The German Type 212 is a highly advanced design of non-nuclear submarine (U-Boat) developed by Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft AG (HDW) for the German Navy. It features diesel propulsion and an additional air-independent propulsion (AIP) system using Siemens proton exchange membrane (PEM) hydrogen fuel cells. The submarine can operate at high speed on diesel power or switch to the AIP system for silent slow cruising, staying submerged for up to three weeks without surfacing and with no exhaust heat. The system is also said to be vibration-free, extremely quiet and virtually undetectable.
Type 212 is the first of the only two fuel cell propulsion system equipped submarines ready for series production by 2007, the other being the Project 677 Lada class submarine designed by Russian Rubin Design Bureau.
The final programme started in 1994 as the two navies of Germany and Italy began working together to design a new conventional submarine, respectively to operate in the low and narrow waters of the Baltic sea and in the deeper waters of the Mediterranean sea. The two different requirements were mixed into a common one and, because of significant updates to the design, the designation was changed to Type 212A since then.
In 1996 a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) gave the start to the cooperation. Its main aim was the construction of identical boats and the start of a collaboration in logistic and life-cycle support for the two navies.
The German government placed an initial order of four Type 212A submarines in 1998. The German Submarine Consortium built them at the shipyards of HDW and Thyssen Nordseewerke GmbH (TNSW) of Emden. Different sections of the submarines were constructed at both sites at the same time and then half of them were shipped to the respective other yard so that both HDW and Thyssen Nordseewerke assembled two complete submarines each.
The German Navy ordered two additional, improved submarines in 2006, to be delivered from 2012 on. They will be 1.2 meters longer to give additional space for a new reconnaissance mast.
On 21 April 2008 the Italian Navy ordered a second batch of submarine in the same configuration of the original ones. Some upgrading should involve materials and components of commercial derivation, as well as the software package of the CMS. The intention is to keep the same configuration of the first series and reduce maintenance costs.
A notable design feature is the prismatic hull cross-section and smoothly faired transitions from the hull to the sail, improving the boat's stealth characteristics. The ship and internal fixtures are constructed of nonmagnetic materials, reducing significantly chances of it being detected by magnetometers or setting off magnetic naval mines.
Although hydrogen-oxygen propulsion had been considered for submarines as early as World War I, the concept was not very successful until recently due to fire and explosion concerns. In the Type 212 this has been countered by storing the fuel and oxidizer in tanks outside the crew space, between the pressure hull and outer light hull. The gases are piped through the pressure hull to the fuel cells as needed to generate electricity, but at any given time there is only a very small amount of gas present in the crew space.
The short-range missile IDAS (based on the IRIS-T missile), against air threats, but also against small or medium-sized sea- or near land targets, is currently being developed by Diehl BGT Defence to be fired from Type 212's torpedo tubes. IDAS is fiber-optic guided and has a range of approx. 20 km. Four missiles fit in one torpedo tube, stored in a revolver magazine. First deliveries of IDAS for the German Navy are scheduled from 2009 on.
A 30 mm auto-cannon called Muräne (moray) to support diver operations or to give warning shots is being considered too. The cannon, probably a version of the RMK30 built by Rheinmetall, will be stored in a retractable mast and can be fired without the boat emerging. The mast will also be designed to contain three Aladin UAVs for reconnaissance missions. This mast is likely to be mounted on the 2nd batch of Type 212 submarines for the German Navy.
|Germany||S181||U-31||20 March 2002||19 October 2005|
|Italy||S526||Salvatore Todaro||3 July 1999||6 November 2003||29 March 2006|
|Germany||S182||U-32||4 December 2003||19 October 2005|
|Germany||S183||U-33||September 2004||13 June 2006|
|Italy||S527||Sciré||27 May 2000||18 December 2004||19 February 2007|
|Germany||S184||U-34||July 2006||3 May 2007|
|Germany||S185||U-35||21 August 2007||planned for 2011|
|Germany||S186||U-36||planned for 2012|
|Italy||S528||planned for 2013|
|Italy||S529||planned for 2014|