A German Success Story

While the Department of Defence continues to cogitate its navel about the RAN’s SEA 1000 future submarine, in terms of capability, design availability, cost and in service date to eventually replace the Collins, the German submarine building machine HDW continues to pump out its Type 214 SSK to many European maritime countries, (Spain excepted), and is also enjoying export success much further afield – including Asia.

22nd Dec 2010

While the Department of Defence continues to cogitate its navel about the RAN’s SEA 1000 future submarine, in terms of capability, design availability, cost and in service date to eventually replace the Collins, the German submarine building machine HDW continues to pump out its Type 214 SSK to many European maritime countries, (Spain excepted), and is also enjoying export success much further afield – including Asia.

Of course, there are some regional exceptions including Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia who are adopting other platforms for various reasons (mainly price). However, Indonesia is still a possible customer for older HDW Type 209s to replace the two it has in service. When it comes to military procurements - particularly submarines - these countries will haggle for the lowest price, highest in-country production, and suffer from those decisions. India adopts this acquisition process with notable lack of success. The facts are that there aren’t any cheap” rides”, except when the USA deliberately sets out to “buy” a country.

Japan is an exception as it has a robust, long-term, continuous, indigenous submarine design and construction program with the latest excellent Soryu class SSK with Kockums AIP. Noteworthy is that Japan has recently announced its intention to increase in its submarine fleet size from 16 boats to 22 by building at a rate of one each year and extending the life of its existing fleet. But Japan is not in the military equipment export game - or at least not yet.

Interestingly, Australia appears to be a very odd ball. Under SEA 1000 it wants to build a postulated 12 very large, SSKs, having more than twice the displacement of the Type 214 and other similar submarines. In addition, the Navy seems to want to carry over the Collins US combat system and weapons technology into the new submarine - but there is not one such vessel on the drawing board that fulfils that wish-list.

It has been observed that twice the displacement does not buy twice the capability - except perhaps in cruising range and troop transport. There are very few submarine platforms that approach the size being discussed, although the nuclear powered French Barracuda SSN (4,765t, surfaced) would be large enough to satisfy some in the RAN’s Big Submarine faction. Six Barracuda class are scheduled to be commissioned by the French Navy over the period 2017-2027. Adoption of the Spanish S80 has been canvassed in the local press – including APDR - but at 2,200t (surface displacement) it is arguably too small and is not yet in service. Only four of this class are presently planned for the Spanish Navy. Of the above, a conventional version of the Barracuda with MESMA AIP comes nearest to the projected displacement of a new submarine for the RAN. A rescoped Collins SSK is evidently not a candidate and this is not surprising given the age of the platform.

However, even though the Defence White Paper refers to the new generation of submarines as larger than Collins this has not yet emerged as a formal requirement. Hopefully planners will focus on the capability side of the equation and leave it to industry to develop an appropriate solution – whatever its size might ultimately be.

The 209 to the 212 and the 214

From an historic reference point the German HDW Type 209 is one of the most successful post-WW2 submarine designs that has been widely exported. It has been widely replaced by the Type 214, itself the export version of the U212 developed specifically for the German Navy. The Type 214 draws extensively from the U212 and contains a number of technological improvements – and has longer range - such that the German Navy may eventually itself invest in its version of the U214. Apart from its fundamental design and performance the U214 is available with a combat build standard and weapons that suit the client’s objectives, and is based on German and European military products.


The U214.

This is a current platform technology submarine that has the following features:

• Crew: 27, including five Officers
• Automation. Highly developed, low maintenance to minimise crew workload. Particular emphasis on use of multifunction command displays and unambiguous graphical/tabular multicolour data presentation.
• Hull. Single deck, low magnetic signature, low acoustic profile prismatic-shaped hull with cruciform control surfaces for shallow water operations. The U214 also employs higher tensile strength steel in the hull than the U212 to provide deeper submerged performance Rotary and noisy machines such as pumps are installed in acoustic isolation cradles to reduce radiated acoustic noise.
• Propulsion.
• Surface propulsion is provided by a single diesel–electric plant that drives a single very compact, variable-speed permanent magnet main motor and a single, skew-back, low cavitation propeller.
• Submerged propulsion is provided by two sources:
• Rechargeable multi-cell battery using high efficiency lead-acid, sodium sulphide, or lithium polymer technology, for increased submerged endurance. This physically large battery is charged by a separate air-breathing diesel-engined motor-generator set that requires snorting. Development of this type of battery pack continues to increase efficiency, longevity and decrease mass.
• AIP propulsion system using the Siemens Polymer Electrolyte Membrane (PEM) fuel cells that provide a continuous source of electrical energy by the catalytic conversion of two reactants, hydrogen and oxygen, in a series of fuel cells. PEM technology was adopted by the German Navy after research of all emerging AIP systems. Hydrogen is stored as a hydrate external to the pressure hull and oxygen is stored in a liquid state within the pressure hull. The size of the tanks and the storage pressures determine the capacity (kWh) of the plant. The size of the fuel cell assembly determines the current (A) output of the plant. The two reactants are pumped from opposite sides across a series of PEM cells, the number of which determine the plant’s energy capacity. Each cell contains a platinum catalyst membrane deposited as a film on an inert carbon sheet and contained in a cell. On the anode side of the cell hydrogen pumped into the cells is decomposed by the catalyst into its electrons and protons, with the electrons being output to the ship's power supply as electrical energy. The protons cross back through the membrane to the cathode side of the cell where they recombine with the electrons and together with the oxygen molecules form pure water. Water is the only by-product of the process. The output of the PEM cell assembly is connected to a power converter to provide submarine voltage.
The system has been refined and exhaustively tested to operate in a submarine environment and to produce more power. For example the first cell assembly for the U212 output 34kW whereas two current cell assemblies in the U214 produce 120kW at current densities of 1000mA/cm3 @ 0.7V.
An extremely important feature of this system is that it generates virtually no waste heat energy.

• Combat system.
Apart from relatively minor upgrades the architectures of the combat systems (CS) for the U212 and U214 are very similar. The CS comprises two integrated but functionally discrete systems: the Atlas Electronik ISUS-90 and the Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace of Norway Basic Command & Weapons Control System (Basic CWCS) MSI-90U (the latter on the German Type 212s as the result of a Government-to-Government deal).
Both systems employ COTS and MOTS technologies, redundant open architecture, using fibre optic LANs, distributed processing and multi-function displays. Collectively the two systems integrate all sensors, all weapons, decoys, and navigation functions.
These systems are sufficiently flexible to allow a customer-defined sensor and weapons functionality to be incorporated by introducing variants. A significant example is the South Korean Type 214 on order under the KSS-111 program where the system is specified to be able to simultaneously detect 240 targets and simultaneously track 32 of them. The KSS-111 program is for six U214s.


Sensor complement.

• Sonar. The submarine is equipped with an integrated DBQS sonar system which has a cylindrical bow-mounted sensor array for passive medium-frequency detection; a TAS-3 low-frequency towed array sonar; a FAS-3 flank array sonar for low- medium-frequency detection; passive ranging sonar; and hostile sonar intercept system. The active high-frequency mine detection sonar is the MOA 3070. Atlas Electronik provides the above systems.
• Periscopes. Two periscopes are installed , the SERO 14 Search periscope fitted with optical rangefinder, thermal imager, ESM and GPS and the SERO 15 attack periscope equipped with optics and a laser rangefinder. Zeiss Optronik provides both periscopes.
• Countermeasures.
• ESM. FL1800U (EADS Systems & Defence Electronics and Thales Defence Ltd). Derivative of an established shipborne system.
• TAU 2000 torpedo countermeasures system (Atlas Elektronik and ELAC).The TAU 2000 has four launch containers, each with up to ten discharge tubes equipped with Effectors. The Effectors are small underwater vehicles, similar in appearance to a torpedo. They provide acoustic jamming and decoy capabilities. Multiple effectors may be deployed to counter torpedoes in a re-attack mode
• DM2A4- Seahecht Torpedo
. Another Atlas Elektronik product, this latest upgrade of the DM2 series torpedo provides a 'mix-and-match' capability for a wide range of operational environments in submarines that accommodate 533mm heavy weight torpedoes. It is a development of the DM2A1 that entered service in 1976. The current production version for the German Navy and NATO is DM2A3, with the A4 being handed over to the German Navy on 3 Dec. 2008 after a long development period. The A4 has been selected by Spain for its new S80 submarines and has been adopted by Italy and Israel.

• Unlike many other heavyweight torpedoes that use liquid fuels or thermal batteries for propulsion the DM2A4 is an all-electric torpedo that is considered to offer the most reliable solution, albeit at the expense of extreme range performance A considerable advantage of an all-electric torpedo is that its propulsion system is fundamentally quieter than an internal combustion piston engine and it does not generate a hot gas exhaust wake. Torpedo speed changes are provided by step-less power changing of the motor. The DM2A4’s propulsion system has been significantly developed to improve performance and application in various operational environments.

A new battery pack and a new motor are included. In its standard configuration (length 6.6m), the weapon has four discrete battery assemblies that are connected to provide the torpedo’s maximum range of more than 27nm (50km) and a speed of approximately 50kt. Shorter range and speed combinations are selectable by reducing the number of batteries connected; these variants are the three-battery M (Medium) version, giving a range of about 21nm (40km); the two-battery S (Short) version with a range of about 16nm (30km) and two single-battery versions with the VS (Very Short) version having a range of about 10nm (17.5km). The maximum speeds of the M through VS variants are also reduced from 90% to 35% of the standard configuration weapon. This arrangement optimises the weapon’s performance in various environments.
New silver-zinc, circular disc format, batteries provide power for a new 300kW high-frequency, permanent-magnet, synchronised motor, which is more than 90% efficient. It has a seven-phase stator coupled to a planetary gearbox that drives the twin contra-rotating six and seven-bladed skew-back, low cavitation, propellors. There is also a new fin and rudder design.

• Sensor System.
A new bow-mounted circular-shape, active/passive sonar is installed using a conformal array of 38 staves (152 transducers) which produce pre-formed, wide-angle beams with full digital processing. A wake homing capability is also achieveable that is optimised to home on a target’s broadly conically shaped wake, typical of single screw commercial shipping, using a process known as “wake nibbling” This process is achieved by causing the torpedo to differentiate the edges of a wake from a no signal condition outside the confines of the wake causing it to steer a spiral pattern of reducing diameter as it approaches the target sound source. A fibre-optic, digital, strap-down inertial sensor is also fitted to stabilise the torpedo.

• Engagement System
In common with most modern torpedos the DM2A4 torpedo is “wire-guided”, although it uses a multi-stranded fibre optic cable and not stranded, insulated copper wire cable. Fibre cable was chosen because of its physical flexibility, immunity to cable water leaks and immunity to extraneous high-power EM radiated energy. The cable allows digital steering and other commands to be sent to the torpedo from the launch submarine during search modes and for data from the torpedo to be sent to the launch submarine. At a critical stage in the homing sequence the cable is cut at the torpedo end and the torpedo homes on its own sensor signals. It is certain that the DM2A4 has a re-attack mode and can differentiate decoys from real targets. A feature of the overall system is that up to four torpedoes can be simultaneously launched and controlled.
The DM2A4 warhead retains the 250kg hexagon/RDT/aluminium high-explosive warhead (equivalent to 460kg of TNT) with magnetic influence and contact fuzes.

• Future development
The DM2A4 was envisaged to be further developed in two design stages to be completed at the end of this decade leading to the DM2A5 version in the 2011-2020 decade, as well as the evolution of a full-length Autonomous Underwater Vehicles for exercise purposes, minefield surveying and neutralisation as part of other systems.

• Communications.
Customer-specified Communications (VLF, SHF) are provided with, as standard, a Link 11 data link.

U214 Specifications
Length 64m
Height 13m
Surface Displacement 1700 m3
Pressure Hull Diameter 6.3m
Buoyancy Reserve >10%
Submerged Patrol Speed 6kt
Mission Sprint Speed 15kt-20kt
Range 12,000nm
Mission Endurance 12 weeks
Constantly submerged endurance 3 weeks
Maximum Dive Depth 400m+

Sales History, Type 214 (German Navy has U212)

Country Quan Build ISS Notes

Greece 4 Greece 2020 1 not accepted. In Germany*
India 6? India Decision awaited
Italy 4 Italy ’05,’07, ’15,’17
Pakistan 3 Pakistan
S. Korea 3 +6 S.Korea 6 Ordered Jan’09. SonWon-il Class
Turkey 6 Turkey Ordered 2009. 209TN Class


• Issue between Germany and Greece over performance and contract price

In addition the Portugese Navy has taken delivery of the first of 3 Type 214s, which for complex political reasons are called Type 209s.



1. The U212 (German/Italian Navies) and Type 214, (international sales) have to be rated as the most presently successful SSN submarines being built.
2. The designs have aimed at compactness, high performance standards in coastal and open ocean environments, adoption of advanced technology that has optimised the achievement of a small crew and their reduced workload, increased availability, reliability and survivability.
3. The designs have adopted the latest technologies in combat systems, underwater weapons and sensor systems.
4. With a range of 12,000nm the Type 214 has a very large operational footprint, coupled with an AIP that allows long submerged periods.
5. In a competition the Type 214 would clearly outperform the Collins Class submarine in all operational aspects.
6. Overseas purchasers have demonstrated their abilities to produce the Type 214 indigenously.
7. The “off-the-shelf” price of a Type 214 could be less than half the price of a SEA1000 submarine and would be available with established through-life support before a new SEA 1000 submarine could achieve that objective and the Type 214 would not be an orphan. .
8. Defence would be guilty of a major error of price, performance, indigenous production and support assessments if it rejected consideration of the Type 214 for a SEA 1000 Collins replacement.

APDR at a glance