In Axis and Allies 1941, submarines can make a surprise attack

surprise strike: Each attacking submarine conducting a surprise strike rolls one die, scoring a hit on s roll of 2 or less. After an attacker has rolled for all attacking submarines, the defender chooses one sea unit for each hit and moves it behind the casualty strip (submarines cannot hit air units). The each defending submarine conducts surprise strike rolls, scoring a hit on a roll of 1. After the defender has rolled for all defending submarines, the attacker chooses one sea unit for each hit scored and removes it from play.

That seems straightforward enough, but what if it's the first round of combat and a loaded aircraft carrier is taken out (let's say one sub vs one carrier with one fighter on it)?

There appear to be no rules to the contrary, so it would seem that the fighter remains in play, assuming it was launched - especially as the carrier is placed on the casualty strip, not removed.

However, it makes me wonder if the fighter had time to launch. After all, this was a surprise strike, so the fighter shouldn't have taken off at least on the first round. Should it be on the casualty strip with the carrier?

2 Answers 2


The defending Fighters are always considered to be in the air.

From the rule book, under Unit Profiles (emphasis mine)

Fighters - [...] A fighter based on a defending carrier must land on the same carrier if possible after the battle. If that carrier is destroyed in combat, the fighter must try to land elsewhere. It must land on a different friendly carrier in the same sea zone, move 1 space to a friendly territory, island, or aircraft carrier, or be destroyed. This movement occurs during the Noncombat Move phase, before the acting player makes any noncombat moves. Carrier-based fighters are always considered to be defending in the air, even if only submarines are attacking. (page 24)

Aircraft Carriers - [...] Fighter Defense: Whenever a carrier is attacked, its fighters (even those belonging to friendly powers) are considered to be defending in the air and fight normally, even if only submarines are attacking. (However, a fighter cannot be chosen as a casualty from a submarine hit, because submarines can attack only sea units.) (page 26)


The fighters are considered, for the purpose of the game, to already be in the air, so the surprise strike will not put the fighters behind the casualty line.

At the end of combat, defending fighters have a range of one. If at the end of combat there are no carriers with available capacity in the combat zone, or an adjacent sea zone, or an adjacent land square that is controlled by an allied power where they can land, they are destroyed.

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