I am aware of only one which is the U-864 was sunk by the HMS Venturer but that was when both were being submerged -- according to wikipedia. Is that accurate? Which battles did happen between two (or more) submarines whether they were submerged or not?

While the WW2 tag is there, I am interested in the whole history of submarine warfare from 1775 to now a days.

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    It's not enough for an answer, but I thought you'd be interested anyway...HMS Conqueror during the Falklands war had orders to hunt the Argentine submarine Santa Fe. However, the Santa Fe was attacked by helicopters from other British warships and put out of action before Conks found her and any sub vs sub battle could happen. I've condensed this heavily here, you can read more in "Sink the Belgrano" by Mike Rossiter.
    – Kobunite
    Commented Dec 19, 2013 at 11:34
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    If anyone has anything exciting they should help complete this list: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_submarine_actions
    – Nathan
    Commented Dec 19, 2013 at 13:41

5 Answers 5


The Venturer also sank U771 which was not submerged while being hit by torpedoes.

This is wikipedia info, but apparently the British also used submarines for ASW. They seem to have lured in places where retreating/coming out of port, and would not be detected by passing submerged submarines.

Alas, let us consider which other wars might have seen submarine vs submarine action. Post WWII, technological development meant that submarines spent most of their time submerged, thus naval action in which at least one submarine was surfaced is unlikely.

Pre WWI, submarines were not really widespread, so the chances of both sides in a conflict having access to submarines are slim. In what wars could they have been involved?

In the American Secession War, both sides used submarines, but they were generally unfit for service and saw little action.

In the Russo-Japanese War, both sides had submarines, but wikipedia states that Japanese subs never saw action.

Balkan wars? Greece and Ottoman Empire might have had submarines.

During WWI, the Entente powers developed ASW submarines, but they came too late and saw no action.

Thus, I conclude, sub vs sub action is most likely found during WWII and nowhen else.

EDIT: During WW1, Italian submarine F-12 sunk Austrio-Hungarian submarine U-20. I admire the effort people put in some wikipedia articles.

  • This answer is straightforwardly incorrect. Dozens of German U-boats were sunk by Allied submarines in World War I, which in turn sunk several Allied subs. Commented Mar 15, 2013 at 7:47

On 9 January 1942, the Japanese submarine I-73 (or I-173) was sunk by the US submarine USS Gudgeon (SS-211).


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    A page number would be useful. Commented Dec 18, 2013 at 4:53

I agree that the above was the only battle between two submerged submarines. More to the point, I'd be surprised if there was ever a battle between two SURFACED submarines.

BY DEFINITION, submarines do not like to fight on the surface. They are small ships with no guns (to speak of), and are therefore not a match for a warship when surfaced. Their primary weapon is torpedoes, and ships armed with torpedoes are basically at a severe disadvantage against ships armed with larger guns than their own. (This is true for destroyers and cruisers as well as subs.)

The reason subs are used at all is because they can attack with torpedoes from underwater, where large ships like battleships cannot effectively retaliate. The best "subchasers" are small, fast surface ships like destroyers and corvettes. Their weapon of choice during World War II were "depth charges," strings of explosives set to explode at varying depths, thereby "chasing" a submarine down. Subs are too small to carry many such charges, and too slow to use them effectively.

The Venturer had only eight torpedoes (basically, one "string") when it attacked the German sub, and was lucky to sink it. That's why such actions are so rare. And knowing this, naval commands would seldom use a sub to chase another sub.

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    This is wrong on several points. Submarines preferred to hide underwater but fight on the surface. Many of them weren't much slower than corvettes when on the surface. The preferred anti-submarine weapons, once available, were forward-firing launchers like Hedgehog and Squid. Destroyers were typically not the best ASW vessels, specialized escorts being better. Submarines wouldn't use depth charges in any case; their weapons (other than guns) being torpedoes and occasionally mines. Commented Oct 21, 2011 at 23:59
  • The destroyer was the "basic" anti-submarine warship, although specialized ships did do better. Likewise, the depth charge was the "basic" anti-submarine weapon, although the hedgehog squid became important factors late in the war. "Subs are too small to carry many such charges and too slow to use them effectively" which is why they DIDN'T. Subs might come to the surface BRIEFLY to launch torpedoes, but they would submerge again ASAP.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Oct 22, 2011 at 0:32
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    In WWII, standard convoy attack tactics, for Germans and later the USN, was to attack on the surface inside the convoy. That worked a lot better than trying submerged shots. Destroyers were not, in WWII, the "basic" ASW ship; they were surface fighting ships that were adaptable for ASW. Countries that had to deal with ASW usually wound up building something other than fleet destroyers for the purpose. Commented Oct 22, 2011 at 4:54
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    "And knowing this, naval commands would seldom use a sub to chase another sub" - this sounds false as far as latter 20th century. Hunting ballistic missile subs was the main purpose of attack submarines like Los Angeles class or SeaWolf class. However it's true for ww2.
    – DVK
    Commented Nov 23, 2011 at 22:57
  • @DVK: The context of the question was World War II, and so was my answer. I'm not nearly as familiar with late 20th century warfare.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Nov 23, 2011 at 23:00

While the WW2 tag is there, I am interested in the whole history of submarine warfare from 1775 to now a days.

It depends on how one defines warfare. If we do not limit ourselves to the countries technically at war, then submarine-to-submarine interaction is rather commonplace. This notably includes the American submarines shadowing the Russian ones (and possibly also the other way around.) This was, e.g., openly acknowledged in the aftermath of Submarine incident off Kola Peninsula

The incident took place when the American submarine, who was trailing her Russian counterpart, lost track of Novomoskovsk. At the time that Grayling reacquired the other submarine, the short distance of only half-mile made the collision unavoidable.

This followed an earlier Submarine incident off Kildin Island, although in the latter case there is some doubt as whether the actions of the American submarine were directed against the Russian one, or whether it was engaged in a different kind of mission.

A more general quote about the submarine-vs.-submarine practices in modern time:

What is certain, however, is that the Russian Arctic-based Northern Fleet is continually “stalked” by American (and perhaps British and French) fast-attack submarines from the moment the Russian submarines leave port. While, as noted above, the number of Russian “boomer” patrols has sharply declined since the days of the Cold War, the underwater games of “cat and mouse” continue as before, and several near-collisions have been reported as the Russian subs become increasingly successful in shaking off their American “tails.”


According to most records the USS Herring, SS-233 was credited in sinking a German U-Boat in the Atlantic earlier in the war. Herring was lost in the Pacific on 1 June 1944, the only submarine ever lost by fire from a shore battery.

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    Some links to examples of "most records" would improve this answer.
    – Steve Bird
    Commented May 30, 2016 at 0:19

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