Definitions

Type_212_submarine

Type 212 submarine

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.

Development

At the beginning of the 1990s the German Navy was seeking a replacement for the Type 206 submarines. Initial study started on a Type 209 improved design, with AIP capability, called Type 212.

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.

In the same year the Italian government placed an order of two U212A submarines built by Fincantieri for the Marina Militare (Italian Navy) at Muggiano shipyard.

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.

Three Dolphin class submarines built for the Israeli Navy are of a similar design, but using conventional diesel-electric propulsion.

Design

Partly owing to the "X" arrangement of the stern planes, the Type 212 is capable of operating in as little as 17 metres of water, allowing it to come much closer to shore than most contemporary submarines. This gives it an advantage in covert operations, as SCUBA-equipped commandos operating from the boat can surface close to the beach and execute their mission more quickly and with less effort.

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.

AIP propulsion

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.

Weapons

Currently, the Type 212A is capable of launching the fiber optic-guided DM2A4 Seehecht ("Seahake") heavyweight torpedoes, the WASS A184 Mod.3 torpedoes, the EuroTorp BlackShark torpedoes and short-range missiles from its six torpedo tubes, which use a water ram expulsion system. Future capability may include tube-launched cruise missiles.

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.

List of boats

Country Pennant
number
Name Laid
down
Launched Commissioned
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

General characteristics

References

External links

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