AFV Club 1/350 Guppy II
|NOTES:||Conversion. Kit modified with scratchbuilt “northern sail”|
The GUPPY Submarine:
The major technological advance in diesel-electric submarines was the development of the snorkel, which allowed the operation of the diesel engines at periscope depth, and the development of the Type XXI U-boat by the Germans, the first submarine designed for greater performance underwater than on the surface. The snorkel was widely adopted by the navies of the world and improved after the war, while the Type XXI submarine revolutionized submarine design in all navies.
The US Navy designed the “Tang” class to take advantage of everything learned from the Type XXI U-boat, the new boats were so much better they made the existing fleet boat obsolete, but these were too expensive in the post-war period to produce enough of them to satisfy all the needs for submarines. In 1949, the Navy began the Greater Underwater Propulsive Power Program, for which the acronym GUPPY was created by dropping the lat “P” to convert and backfit existing late-production “Gato” and “Balao” class fleet submarines with many of the German Type XXI submarine design features. Deck guns and anti-aircraft armament were removed, the outer hull was streamlined, the conning tower replaced by a streamlined sail, larger propellers were fitted, more air conditioning was installed for the greater heat generated by the electric motors, and the battery capacity doubled. The end result was submarines which were capable of 18.2 knots submerged, equaling the Type XXI, and exceeding their surfaced speed by 0.4 knots.
The GUPPY program included three major phases. Guppy I,
which was essentially experimental, involved only two boats,
Odax (SS‑484) and Pomodon
(SS‑486), which both became part of the main program, and led to the GUPPY IA
These boats were
Most information about the operations of GUPPY submarines during the Cold War remains classified to this day. Without converting the fleet boats of World War II to the GUPPYs of the Cold War era, the success of submarine cold war operations would not have been possible. These submarines "held the Line" until the SSNs and SSBNs took over.
USS BLACKFIN (SS-322):
The Balao class USS Blackfin (SS‑322) was launched March 12, 1944 at Electric Boat Co. in Groton, Connecticut and commissioned July 1944. She arrived at Pearl Harbor on September 11, 1944, and undertook five war patrols in the South China Sea and Yellow Sea. She sank the Japanese destroyer Shigure and a cargo ship on January 24, 1945, her only victories during the war.
In November 1950 Blackfin began conversion to a GUPPY submarine, being recommissioned on May 15, 1951. She spent her career until retirement with Submarine Force, Pacific Fleet, based at San Diego.
During her career, Blackfin was used in two movies: “Move Over, Darling” in 1963 starring Doris Day, James Garner, and Polly Bergen, and “Ice Station Zebra” in 1968, starring Rock Hudson, Ernest Borgnine, and Patrick McGoohan, during which filming she operated on battery power surfaced to simulate a nuclear boat. Your reviewer had the opportunity to go to sea aboard Blackfin during the 1964 SEATO exercises for two days of submarine familiarization, as the guest of an old high school friend who was a crew member (which is why this model is Blackfin and not some other boat).
Blackfin operated in the Gulf of Tonkin on several patrols during the Vietnam War, all of which are classified, but supposedly include two missions to put Navy SEALS ashore in North Vietnam, as well as acting as a “lifeguard” for Yankee Station aviation operations. She was decommissioned and struck from the Naval Vessel Register on September 15, 1972 and was sunk by torpedo as a target in "SubSinkEx Project Thurber" off San Diego on May 13, 1973.
In 1966, having just left Subic Bay enroute to Yankee Station while conducting operations with USS Bainbridge, Blackfin dove close aboard Bainbridge to show her crew a dive. As a result of winds from one direction and current from another, the two ships had a minor collision, with Blackfin being swept underneath Bainbridge, causing her to take about a 55‑60 degree roll to starboard, severely damaging the raised periscopes and radio antennae; this resulted in Blackfin returning to Subic for two weeks to receive and install replacements.
|COLORS & MARKINGS|
Some GUPPY boats - including Blackfin in at least one point of her career - appeared in the haze-grey/black camouflage similar to World War II fleet boats, but the majority operated in flat black with lower hulls in red anti-fouling paint. While they carried hull numbers on the sail and bow while in port or on non-operational cruises, when they went to war they painted out the numbers.
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