Type 214, Scorpene, Yuan: how do modern conventional submarines perform? - Part 1

With the return of international tensions in the early 2010s, the role of attack submarines increased dramatically for global navies. A new generation of attack submarines with conventional propulsion are now entering service, often equipped with anaerobic modules extending their diving autonomy and offering increased performance and enhanced offensive capabilities. Today, around ten models share this market, which is often critical for many navies. In this article, we will present the first 5 models (alphabetical classification by country), to understand their performances and advantages. A second article will present the last 5 models.

Germany: Type 212/214/218

Derivatives of the submarine series Type 209 exclusively intended for export and which was the most produced type of western submersible since the 70s with 61 ships built, Type 212 submersibles were were designed for the German Navy to replace its Type 205 submarines, while responding to the particular context of use in the Baltic Sea and North Sea requiring compact and maneuvering submersibles. Quickly, Italy joined the project, and other navies took an interest in the ship, making, with the export versions Type 214 and Type 218, a new commercial success for Germany, with 40 submarines ordered by 8 Marines, unparalleled in the past 30 years.

The German Navy operates 6 Type 212 submarines and has ordered 2 additional units concurrently from Norway

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 for a diving gauge of 1,800 tonnes, it was the first to be fitted as standard with an anaerobic system with a hydrogen-oxygen fuel cell, allowing it to significantly increase its diving range. 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 unobtrusive, the Type 212 is also built with an a-magnetic hull, much like mine hunters, making it very difficult to detect by aircraft using a magnetic anomaly detector, or MAD. It carries an evolved CSU 90 sonar system, and its armament consists of heavy torpedoes deployed by the 6 frontal torpedo tubes, as well as the anti-ship missile with change of medium IDAS ranging to 40 km. Its crew is limited to 5 officers and 22 crew members, who can keep the sea for almost 3 months in the small submersible. A modernized version, Type 212 NG, has been selected by Norway, Germany and Italy having also acquired vessels of this type to strengthen their fleets.

The Greek Type 214s experienced certain technological setbacks. The Greek Navy has ordered 6 units, 4 of which are already in service.

Le Type 214 is a derivative version of the Type 212 intended for export, and deprived of certain technical characteristics, in particular the a-magnetic shell. A worthy heir to the Type 209, it has so far been commanded by 4 navies, South Korea, Greece, Portugal and Turkey, and it also has the Type 212 fuel cell AIP anaerobic propulsion. The Greek and South Korean navies reported many technical and operational issues, especially with the propeller which cavitated (creation of very sound bubbles around the propeller) easily. The 4 submarines of Type 218SG, forming the Invincible class, were ordered by Singapore. These are larger ships than the Type 212/214, with a underwater tonnage of 2200 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 participate in the Australian SEA 1000 competition, which will eventually see the Naval Group Shortfin Barracuda selected by Canberra.

China: Type 039A Yuan class


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