One of the most advanced submarines in the world is the German Type 212 class. Equipped with a fuel cell propulsion system, the Type 212 submarines are the first of only two fuel cell propulsion system equipped submarines, the other being the Russian Lada class submarine.
Initial designation of the advanced project was Type 212. Due to significant updates to the design the designation was changed to Type 212A. The submarine itself represents a great leap in conventional submarine technology. Designed to be virtually independent from outer air, the Type 212A is fitted with an air-independent propulsion system. This system is a combination of a conventional diesel generator with a lead acid battery and a fuel cell equipped with oxygen and hydrogen storage. The fuel cell system is comprised of nine Polymer Electrolyte Membrane (PEM) fuel cells, each of these cells providing between 30 kW and 50 kW.
The Type 212A is probably the quietest submarine in the world. Engineers have managed to reduce the Type 212A’s signature by using the latest technology available. Their aim was to reduce the waterborne noise, magnetism, radar, infrared and pressure signature to as low as possible. The diesel generator plant is mounted on a swinging deck platform with double elastic mounts for noise and vibration isolation. The propeller motor is directly coupled to the seven-bladed screwback propeller. The pressure hull is built from non-magnetic steel of high strength and resilience. 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 submarine has not sacrificed agility. Capable of operating in waters only 20 meters deep, the crew of the sub compares it to a dolphin. Four of the Type 212A submarines were built at the shipyards of HDW and Thyssen Nordseewerke GmbH (TNSW) of Emden for the German Navy. The four submarines are U31, U32, U33 and the U34. Two more Type 212A submarines have been built by Fincantieri for the Italian Navy: Salvatore Todaro and Scire.
Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft GmbH or HDW, the people who created this masterpiece of technology have taken the Type 212A a step further. The Type 214 submarine is af urther improvement of the Type 212A, with an incresed diving depth of more than 400 meters due to use of new pressure hull materials. Performance of the AIP system has been increased with two Siemens PEM fuel cells which produce 120kW per module and will give the submarine an underwater endurance of two weeks. A hull shape which has been further optimised for hydrodynamic and stealth characteristics and a low-noise propeller combine to decrease the submarine’s acoustic signature.
Greece has ordered four Type 214 submarines for the Hellenic Navy:Papanikolis, Pipinos, Matrozos, Katsonis. South Korea has ordered three: Admiral Sohn Won-il, Jung Ji and a third one to enter service in 2009. The submarines will form the KSS2 Class.
Type 212/214 Specifications
Crew 27 (including five officers)
Torpedoes six 533mm tubes, 24 STN Atlas Elektronik DM2A4 torpedoes
Combat Data System Basic Command and Weapons Control System (BCWCS)
ESM EADS FL1800U
Decoys TAU 2000 torpedo countermeasures system
Radar Kelvin hughes type 1007 I-band navigation radar
Sonar STN Atlas Elektronik DBQS-40 sonar suite and STN Atlas Elektronik MOA 3070 mine detection sonar
Periscopes Zeiss Optronic SERO 14 search and SERO 15 attack
Propulsion Diesel-electric, MTU 16V-396 diesel engine, 3.12MW, HDW / Siemens AIP (Air-Independent Propulsion) system, 300kW
Displacement (Surfaced) 1,524t
Displacement (Dived) 1,830t
Surface Displacement 1,700m³
Pressure Hull Diameter 6.3m
Buoyancy Reserve >10%
Speed (Surfaced) 12kt
Speed (Dived) 20kt
Range (at 8kt Surfaced) 8,000 miles
Range (at 8kt Dived) 420 miles
Submerged Patrol Speed of Advance 6kt
Mission Endurance 12 weeks
Constantly Submerged Three weeks without snorkelling
Mission Sprint Speed 15kt to 20kt
Maximum Dive Depth 400m+
Type 212A on Discovery Channel Future Weapons
U 31 “Wittenberge” is the first Type 212A submarine of the German Navy
U34 the last of the Type 212 A for the German Navy