1775 and had 228 submarines by the end of the war. However, their main purpose was not to engage in submarine warfare.

Additionally, the Allies developed various technologies and tactics to effectively hunt down German U-boats. By 1943, they were sinking an average of 20 U-boats per month. This significant increase in submarine hunting capabilities led to a drastic decrease in the number of ships sunk by U-boats. In 1942, German U-boats sank 6.2 million tons of Allied ships, but by 1944, this number dropped to 2.5 million tons, and in 1945, it further decreased to 773 thousand tons. Submarine hunting was a relatively young discipline, and it took time for the Allies to perfect their techniques.

One crucial factor to consider is the limitations of technology at the time. Sonar, a vital tool for detecting submarines underwater, was still in its infancy during World War II. U-boats patrolled at periscope depth to spot floating ships to attack. It was much easier to use the "Mark One Eyeball" to visually identify targets when surfacing and sweep 360 degrees. However, trying to incorporate early sonar technologies onto an equivalent-sized anti-U-boat submarine and scan the vast expanse of the ocean would have posed an enormous engineering challenge given the available resources and technology of the time.

While it may seem like a straightforward solution to develop submarines to counter U-boats during World War II, there were several reasons why this wasn't the case. Submarines were not primarily designed for direct combat with other submarines, and the technology and resources available at the time made it more efficient to hunt submarines with other naval vessels. Additionally, the strategic priorities of different countries and the limitations of technology played a significant role in shaping the approach to combating U-boats during the war.

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