With the return of international tensions in the early 2010s, the role of attack submarines increased significantly for the world's navies. A new generation of modern conventionally powered submarines is now entering service, often equipped with anaerobic modules extending their diving autonomy and offering increased performance and enhanced offensive capabilities.
Around ten models now share this market, which is often critical for many navies. In this article, we will present the first five models (alphabetical classification by country), to understand their performance and advantages. A second article will present the last five models.
Germany: Type 212 – Type 214 – Type 218
Type 209 series of submarines exclusively intended for export and which was the most produced type of Western submersible since the 1970s with 61 ships built, the Type 212 submersibles were, for their part, designed for the Navy German company to replace its Type 205 submarines, while responding to the particular context of use in the Baltic Sea and North Sea requiring compact and maneuverable submersibles.
Italy quickly joined the project, and other navies became interested in the ship, making it, with the export versions Type 214 and Type 218, a new commercial success for Germany, with 40 submarines ordered by 8 Marines , without equivalent in the last 30 years.
It must be said that the Type 212, designed by the German submersible specialist TKMS , does not lack arguments to convince. Only 56 meters long with a diving tonnage of 1,800 tonnes, it was the first to be equipped as standard with an anaerobic hydrogen-oxygen fuel cell system, allowing it to significantly increase its diving autonomy.
It is also a German Type 212, the U-32, which holds the world record for the longest operational dive for a non-nuclear submarine, with more than 18 days. Very acoustically discreet, the Type 212 is also built with a non-magnetic hull, like the minehunters, making it very difficult to detect by aircraft using a magnetic anomaly detector, or MAD.
It carries an advanced CSU 90 sonar system, and its armament consists of heavy torpedoes deployed by the 6 frontal torpedo tubes, as well as the IDAS medium-changing anti-ship missile with a range of 40 km. Its crew is limited to 5 officers and 22 crew members, who can stay at sea for almost 3 months in the small submersible. A modernized version , the Type 212 NG , was selected by Norway, Germany and Italy having also acquired ships of this type to strengthen their fleets.
The Type 214 is a version derived from the Type 212 intended for export, and deprived of certain technical characteristics, notably the non-magnetic hull. As a worthy heir to the Type 209, it has so far been ordered by 4 Navies, South Korea, Greece, Portugal and Turkey, and also has the AIP fuel cell anaerobic propulsion of the Type 212.
On the other hand, the Greek and South Korean navies reported numerous technical and operational problems, particularly with the propeller which cavitated (creation of very noisy bubbles around the propeller) easily.
Type 218SG submarines , forming the Invincible class, were ordered by Singapore. These are larger vessels than the Type 212/214, with a submerged tonnage of 2,200 tonnes and a length of 70m.
The Type 218 is derived from the Type 216, itself an enlarged version of the Type 212, intended to compete in the Australian SEA 1000 competition, which will ultimately see Naval Group's Shortfin Barracuda selected by Canberra.
China: modern Type 039A Yuan class submarines
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