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Reprinted with permission from Defence Systems Daily of 25 March 2002, a publication of Defence Data Ltd.

Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft AG (HDW) in Kiel has christened the first of four 212A class submarines as U31. The submarine is destined for the German Navy. HDW in Kiel and Thyssen Nordseewerke in Emden are currently constructing the four boats. After comprehensive tests and trials, U31 is scheduled for commissioning on 30 March 2004.

The new class 212 submarine developed by HOW has an air-independent propulsion system using a hydrogen fuel cell. HOW is the first shipyard in the world to offer a fuel cell propulsion system ready for series production. The fuel cell plant, which produces electrical energy from oxygen and hydrogen, allows the new class of submarines to cruise under water for weeks without surfacing. Conventional diesel-electric submarines have used up their battery power after about two days cruising under water. In addition, the fuel cell makes no noise and produces no give-away exhaust heat. These factors help to make the submarine virtually undetectable.

Advances in detection capabilities and the increasing ability of anti-submarine warfare means as well as the extended scope of operations prompted the development of this new submarine class 212A. The extremely favourable signatures, the fuel cell propulsion plant and the boat’s detection and weapon systems ensure that these new submarines will be suited for successful employment in every conceivable area of operations. At the same time, the design allows for high availability and low maintenance cost.

In his speech at the name-giving ceremony, Mr. Hanfried Haun, Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors of HOW, re-marked that the decision in favor of incorporating the fuel cell in the submarine building programmer had laid the foundations of continued long-term employment for the HOW shipyard. He said that a large number of sub-contractors and suppliers in the whole of Germany also profited from submarine construction by HOW.

The development of the fuel cell propulsion system also furnished HOW with a number of follow-on building contracts. Orders are on hand for export version submarines of class 214, with three on order each for the Greek and Korean navies. The Italian navy has followed the lead of the German Navy and is building two class 212A boats at the Fincantieri shipyard in Italy. Technical Data of U31 at a glance:

  • General characteristics: Length overall-about 56.0m; Height to top of bridge fin-about 11.5m; Maximum diameter-about 7 .O; Displacement-about 1450 tons; Crew-27; Pressure hull-non-magnetic steel; Fully integrated control system; Command and weapon control system; X rudder.
  • Propulsion plant: Diesel generator; Propulsion mo-tor-Siemens Permasyn motor; Fuel cell plant; Low-noise skew back propeller.
  • Weapons: Heavyweight torpedoes; Torpedo tubes with water-pressure expulsion system

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