The German U-Boat Arm: A Shadow of Itself.

Although no one really expected Germany to rebuild the Kriegsmarine U-Boot arm to the levels of it’s glory days of WWII, it was natural for Germany to create a force sufficient for her modern needs.

After WWII, Germany transitioned from quantity to quality, incorporating designs and improvements of the late-war Type XXI & XXIII into smaller, but deadlier submarines.  German submarines are still considered to be top-notch, and several have been sold to overseas bidders.

Now, however, it seems that the great German submarine tradition may well be on it’s way to history’s dustbin.

From Defense News comes word that Germany will retire 6 of it’s 10 U-Boats


Published: 4 Jun 2010 10:49.

BONN, Germany – The German Navy abruptly decommissioned more than half of its submarine fleet on June 1, well ahead of the planned 2016 retirement of the six 500-ton U-206A-class diesel submarines.

Now the German sub fleet consists of four U-212A-class vessels. The 1,830-ton boats, among the world’s most modern conventional submarines, have a new hybrid drive with a fuel cell that allows them to operate fully submerged for several weeks.

All four were commissioned between 2005 and 2007; the Navy is expecting the delivery of two more slightly modified U-212A-class subs by 2012 or 2013.

“At the moment, we expect their operational readiness not later than 2015,” a German Navy spokesman said.

The spokesman did not say whether the decommissioning was related to recently announced government plans to cut defense spending.

The newspaper Kieler Nachrichten said the decommissioning of the U-206As has dropped Germany from second to sixth place among nations that operate non-nuclear submarines.

Between 1973 and 1975, Germany commissioned 18 U-206-class submarines. In the early 1990s, the service modernized 12 of them to the U-206 A standard, when they were the smallest operating armed submarines in the world, according to Navy officials.

The crews of the decommissioned boats will be retrained to serve on the U-212A subs.

“Until now, every crew was assigned to its own boat, but we will change this to a two-crew concept,” the spokesman said.

That way, the submarines themselves can remain longer in an operational area while only their crews will have to be changed. Germany’s planned F125 frigates also will use this approach.

Of course, this Blue/Gold crew business is wishful thinking, as it fails to take into account any mechanical casualties.  Any sort of mechanical issues in a single boat will now deprive the fleet of 25% of it’s force.  One has to ask, then, “Why bother”? To my mind, that may be exactly what the German Government is thinking. It’ s always politically easier to cut defense spending than entitlement programs. Germany certainly has a socialist history, with entire generations now being weaned at the government tit, and large numbers spending their lives slurping at the public trough rather than actually creating wealth.  Don’t get me wrong. Germany is still head and shoulders above any other European nation, but but a major reason for her economic prosperity has been that these United States have taken over a large portion of their defense budget these past 65 years.

However, as to the immediate problem,  it is disappointing that Germany has taken these steps. Even with 4 new boats coming online in the future, the short-term loss of these 6 boats, along with the training and operational experience they provide is a further weakening of NATO maritime strength, at a time when international tensions are rising.

A simple suggestion for Germany: Stop bailing out other nations, and see to your own national needs first. Would that these United States were able to do that.

Type 212-a German U-Boat


16 Responses to “The German U-Boat Arm: A Shadow of Itself.”

  1. 1 ewok40k
    June 12, 2010 at 15:42

    I hope Polish navy will try to acquire some of the retired boats, as it already has some ex-Norwegian Type 207s. Polish subs managed to operate without losses for quite some time in 1939 even under total German naval supremacy in Baltic, though without scoring any hits. Of 5 subs deploysd 3 were interned in Sweden, 2 managed to slip to UK to fight further.
    In the case of major trouble with Russia subs are ideal way to stop Russian Baltic Navy from trying to land any forces in the Polands coast.

  2. 2 SCOTT the BADGER
    June 12, 2010 at 22:36

    With Russia feeling her oats, and leting her pet Bear off his leash, we are now going to live in a world without U Boats? That is not a good thing. I hope Pawel gets his wish, and the Polish Navy can buy them, so they can go to a good home.

    It has always irked me about the late war Type XXI, as portrayed by outlets like the History Channel. Yes, it was the most advanced sub in the world at the time, but the RN/USN were the most advanced ASW navies at the time. The RN had the best Sonar in 1945, and the USN used Brirish technology to make the SONAR suite for the SUMNER?GEARING class. By putting in 2 SONARs, one mounted on a horizontal, and one on a vertical axis, SUMNER?GERAINGs had a primitive 3 dimensional SONAR suite.

    The USN was also working at top speed on the Grebe, the weapon that eventually, after several sidesteps, became ASROC. At the time, it was a MK 22 homing torpedo, mounted on a winged carrier, with a rocket engine. Yes, it was WWII era technology, but the MK22, when dropped from TBMs, had a 22% kill ratio, which I would think would be pretty good, even today.

    At the time of the introduction of the Type XXI, we had cancelled the bulk of the JOHN C BUTLER class DE, with geared turbines, the fastest of the DEs. If the XXI had appeared, I suspect that the floodgates on BUTLER production would have opened wide. Top speed on a Type XXI was 17.5 knots, a BUTLER, 24, so a BUTLER would have been fast enough to hunt Type XXIs.

    Now we get to the part Tim should like. MAD was used by both Blimps, and PBYs during the war. Had the XXI been deployed in large numbers, I suspect the Bay of Biscay would have been flooded, alnong with the approaches to Norwegian and German bases, with a 24/7 umbrella of PV-s Venturas, and PB4Y Liberators, and PB4Y-2 Privateers, with MAD deployed, and FIDOs in the bomb bays. And, in the case of the PB4Y-2s, since even the Type XXI had to come up for air once in a while, ( snorkels were not perfect ), Bats under the wings.

    The Typer XXI would have been a major source of grief for the Allied Navies, had it made it to production, but it would have been dealt with. After all, the counter measures I meantioned were just those of the USN, there was still the RN/RCN out there, the WWII masters of ASW.

    To return to 2010, now that the Germans, and thier U Boats are on the side of the Angels, I do wish that they had not done this, as I fear that with the world going the way it is, seemingly with the full permission of the Obama administration, we are going to need every U Boat that the Germas had. But they won’t be there any more.

  3. 3 ewok40k
    June 13, 2010 at 00:17

    The only way U-bootwaffe could have done better would be with major assistance of Luftwaffe in the Atlantic. And early, in 1941-1942. If Germans could have mustered 300 or more Condors for raiding shipping in 1941, that would be great grief for the RN. By 1943 US industry was in full swing producing everything from escort carriers to long range patrol planes and writing was on the wall.

  4. 4 virgil xenophon
    June 13, 2010 at 18:00

    This is post-modern neo-socialism at wok, pure and simple. Every service branch of every European nation has been circling the drain for years–only now the pace has quickened. Previously the fear of the SU was the glue that held together whatever modicum of a small nucleus of political will there was to fund a barely adequate force. Now that glue is gone and thoroughly neo-socialist Europe sees no direct military threat from anywhere, so lacks the will to even pretend–especially as it’s profligate social spending on a bloated welfare state has put them in a financially untenable position. Expect to see EVEN MORE of this Fox “I didn’t want those grapes anyway” like dismantling of their force structure until they collectively look like Canada where the Mall of the North Americas has more submarines in its underwater rides in the mall lagoon than does the entire Canadian Navy.

  5. 5 ewok40k
    June 14, 2010 at 10:07

    Note for comparison – despite troubles with their 6-strong Collins type SSK fleet, Australia announced intent to double its submarine fleet…
    China is making the role the CCCP played in the cold war era, only now the prime clash ground is the Pacific Rim…

  6. June 14, 2010 at 12:16

    Absolutely true. The problem for Australia is she doesn’t have any nuke boats, so she’s somewhat restricted in her strategic plans.

  7. 7 virgil xenophon
    June 14, 2010 at 14:16

    The arms race in the Pacific Rim is just beginning, and will really pick up if it looks like the US is not going to step up to the plate to meet China;s challenge. And it will REALLY explode if Japan goes nuclear and/or bulks up it’s Navy and maritime air capabilities, as the rest if S.E.Asia fears the Japanese as much or more than the Chinese for very recent historical reasons (with the exception of Vietnam & Aus–tho for very diff. reasons) Australia still remembers almost being cut-off in WWII and isolated by Japan. There is a reason it bought those F-111s–and it wasn’t for coastal immigration patrol to bomb Indonesian boat people illegally sneaking into northern Australia.

  8. 8 virgil xenophon
    June 14, 2010 at 14:21

    PS: Of course if the present Indonesian leadership had its druthers Australia would be 70% Indonesian by now (they’ve publicly called for an “open borders” policy for Aus several times) so perhaps a capability to sink the boat people isn’t such a bad idea. 🙂

  9. 10 SCOTT the BADGER
    June 14, 2010 at 18:57

    When I mentioned to a young, liberal, friend of mine that the Bundesmarine was down to 4 U boats, she was surprised. She thinks that with the world looking the way it does, the Germans should be building them as fast as they can, not decommissioning them. She is also starting to notice the Aztalan movement. I think I might make a conservative of her yet!

  10. 11 ewok40k
    June 14, 2010 at 21:36

    I wonder if the Aussies would buy F-22s if US allowed exports? Seems perfect fit for their wide area of operations and likely outnumbered situation… With US orders down to below 200 even 50 more would be major price reducer…

  11. 12 Scott "Scooter Pie" Cochran, AW1 Retired
    June 15, 2010 at 14:03

    Part 1 of 3

  12. 13 Scott "Scooter Pie" Cochran, AW1 Retired
    June 15, 2010 at 14:04

    Part 2 of 3

  13. 14 Scott "Scooter Pie" Cochran, AW1 Retired
    June 15, 2010 at 14:04

    Part 3 of 3

  14. 15 eric rachut
    February 8, 2011 at 17:09

    Baltic coast? If you’re talking about Danzig, Kolberg and Stettin, we’ll be happy to take care of that.

  15. December 23, 2014 at 20:19

    go here for the greatest replacement roofing around

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