Type 212 of Germany is currently the most advanced diesel-electric submarine in the world today.
Strong firepower, extremely low noise, long operating time, this is dubbed the “F-22 of the ocean”.
To replace the Type 206 class, in the 1990s, Germany began a program to develop Type 212 submarines on the basis of the Type 209 improvements and the application of an Air-Independent Propulsion system. In 1994, the German and Italian navies collaborated on the design of a new non-nuclear submarine, able to operate both in the shallow and narrow seas of the Baltic and in the deeper waters of the Mediterranean, known as the Type 212A. In April 1996, the two navies began to build the first four ships for each navies, the first went into service in 2005. Since then, 6 have been completed for the German Navy and 4 for the Italian Navy.
Power is through a single MTU 16V 396 diesel engine which allows for cruising at 20 knots along the surface and 12 knots submerged. The Type-212A was the first to make use of Fuel Cell AIP. The submarines can operate at high speed on diesel power yet switch to the AIP system for silent cruising at slow speed. It can also stay submerged for up to three weeks with little exhaust heat—making the Type-212A virtually undetectable. The German Navy has boasted that it is the quietest submarine in operation today.
As the German Navy has expanded its operating area to cover the waters of Northern Europe, the North Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea, the Type-212A has been crucial—allowing Germany to operate in the littoral areas as well as the open sea. The submarines are also equipped with a highly integrated command and weapons control system that interfaces with the sensors, weapons and navigation systems.
The Type-212A offers an even greater range, diving depth and displacement than its predecessor submarines while being equipped with improved communications systems and reconnaissance capabilities. In support of the modernization efforts, the sixth Type-212A submarines in service have also been equipped with land-attack capability. The first of the improved class, U-32 is approximately 183-feet long with a beam of nearly twenty-two feet. It has a draught of nineteen feet.
It is notable that the Type-212A boats are manned by just five officers and twenty-two sailors, and the submarine features two decks—which provides additional sleeping and living space and the end of “warm bunking.” The boat’s torpedo area is even reported to be spacious enough that it is no longer necessary to divide the interior to reload weapons.
Torpedoes are still the primary weapon, and the Type-212A features six 533-millimeter torpedo tubes. The tubes are positioned in two rows of three, four pointing slight left and two tubes to the right. Additionally, the submarines can be used to deploy German special operations forces through the torpedo tubes. While the German Bundesmarine may only have six of these Type-212A boats in operation these are quite a powerful—and quiet—boat that can help with it the ability to operate in brown, green and blue water environments.
Shipyards around the world have also produced under license more than a dozen German Type 214 export submarines. The Type 214 submarine is 65 meters long, the hull is not made of non-magnetic materials like the Type 212, but this export version has a longer range and a diving depth greater than 400 meters, to suit the waters beyond the Baltic, plus 8 torpedo tubes capable of launching Harpoon anti-ship missiles.
Type 214 class operators currently include the Greek and Portuguese Navy. Turkey is also in the process of building six Type 214 ships. These submarines will use Turkish electronics and be equipped with American Mark 48 torpedoes, IDAS missiles and possibly Gezgin-D ground attack cruise missiles.