Aircraft carriers can be seen all over the world. They are quite visible and need to be well protected among a battle group to operate. At the other end of the spectrum, a modern submarine is nearly undetectable and can stay somewhere incognito for a long time.

There is a question about launching aircraft from submarines, but the related answers mention past projects in the aftermath of WW2, and nothing about contemporary technology.

On the other hand there are actually small UAV launched by submerged submarines and projects around submersible aircraft:

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Submersible aircraft concept, US Navy

I'm interested in a view of the current state of launching aircraft from submarines.

  • Does anything prevent aircraft to be launched and recovered using submarines platform today?

  • What is the current state of deployment of such technology around the world?

  • $\begingroup$ @RonBeyer: I mean today. These submarines are not what I would call indetectable. $\endgroup$ – mins Nov 29 '18 at 22:17
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think it's possible today. The naval aircraft that are in use today are just too big to store inside a submarine. The F-35 is a VTOL aircraft, but only when very lightly loaded, otherwise it needs a running start. Subs also move on top of the water a lot more than aircraft carriers (not to mention not sticking out as much), which almost necessitates water landings and long recoveries (hoisting). I don't think this can be done with what we have today. $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Nov 29 '18 at 22:41
  • $\begingroup$ This is a pretty big change in the question; I'm not sure the existing answers are still valid answers to the question in its new form. $\endgroup$ – Zeiss Ikon Nov 30 '18 at 13:39
  • $\begingroup$ @ZeissIkon: I've extended to submersible aircraft, else this is still about submersible carrier, today, as before it was reopened. $\endgroup$ – mins Nov 30 '18 at 14:14
  • $\begingroup$ Aircraft? Yes. cruise missiles. Direct-launch cruise missiles especially has been widely deployed since the 70s. $\endgroup$ – user3528438 Nov 30 '18 at 19:57

The Japanese navy did that in WW2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I-400-class_submarine


The Regulus missile was a (pilotless) aircraft launched from American submarines in the 1950s -- it in turn was a nuclear armed upgrade of the Hermes, which was a captured, and later copied, German buzz-bomb launched from a deck catapult.

As noted in another answer, the Japanese built a small number of very large submarines with a sealed hangar on the deck; each carried and could catapult launch (as I recall) three Zero or similar aircraft equipped with floats, which would land alongside and be hoisted back aboard. These subs never saw significant service, as Japan surrendered while the first was on it's first mission near South America.

Modern (nuclear) submarines are highly optimized for submerged operation, and aren't steady enough on the surface to launch and recover piloted aircraft even if modified to carry something like a Harrier or F-35, but there's no reason drones couldn't be launched (brought on deck through the escape trunk, deck hatch, or sail) and, in the case of hovering types, recovered while surfaced.

  • $\begingroup$ Interesting. Yes there are drones launched from submarine, though I'm interested in larger aircraft, and perhaps related technologies such as submersible aircraft. $\endgroup$ – mins Nov 30 '18 at 12:25
  • $\begingroup$ Aren't all cruise missiles pilotless aircraft? $\endgroup$ – user3528438 Nov 30 '18 at 19:53
  • $\begingroup$ Yep. And Tomahawks launched from torpedo tubes can give attack subs (Los Angeles class) nuclear capability. But you generally don't want to recover a Tomahawk at the originating vessel... $\endgroup$ – Zeiss Ikon Nov 30 '18 at 19:55

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