The German Type 212 class is a highly
advanced design of non-nuclear submarine (U-boat) developed by
Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft AG (HDW) for the German and Italian 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.
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 shallow and confined 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 has been 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
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, designated as the Todaro class.
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.
The export-oriented Type 214 submarine succeeds the Type 209 submarine and
shares certain features with the Type 212A, such as the AIP fuel cell
In April 2006, U-32 sailed from the Baltic to Rota, Spain in a journey
lasting two weeks, covering 1,500nm without surfacing or snorkelling. Seven
years later, while on the way to participate in naval exercises in the USA,
U-32 established a new record for non-nuclear submarines with 18 days in submerged
transit without snorkelling.
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, significantly reducing the chances of it being
detected by magnetometers or setting off magnetic naval mines.
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.
Currently, the Type 212A is capable of launching the fiber optic-guided DM2A4
Seehecht ("Seahake") heavyweight torpedoes, the WASS A184 Mod.3
torpedoes, the WASS 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), primarily
intended for use against air threats as well as 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
magazine. First deliveries of IDAS for the German Navy are scheduled from
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.
Displacement: 1,450 tonnes surfaced, 1,830 tonnes submerged
Length: 56 m (183.7 ft), 57.2 m (187.66 ft) (2nd batch)
Beam: 7 m (22.96 ft)
Draft: 6 m (19.68 ft)
1 MTU 16V396 diesel-engine
9 HDW/Siemens PEM fuel cells, 30–40 kW each (U31)
2 HDW/Siemens PEM fuel cells 120 kW (U32, U33, U34)
1 Siemens Permasyn electric motor 1700 kW, driving a single seven-bladed
Speed: 20 knots (37 km/h) submerged, 12 knots surfaced
Depth: over 700 m (2,296 ft)
Range: 8,000 nautical miles (14,800 km, or 9,196 miles) at 8 knots (15
Endurance: 3 weeks without snorkeling, 12 weeks overall
6 x 533 mm torpedo tubes (in 2 forward-pointing asymmetric groups of left 4 +
right 2 ) with 13 torpedoes or 24 tube mines
IDAS missiles (planned)
Torpedo defence system Tau, 4 launchers, 40 jammers/decoys
STN Atlas DBQS40 sonar suite:
TAS-3 passive low-frequency towed array sonar (deployed from sail)
FAS-3 passive low-, and medium-frequency hull-mounted flank array sonar
MOA 3070 mine detection sonar
Carl Zeiss SERO 14, with FLIR and optical rangefinder
Carl Zeiss SERO 15, with laser rangefinder
Riva Calzoni periscope masts and snorkeling systems
Kelvin Hughes Type 1007 I band navigation radar
EADS FL 1800U ESM suite
Avio GAUDI autopilot and hydraulic systems
Kongsberg MSI-91 combat system
Crew: 23-27 (incl. 5 officers)
all units are assigned to 1st Submarine
Squadron in Eckernförde, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany