The Kobben class of submarines is based on Germany's Type 205. They served with the Royal Norwegian Navy from 1964 to 2001. Six Kobben class vessels were modernized under an eight year program that began in 1985. Since then, the ships were replaced by the Ula class and sold to Denmark and Poland.
The history of Norwegian submarines really began in 1808, when a village genius and blacksmith, Mikkel Hallsteinson Lofthus from Hardanger, designed the first known Norwegian underwater boat. He submitted drawings to a society in Bergen that promoted useful products, but the boat was never built. There was too little interest and not enough money.
Norway's first submarine, built at Germaniawerft in Kiel, was christened "Kobben" [Copper]and later renamed A-1. It surpassed all expectations and in 1911 a decision was made to build another three submarines at the same shipyard. A fifth was also started, but it was confiscated by the German navy when the first world war broke out. "Kobben" was commissioned on 28 November 1909 after its launching and completion of diving tests in the Great Belt. It arrived in Horten two weeks later and after a few days it went into full service with a crew of 12 men. "Kobben" remained in service until 1919. It was broken up some years later, but its conning tower was preserved and is mounted as a memorial at the Navy officers' training school in Horten.
After the Great War, the Storting granted funds for new submarines, this time choosing the American Holland class which had the same diving depth as the A class but carried a larger crew (23 men). Between 1923 and 1930 six Norwegian submarines were built by the main Navy shipyard in cooperation with the Kaldnes and Thunes yards. Norway took over three submarines from the British Navy during the second world war and a further three after the war. The Germans also left behind fifteen submarines. Four of these were repaired and incorporated into the Norwegian Navy. They had a crew of 47 men and a diving depth of 180 meters.
Beyond 1950, Norway had an increasing defense cooperation with the United States. USSR gradually increased its presence in northern areas while the British reduced their. In addition to filling a role in our defense against invasion would conventional submarines could be used to obtain intelligence about Soviet activity in northern areas. When Norway from the late 1950s began planning a new generation of submarines, was it relevant with some support from the Americans. This was from 1960 expanded to an American 50% contribution to the renewal of the entire fleet, so-called Fleet Plan of 1960 to 800 million, where 240 million was earmarked for submarines.
In line with the Navy's Fleet Plan of 1960, the Storting approved the building of fifteen new submarines during the period from 1964 to 1967. These were of a German type and called the Kobben class. Further additions, also German in type, were made to the fleet between 1989 and 1992. These Ula class submarines are often described as the world's most advanced coastal submarines, with an official diving depth of 250 meters. They can in fact dive much deeper - down to 500 meters it is claimed.
In planning with new submarines Nowrway considered both the Swedish Hajen and the French Daphne, before ending up with a German submarine. West Germany had, after they joined NATO in 1955, an opportunity to start the development of new submarines of limited size. Under the leadership of Ulrich Gabler building on their technology to the so-called electro-submarines, type XXI and the far smaller type XXIII, which they had developed towards the end of the war.
The new type, which they called Type 201, was submarines that really were constructed in order to operate under water and not just dive to attack or escape. Although 201 was far less than Norway had thought and did not meet Norway's operational requirements, e.g. radius of action, dive depth and number of torpedoes, the price was supposed to be "only" about 20 million per item. Thus Norway would get as many units that would outweigh the problem of that class only had 8 torpedo tubes without room for additional torpedoes.
The contract for the construction of 15 new submarines was signed with the German shipyard Rheinstahl Nordseewerke in Emden, on 22 December 1961 with very good offset conditions. The German navy had by this time already 12 such boats on order at a shipyard in Kiel. The coming years cooperation both shipyards, constructors and the two navies closely on further improvements of the design. Norway got two years borrow one of the German submarines (U3), for testing, and it was named Seal.
The intensive testing and collaboration resulted in adjustments, first the Germans got the benefit of the construction of their last four submarines of this class, with the type designation 205. These were then developed to the final Norwegian edition as class 207. Construction of the Norwegian series started in the summer 1963 and during 26 hectic months from 30 November 1964 launched in turn the 15 submarines, all of which hoisted command within six months after launching.
With Kobben class Norway now had a large, modern fleet of small, silent submarines, for the first time primarily designed for operation under water, with dedicated torpedoes for surface water and undervannsmål. In the Cold War, Norway's Submarine Weapons thus well equipped to solve a variety of tasks; as a threat to both surface water and underwater vehicles in a prominent sjøinvasjonsforsvar, in the role of protecting its own supply lines, in the execution of intelligence operations and for any operations with landing and extraction of special forces.
Experiences with kobben-class submarine was good, and even better was the then fire control system was upgraded and when new torpedoes were acquired. There was a strong focus on North areas. a separate submarine base was created on Olavsvern in 1968, but constantly changing one of the submarines that were in the north. And constantly practiced one with surface vessels, which also needed training in anti-submarine operations. With specially designed propellers and with good knowledge of the layers in the water were submarines very difficult to catch with sonars, which our allies had to face.
When in the early 1980s Norway decided to acquire new submarines, it was feared that the budget would not number as many submarines as one based on a threat assessment was thought might have in the future. Money that could otherwise be used for a new boat numbers 7 and 8, was therefore rather used to a technical upgrade of 6 of Kobben class. In this upgrade was done from 1985-1993 were submarines extended by 2 meters. Important technical equipment was changed and conditions for crews likewise security conditions were improved. Further 3 of Kobben-class wereupgraded to be transferred to Denmark, while the others were phased out. Because budgets was not enough and threat assessments changed, it was decided in 2001 to phase out also the reconstituted Kobben class submarines. Thus, it is now Poland who enjoy to operate the still very good Kobben class submarines.
A submarine of Kobben class, KNM UTSTEIN, was taken ashore as a museum at the Naval Museum in Horten.
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