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Type 212 Multi Purpose Submarine

The Type 212 submarine was developed at the request of the German Navy and is being built by Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft GmbH (HDW) of Kiel and Thyssen Nordseewerke GmbH (TNSW) of Enden. Four boats joined the German fleet. The class 212 A submarine represents a great leap in conventional submarine technology. This new class is fitted with an air-independent propulsion system (hydrogen-oxygen fuel cells). Its signature (noise, magnetism, radar, infrared and pressure) is significantly reduced compared even with other conventional submarines. The pressure hull is built of non-magnetic steel of high strength and resilience. Main armament is the newly developed, wireguided DM 2A4 heavyweight torpedo, a further development of the SEEHECHT torpedo.

As of 1988 plans called for building 12 class 212 submarines with an additional drive which is independent of outside air(hybrid drive) starting the middle of the 1990s. With the end of the Cold War the submarine force in the German Navy was getting old. All 24 of the existing German submarines were commissioned prior to 1975. The six older Type-205's were replaced by new construction Type-212's in the late 1990's. The first Type-212 had been epected to enter service in 1996, but in fact was not in service until 2004. Twelve of the Type-206 submarines were extensively modernized and were to serve for ten to fifteen more years. In the early 1990s the future submarine force in the German Navy was expected to decline to around 18 units, but in fact by the end of the decade only 14 boats were in service, and by 2013 only four Type 212 remained in commission.

The Italian U-212A program derives from the Italian Navy requirement for a new class of submarines which comply with current operational needs. In order to achieve this goal, the MMI has found it necessary to proceed on the road to international cooperation with Germany, which, on the basis of a previously defined project, had already finalized in 1994 a programme to build new submarines 4 called "U-212 Class".

The collaboration between Italy and GERMANY, designed to meet the needs of both the Marine was definitely based on the new project, called "U212A" and has been formalized with a Government agreement between the defence ministries of the two Nations, signed on April 22, 1996 (Memorandum Of Understanding-MOU U212A). Key elements of this agreement are construction in Italy and in Germany the same submarine U-type 212A (4 boats in Germany and 2 in Italy) with the option for Italian construction of additional 2 units. The option was exercised and the additional two units of the class, identical to the first, will be delivered to M.M.I. by 2015/6. Integration of logistic and technical supports and Italian and German training is intended to achieve operating economies and the basis for a full interoperability purposes.

Air-Independent Propulsion" (AIP) submarines can be used to telling effect for both short- and medium-range missions. AIP dramatically expands the tactical "trade-space" for diesel-electric submarines. If conditions permit, they can transit rapidly on the surface with-out unduly expending the wherewithal for superior underwater performance. Submerged, they can opt for a long, slow, silent patrol that keeps their batteries fully charged and thus capable of powering speed bursts of significant duration. And by carefully husbanding their resources, they can revert again to slow-speed operation and repeat the cycle several times over weeks of submergence. The the first AIP system to enter regular submarine service were the Swedish Navy's three Gotland-class submarines, which each used two Stirling cycle engines as an adjunct to their main diesel-electric engineering plants to provide underwater endurance up to several weeks. Class 206A influenced the design of the German submarine already high flexibility for operations in shallow and narrow waters with lowest snorkel times for battery charging. The development of detection technologies and the increasing number of submarinejagdmittel, as well as the advanced area of the application required the development of the new class 212 A.

The most prominent feature of the Type 212 is an air-independent propulsion system using a silent hydrogen/oxygen fuel cell system that makes the submarine more difficult to detect and inceases submersion time. The Type 212's hybrid diesel-electric and air-independent fuel-cell propulsion system meets a vital requirement for low detectability. The efficiency of these fuel cells is very high compared to the diesel generator. It is approximately 65%. This means that 65% of applied energy, which is in the hydrogen, can be converted into electricity. The losses, E.g. due to friction/heat amount to only 35%. At best, good diesel generators have an efficiency of about 30%. Since the voltage can reach a single fuel cell is limited, be installed in several fuel cells. Such a module can then generate the voltage required and the desired amount of electricity connected in parallel several modules.

The greatest challenge for fuel-cell AIP systems lies in storing the reactants. Although oxygen can be handled with relative safety as LOX, storing hydrogen onboard as a liquid or high-pressure gas is very dangerous. One solution is to carry the hydrogen in metal hydride accumulators, at low pressure and ambient sea temperature. (A metal hydride is a solid compound of hydrogen and metallic alloy, in which individual hydrogen atoms occupy interstitial positions in the host metal's crystalline lattice. By manipulating temperature and pressure, hydrogen gas can be absorbed or released at will.) Another, less efficient, approach is to generate gaseous hydrogen from a stored liquid hydrocarbon such as diesel fuel, kerosene, or methanol. This requires an auxiliary device called a "reformer," in which a mixture of hydrocarbon and water is vaporized and superheated under pressure to yield a mixture of hydrogen and carbon dioxide.

A noiseless propeller is driven by a low-noise, high-performance, permament-magnet motor. The reactants for the fuel cell (hydrogen and oxygen) will be stored in the after part of the boat between the pressure hull and an outer, free-flooding hull. The low-detection-probability requirement will also be met by reducing the boat's acoustic, magnetic, radar, and visual signatures and by minimizing its sonar target strength (against active detection) and sonar target level (against passive detection). The pressure hull, made of high-strength nonmagnetic steel, is optimized for hydrodynamic properties and maneuverability.

PEM (Polymer Electrolyte Membrane) fuel cells are known for their efficient conversion of hydrogen (as fuel) and oxygen into electrical energy. Optimised for specific requirements in submarines, they will be the key component for electricty generation in future conventional submarines. Siemens has developed and is manufacturing two different types of PEM fuel cell modules, one type for the German and Italian U 212 submarines and antoher for the U214 submarine which will be used by the Hellenic and the South Korean navy.

The 1,840-ton German and Italian U 212-class submarines use nine PEM fuel-cell modules each nominally rated at 34 kilowatts, to yield a total of approximately 300 kilowatts (400 horsepower). With metal-hydride hydrogen storage, the system is predicted to yield 14 days submerged endurance and the ability to run up to eight knots on the fuel cells alone. Siemens developed a next-generation PEM module rated at 120 kilowatts, and two of these are incorporated into HDW's 1,860-ton U 214 boats, planned as export successors to the U 212 series.

Siemens marine & shipbuilding’s polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cells are the wave of the future for external air-independent electric energy generation in submarines. As the cells need only hydrogen and oxygen as fuel, dives can be significantly prolonged. This makes submarines equipped with these low-temperature fuel cells far superior to conventional submarines, which must surface fairly often to recharge their batteries. These designs are much more efficient and emit no exhaust whatsoever. Thanks to their electrochemical mechanism of action, which creates only water and heat in addition to electricity, the PEM fuel cell creates zero noise. Its robust, low-signature and nonmagnetic design was specially created for long-term use and has an expected service life of many years – and all in a very low-maintenance package.

The fuel cell system permits submerged operations for up to one month without snorkeling. The design itself is very hydrodynamically clean, which suggests a high maximum speed (>20 kts). Using the X-helm for the first time, the German Navy will also improve agility. New stainless and a-magnetic steel for the pressure hull could allow dives of over 300 m.

The Type 212's two decks of crew space mean that the days of the "warm bunk" belong to the past. The commander has his own cabin with a door. The boat is so spacious that change dividing of the interior arrangement is no longer necessary for reloading the weapons. The towed array is mounted in the conning tower. The X-tail rudders would guide it directly into the propellor if the steel ropes weren't strung from the rudder tips.

The contract to deliver a second batch of two HDW Class 212A submarines was signed on 22nd September 2006 in Koblenz with the German Office for Military Technology and Procurement/BWB (now the German Office for Equipment, Information Technology and Employment of the Bundeswehr/BAAINBW). The submarine building activities are taking place at the shipyards of ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems in Kiel and Emder Werft- und Dockbetriebe in Emden.

The two additional units are largely identical to their sister ships from the first batch. They are also equipped with the HDW air-independent fuel cell propulsion system which has already given excellent results in operations with the boats of the first batch. The German Navy submarine U32 gave renewed proof of this in April 2013. On the way to participate in naval exercises in the USA the boat produced a new record for non-nuclear submarines with 18 days in submerged transit without snorkelling.

Due to changing mission profiles and continuous advances in technology, a number of modifications have been made with regard to the second batch of HDW Class 212A. These changes cover:

  • Incorporation of a communications system suitable for use in Network Centric Warfare scenarios
  • Installation of the integrated German Sonar and Command Weapon and Control System
  • Substitution of the flank array with a superficial lateral antenna
  • Replacement of one periscope by an optronic mast
  • Integration of a diver lock-out system
  • Tropical readiness of the boats.

The boats of HDW Class 212A excel with their capability to operate from deep submerged positions far offshore or in extremely shallow waters. They fully meet modern demands with regard to new mission profiles.

The Italian Navy decided in favor of a second batch of two HDW Class 212A submarines, which are built under licence by the Italian shipyard Fincantieri. That meant that the Italian Navy would soon also have four boats of this class available for operations. Delivery of the ships will be held respectively in 2015 and 2016. They will replace the unit and Sauro Pelosi, Prini, adopted in 1988 and 1989.

In September 2006, the German Navy ordered two further U212 submarines. They are 1.2 meters longer to give additional space for a new reconnaissance mast. The first of these two, designated U35, was delivered in November 2011 and the second was delivered in 2013. One of the most modern non-nuclear submarines in the world was named 15 May 2013 at the shipyard of ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems GmbH, a company of ThyssenKrupp Industrial Solutions AG, under the name of "U36". This marked another important milestone in the ongoing shipbuilding program for the German Navy. U36 is the second boat of the second batch of HDW Class 212A submarines destined for operation in the German Navy.

The status of thse two boats is a bit obscure. Their original delivery schedule was delayed, and as of late 2014 they did not appeare to be in commission. On 27 May 2013 the German Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière and his Polish counterpart Tomasz Siemoniak signed a “Letter of Intention” to increase co-operation between the two countries’ navies in 28 areas including through a “submarine operating authority”.

Poland was looking to acquire three new submarines by 2030 and reports on Polish news portal Defence 24 in September 2013 said “particularly intense talks” were underway between the German makers of the U-212A submarines, TKMS, and the Polish Ministry of Defence to lease two German submarines.

The Multi-year Defense Policy Document for the three-year period 2018-2020'sent to the Chamber on 15 October 2018 provided for the development of new submarines. This is the program that, allowing funds and technological developments, should lead to the construction of the new submarine based on the U212A project but with systems on board, including the propulsive one independent of the air, of national development and production with involvement of the Italian industrial chain and of the national research of the sector, starting from Fincantieri and the University of Genoa. The total costs of the program amounting to 2.35 billion euros, of which 806 million have been allocated so far (distributed over 13 years starting from 2018) for the start of activities, concern the development and construction of four new submarines in two series or lots and relative support in service.

The boats are intended to replace the most ancient "SAURO" class submarines in service. The planning identity is Italo-German construction of the new submarines makes it possible to achieve maximum interoperability and to achieve significant economies of scale, both in the acquisition and in the exercise phase, in the sectors of technical-logistical support and training.

The return of German submarines to normal service operations turned out to be more complex than expected. While with "U 31" since the beginning of May 2018, a submarine was ready for training trips, the Navy is still waiting for more boats. At the beginning of 2018, the Navy had hoped to have at least three of the six boats ready to go by the summer. But the Navy was far from that. At the shipyard TKMS in Kiel, only one of the U-boats lying ashore there since last year has been moved. The submarine "U 36" was pulled from its storage area to the lift and brought to the water. It was to be prepared in the harbor for the return to service of the Navy. The boat put into service in 2016 had been in repair at the Kiel shipyard for almost a year.

Only "U 31" was currently ready to go. It was on the training drive in the Skagerrak until April 20. With this submarine now take the important trips for the training of the crews. At Kiel shipyard, two more boats were laying over. Two more submarines are in Eckernförde waiting for a place in the shipyard. Following a collision with a rock off Norway in late 2017, "U 35", the last U-boat in the navy, had failed. Due to lack of spare parts and long shipyard laytime, the five other submarines had already failed. In the summer of 2017, "U 32" had problems with batteries.

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Page last modified: 01-05-2019 18:54:56 ZULU