Military types work with surface ships and other submarines as mother ships.
Civilian and non-combatant military types are generally called submersibles, and normally work with surface ships.
Midget submarines are commonly armed with torpedoes and mines in the form of, for example, detachable side loads and nose sections.
As a result, the submarines mostly engaged in open water attacks rather than harbour penetration.
The Indonesian Navy has shown some interest in having a new Midget Class submarine, built by local shipyards, for coastal rather than open water patrol. The midget experiment project involves the construction of a submarine, designated MIDGET IM X −1, which will weigh about 150 – 250 tonnes, with a tubular frame design 24 – 30 meters long, and four torpedo tubes.
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Most early submarines, such as the United States Navy's Holland and the British Royal Navy's Holland 1, would now be considered midget submarines.
Midget submarines are best known for harbor penetration, although only two World War II boats, the British X-craft and the unsuccessful Welman submarine, were specifically designed with this in mind.
The Royal Navy has used a number of midget submarines. The decommissioning of the Stickleback class marked the end of midget submarines designed for combat in the Royal Navy.
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In civilian use, midget submarines are generally called submersibles; commercial submersibles are used in, for example, underwater maintenance, exploration, archaeology, and scientific research.
Other commercially available submersibles are marketed as novelty tourist attractions and as specialised tenders for wealthy yacht owners.
X-craft were used for reconnaissance, and the Seehund was used to carry supplies.