Aoshima 1/350 I-27 Submarine

KIT #: 047354
PRICE: 2800 yen at
DECALS: One option
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver


            Japan began to develop a submarine force in 1925, based on three types.  The “cruiser” submarines - known to the Japanese as Junsen, and known generically in the West as “I-boats” - were based on the British “K” Class and the German U‑139 Class submarines of the First World War. These large submarines would be used for reconnaissance, operating over trans-oceanic distances.  The Fleet Type, or Kaidai, was developed from the Junsen, with slightly increased displacement and intended  for co‑operation with the surface forces and for patrolling enemy shipping routes; these were also known in the west as “I-boats.” The third class was a short-range medium type originally derived from the French Schneider‑Laubeuf boats of the First World War; these were known as “RO-boats.”

             The Junsen submarines were designed to operate individually, replacing cruisers in the reconnaissance role with several equipped with floatplanes, while the Kaidai were intended to operate in flotillas in direct co‑operation with the main units of the Japanese Navy. This led to the boats being designed for maximum performance on the surface, with speed, sea-keeping, range and gun armament being maximized.  Their high displacement and large size limited submerged maneuverability and slowed diving time. The effectiveness of American ASW measures would prove fatal to these large submarines. 

             At the outset of war, all Japanese submarines were equipped with the Type 95 21 inch, oxygen driven, wakeless torpedo, the submarine version of the famous “Long Lance” torpedo that gave the United States Navy such fits in surface engagements in the Solomons.  With a range of 21,880 yds at 50 knots, or 40,000 yds at a speed of 36 knots, the Type 95 was far superior to the 15,316 yds at 28 knots and 6,126 yds at 45 knots of the American Mark XIV torpedo.

             At the time of the Pearl Harbor attack, the Imperial Japanese Navy had 64 modern submarines, including 41 cruiser and fleet types. During the Pacific War, Japanese submarines sank 184 Allied merchantmen totaling 907,000 tons. They also sank many warships including the USS Yorktown, USS Wasp, and the USS Indianapolis. 129 submarines were lost during the war: 70 sunk by surface ships, 18 by aircraft, 19 by submarine, and 22 others lost to various other causes. Losses and new  construction balanced out, with 126 submarines entering service between December, 1941 and August, 1945.

 The “B” Class Cruiser Submarine:

             First developed in 1938, the Type B integrated features from both the Junsen and Kaidai types, with submerged performance slightly improved: maximum diving depth was being increased to 328 feet.  29 Type B submarines were produced in three successive variants between 1939 and 1944.  The superstructure was more streamlined than in earlier boats to improve submerged performance.  All these submarines could carry a Yokosuka E14Y-1 (“Glen”) reconnaissance floatplane in a hangar forward of the conning tower, with a launching catapult built into the forward casing.  Surface armament was a 25 mm twin mounts on the conning tower for anti-aircraft defense, and a 5.5 inch 50‑cal deck gun in the rear main deck.

            While the Type B was not immune to the serious shortcomings of the large Japanese submarines, they were effective in their designed  roles, achieving good results against auxiliary and merchant shipping - 56 ships totaling 372,730 tons were sunk, while 14 other ships totaling 91,612 tons were damaged.  Type B submarines sank three American destroyers and one submarine.

             The Type B submarine “I-27" was laid down at Sasebo Navy Yard as Submarine No. 140 on July 5, 1939.  She was launched Jun 6, 1940 and renumbered I-29.  On November 1, the designation was changed definitively to “I-27" and the submarine was commissioned on February 24, 1942.

             Departing Kure on April 15, 1942, bound for Truk in company with I‑28 and I‑29, the three submarines were diverted on April 18 to find and attack the American Task Force 16, which had launched the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo.  Failing in this, I-27 and the others arrived at Truk on April 24.  The submarine left Truk for her first war patrol on April 27, arriving off Brisbane, Australia, on May 3 to support the planned invasion of Port Moresby.  With the invasion put off after the Battle of the Coral Sea, I-27 returned to Truk on May 17, assigned to Captain Sasaki's Special Attack Unit that included I-22 and I-24.  Each carried a midget submarine, intended for a strike at Sydney harbor.

             On May 24, 1942, I-29 launched her floatplane to conduct a reconnaissance of Sydney harbor, during which the American cruiser USS Chicago was spotted in port.   The attack was made on May 31, with three midget submarines penetrating the harbor defenses.  HA-14, the midget launched by I-27, entered the harbor by following the ferry from Manly to Circular Bay.  Turning towards the center of the harbor, the midget became  entangled in the boom net between Georges Head and Watson's Bay, fouling its propellers.  The midget was spotted from the nearby floating crane, and the harbor patrol boat HMAS Lolita makes two passes, dropping a depth charge on each, both of which failed to explode in the shallow water.  As the patrol boat circled for a third pass, the Japanese crew detonated the forward scuttling charge to prevent capture.  Lolita was nearly swamped by the explosions, while debris from the midget was hurled into the air.  The torpedoes were later salvaged and the crew was given a proper military funeral.  Many Australians objected to this, but the Prime Minister stated he had ordered such treatment to try and obtain proper treatment of Australian POWs held after the fall of Singapore.

             Patrolling Eastern Bass Strait on June 4, I-27 spotted the 4,239‑ton freighter “Barwon,” en route from Melbourne to Port Kembla.  A torpedo fired by I-27 missed, passing under the ship and exploding on her far side, allowing the ship to escape.  That afternoon off Cape Howe, I-27 intercepted the armed ore carrier “Iron Crown,” which was torpedoed and sunk for the submarine’s first score.  An RAAF Hudson of No. 7 Squadron, piloted by F/Lt. C.C. Williams, spotted I-27 right after the sinking of “Iron Crown” and attacked unsuccessfully with two 250‑lb anti‑submarine bombs. I‑27 then left Australia and returned to Kwajalein.

             Patrolling the Bay of Bengal on her third war patrol, one of I‑27's torpedo men developed acute appendicitis. The medical officer, Surgeon Lt(jg) Nakao Jinichi, performed an emergency appendectomy at 130 foot depth using the officers' mess table, an event similar to that which happened on USS Silversides a few months later.

             Through late 1942 and all of 1943, I-27 conducted seven more patrols in the Indian Ocean, the Gulf of Oman, the Arabian Sea and off the east coast of Africa, sinking 12 Allied ships in the course of these patrols.

             On February 5, 1944, the British troop‑carrying convoy KR.8 departed Kilindini, East Africa, for Colombo, Ceylon with  6,311 Army troops, Royal Navy personnel, medical staff, and members of the Women's Territorial Service. Escorted by the heavy cruiser HMS Hawkins, and destroyers HMS Paladin and HMS Petard, the convoy was spotted by I-27 approaching One and a Half Degree Channel in the Indian Ocean.  I-27 penetrated the screen, planning to attack the heavy cruiser.  A spread of four torpedoes were fired at the cruiser, which was partially overlapped by SS “Khedive Ismail,” the lead ship of the center column.

             The first torpedo hit “Khedive Ismail” in her starboard engine room, followed 5 seconds later by the second hit in the forward boiler room, causing a major internal explosion.  The ship then broke in two and corkscrewed beneath the surface only one minute and 40 seconds after the first hit. Of 1,511 passengers and crew 1,279 were lost, including 77 women.

             Following the sinking of Khedive Ismail, multiple periscope sightings were reported by different vessels.  HMS Paladin obtained a sonar contact north of the now-sunken ship and dropped 10 depth charges to no effect.  This was followed several minutes later by a second unsuccessful attack with 10 depth charges, but minutes later the sonar operator reported noises resembling the blowing of ballast tanks and a third attack was made with 9 depth charges.

             HMS Petard also made unsuccessful attacks, then made to pick up survivors of “Khedive Ismail.”  As the destroyed slowed to do this, I-27 suddenly surfaced a mile away from the two destroyers, down by the stern.  Both ships opened up on the submarine with every gun.  HMS Petard passed close to I-27's stern and fires three depth charges, which had no effect.

As the submarine attempted to move off at slow speed, the CO of HMS Paladin decided to ram her.  Ordered not to ram, Paladin turned aside and grazed the submarine, tearing an 80 foot long gash 12 inches below the destroyer’s waterline, flooding her engine and gearing rooms, two fuel tanks and the rear magazine.  Paladin went dead in the water and started listing.  Five seamen on I-27 attempted to man the deck gun but were cut down by fire from the destroyer’s Number 2 AA gun.

             HMS Petard launched a total of six torpedoes one by one at I-27, all of which missed.  A seventh torpedo finally hit I-27 amidships, blowing her in half and sinking her immediately.  There were no survivors.


            Aoshima’s I-27 kit is the first of a series of kits of Japanese I-boats.  This kit provides options to display the submarine with or without the midget submarine carried during the Sydney Harbor attack.  Other kits provide an E14Y-1 seaplane.  The molded parts are very petite, with excellent scribed surface detail.  As with most submarine models, the parts count is well under 100.


             Construction is straightforward and easy.  I decided to do the submarine as it would have been seen at sea on patrol, without the railings and without the various loading booms deployed.  I also decided to display the model as I-27 would have looked during her commerce-raiding war patrols, without the midget submarine.

             Most of the parts are extremely small, and I was very glad to have my new Optivisor (a Christmas present from SWMBO) which made all the delicate assembly much less difficult than it would have been otherwise.


             Once I had the hull assembled, I pained the lower half with Tamiya “Hull Red,” then painted the main deck with Tamiya “Buff.”  With those masked off, I painted the upper area with Gunze-Sangyo “IJN Sasebo Grey”.  After unmasking the model and attaching the conning tower, I painted the entire model with Tamiya “Smoke” to bring out surface detail.  When that was dry, I gave the model a coat of Xtracrylix Flat Varnish.


            Even in 1/350, this is a pretty big model for a World War II submarine, reflecting the size of the Japanese I-boats.  It looks quite impressive next to my USS Wahoo fleet boat, and the much smaller German U-boats.  Submarine models are an easy way into ship modeling, and they always look good when finished. 

 Review kit courtesy of HobbyLink Japan.   

Tom Cleaver

January 2011

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