The German Type 209 diesel-electric submarine was the most popular export-sales submarine in the world from the late 1960s into the first years of the 21st century.
In 1967, the Kieler Howaldtswerke shipyard (now Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft AG) signed a contract for the delivery of four submarines of approximately 1000 tons displacement to the Royal Hellenic Navy. That contract was the first of many for what the German Ministry of Defence designated "Type 209" and became the most frequently constructed non-nuclear submarine class of the West.
By the early 1970s, many navies found themselves needing to replace their pre-war submarines and those won by the Allied forces after World War II. Orders were received in 1969 from Argentina, 1970 from Peru and Colombia, 1971 from Turkey, and 1972 from Venezuela.
The design of this submarine was initially based on those built for the Volksmarine. The single hull construction was simply laid out -- an officer to standing at the periscope could see along the entire submarine from the torpedo tubes in the bow to the aft end of the engine room. Below the single deck, large battery rooms totalled about 25% of the total displacement of the boat. The low-speed 5000-horsepower electric motor was directly attached to the shaft (without reduction gears) and could drive the boat at more than 20 knots.
The design grew as the subs were assigned to more diverse missions. The propulsion system, initially equipped with suction diesel engines, switched to supercharged engines with notably increased performance. As orders were received with mission profiles including operations in the Caribbean or Southeast Asian waters, it became necessary to develop and install adequate air-conditioning facilities for crew and electronics. Depending on the specific requirements ordered by different customers, the size of the submarines increased from the original 1000t displacement and in some cases by as much as 50%. The additional size and space were needed to accommodate increases in range, crew living quarters, more electronic equipment and in some instances increased diving depth. Battery capacity was improved in both low and high power usage, resulting in submerged range and maximum speed being retained in spite of increases in hull size and displacement. The various modifications of the Type 209 are known by their (rounded off) displacement.
Export success was largely due to the contract in 1969 to build Type 206 submarines for the German Navy awarded on the General Contractor Principle which meant that the construction shipyard as General Contractor was responsible for the correct functioning of the submarine as a whole, including tests and trials and successful firing of exercise Torpedoes. This equipped the shipyard with the necessary personnel, material resources and experience to assume the role and the responsibility required of the General Contractor for export orders.
With the continued interest of foreign navies in the basic design of the Type 209 submarines leading to more orders, advances in the electronic field proceeded at a very fast pace, making it necessary to adapt the eqiupment of the bats, Furthermore, customers had special requirements, largely due to the desire to use specific sub-contractors for logistic reasons. Thereby, on the one hand familiar equipment was updated, and on the other experience was gained with new subcontractors, For example, fire control systems manufactured by the US company Singer Librascope or by the British company Ferranti were intalled, whilst Atlas which not only makes sonar systems but also began to specialise in the delivery of complete integrated weapon systems, its "IUS" system were fitted to some of the newest submarines. The incorporation of new equipment of different weapon systems automatically leads to configuration changes elsewhere in the submarine, as the changes imply different space requirements, altered electrical power supplies, other cooling facilities, etc.
The propulsion system initially equipped with suction diesel engines and later with supercharged engines, notably increased performance values. With the assistance of the two earlier mentioned battery manufacturers, battery quality was improved in both low and high power areas, resulting in submerged range and maximum speed being retained in spite of the increase in size of the submarines.
Orders for submarines with mission profiles including operations in the Caribbean or Southeast Asian waters made it necessary to develop and install adequate air-conditioning facilities for crew and electronics, with the appropriate degree of redundancy.
Depending on the specific requirements ordered by different customers, the size of the submarines increased from the original 1000t displacement and in some cases by as much as 50%. The additional size and space were needed to accommodate increases in range, crew living quarters, more electronic equipment and in some instances increased diving depth. The net result has been the emergence of the "Type 209 family" comprising very varied submarines as family members.
One of the constant aims in the continued development of the submarine was the reduction of self-noise. Thanks to the large number of orders that followed each other in an almost annual sequence, every contract profited from the most recent results of research and technology, improvements tested during sea trials which could then be incorporated into the next project. This achieved surprisingly low radiated noise levels to be achieved both during snorkelling and in submerged cruising.
The Type 209 will begin to be replaced by the new Type 212 submarine after it enters service with the German navy in September 2003 and with the Italian navy in October 2004.
Type 209 users include
- Argentina (2 Type 209/1200)
- Peru (6 Type 209/1200)
- Colombia (2 Type 209/1200)
- Venezuela (2 Type 209/1200)
- Equador (2 Type 209/1200)
- Indonesia (2 Type 209/1200)
- Chile (2 Type 209/1400)
- India (4 Type 209/1500)
- Brazil(3 Type 209/1400)
- Korea (9 Type 209/1200),
- Turkey (6 Type 209/1200, 4 Type 209/1400)
- Greece (4 Type 209/1100, 4 Type 209/1200)
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