The USN submarine campaign in the Pacific Ocean during World War Two will always be associated with the Gato Class Submarine and the subsequent Balao Class. However, when the Japanese Navy attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 no Gato class boat was in operational service. On that date the best fleet boat design in service was the design for the T Class. Started in 1939 the twelve boats of the T class were the most modern and effective units of the Silent Service until the Gato class went into operation. The Gato class was designed directly as an improvement of the T class. One of the members of the T class, the Tautog, sank the most enemy ships in the war with 26 kills. Seven of the twelve were lost in 1943 and 1944 with probably the highest loss rate of any class of USN submarines.
Originally the class was armed with ten torpedo tubes, six forward and four aft, one 3-inch (76mm) deck gun and .50 machine guns for AA defense. During the war modifications were taken to the conning tower (sail) and a heavier deck gun was added. The aft half of the sail was cut down with an Oerlikon 20mm gun replacing the machine gun formerly at that position. An additional 20mm position was added to the forward face of the sail. Replacing the light 3-inch deck gun was a 5-inch/51 gun. This long barreled gun became a prime merchant ship killer as well as providing a more powerful deck gun than found on the smaller Japanese escorts. Chainsaw Corley, AKA Nautilus Models, has just released three detail sets to modify the Trumpeter 1:144 scale Gato class submarine. Two of these are for Gato class boats but the third is to convert the Gato to the T class USS Thresher SS-200. This conversion set provides a new sail, new deck gun and sponsons for the hull on either side of the much heavier deck gun.
This conversion set replaces the plastic Gato conning tower with a resin version with a wooden deck. The major resin pieces are the two-part conning tower, periscope sheers, forward gun deck, conning tower roof, 5-inch/51 gun and mount and the two large sponsons added to each side of the mount. Smaller parts include the Oerlikon guns, binocular mounts, radar mounts, and periscope tops. The wooden sail deck is precut to fit over the lower half of the sail with the upper portion of the sail fitting over the forward end of this deck. The wooden deck pops out cleanly from the rectangle of wood included. However, significant clean up will be required of the resin parts. Although the larger resin parts are fairly clean, the smaller resin parts have significant light flash attached, as can be seen in the photographs. Although not difficult, it will consume some time to remove the flash and smooth the seams. An one page text and illustrated sheet of instructions accompanies the parts. However, other than the sponsons, the hull is not changed. The Gato class was four feet longer than the T class and had a deeper draught, so the hull of the completed kit will still be on Gato dimensions, rather than the slightly smaller T class dimensions.
Nautilus Models provides another unique product designed to modify an existing plastic kit. This time it is a conning tower and 5-inch/51 deck gun to convert the Trumpeter 1:144 scale Gato class submarine to a T class USS Thresher SS-200.