German Type XXI submarine

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Type XXI U-boat U 3008, postwar photo
Type XXI U-boat U 3008, postwar photo

Type XXI U-boats, also known as "Elektroboote", were the first submarines designed to operate entirely submerged, rather than as surface ships that could submerge as a temporary means to escape detection or launch an attack. They were no less than revolutionary when introduced and, if produced earlier and in sufficient quantity, could have seriously influenced the outcome of the Battle of the Atlantic.

The key improvement to the Type XXI was greatly increased battery capacity, roughly three times that of the common Type VIIC. This gave these boats enormous underwater range, dramatically reducing the time they needed to spend near the surface. They could travel submerged at about five knots (9 km/h) for two or three days before recharging the batteries, which took less than five hours on the snorkel. It was also much quieter than the VIIC, making it more difficult to detect at long range.

The streamlined hull design allowed the XXI to travel faster submerged than surfaced. The ability to outrun many surface ships while submerged, combined with improved dive times, made them much harder to chase and destroy. It also gave the boat a 'sprint ability' when positioning the boat for an attack. Older boats had to surface in order to sprint into position. This often gave the boat away, especially after aircraft became available for convoy escort. The design directly influenced USS Nautilus, the world's first nuclear submarine, and USS Albacore, the first submarine with a teardrop hull.

The Type XXIs had much better facilities than previous classes, with a freezer for foodstuffs and minor conveniences for the crew such as a shower and wash basin – crews on other boats spent weeks-long patrols without bathing or shaving. The Type XXI featured a hydraulic torpedo reload system that allowed all of its six torpedo tubes, which were in the bow, to be reloaded faster than a Type VIIC could reload a single tube. The Type XXI could fire 18 torpedoes in under 20 minutes. The total warload was 23 torpedoes, or 17 torpedoes and 12 sea mines. The XXI featured an advanced sonar system which allowed the crew to aim torpedoes without relying on the periscope, increasing stealth.

Between 1943 and 1945, 118 boats of this type were built by Blohm & Voss of Hamburg, AG Weser of Bremen, and F. Schichau of Danzig. The boats were built faster than earlier types as the hull was constructed from 8 prepared sections which were assembled after being transported from the various factories they were made in. However, only two, U 2511, and U 3008 had begun a combat patrol by the end of World War II. This was in part a result of the lengthened training process, as the crews had to be trained to operate the new, sophisticated technology. Most boats were scrapped or scuttled after the war, but eight were taken by the Allies for evaluation and trials. The United States received U 2513 and U 3008, which were commissioned into the United States Navy. U 3017 was commissioned into the Royal Navy as HMS N41, and U 2518 became French submarine Roland Morillot. U 3515, U 2529, U 3035, and U 3041 were commissioned into the Soviet Navy as B 27, B 28, B 29, and B 30 respectively. Those boats influenced new Soviet submarine classes known by the NATO reporting names Zulu and Whiskey, although the Whiskey class was smaller and less sophisticated.

A ninth XXI also saw service after the war: U 2540, which had been scuttled at the end of the war, was raised in 1957 to become the research vessel Wilhelm Bauer of the Bundesmarine. It is the only XXI remaining and became a museum ship as part of the German Maritime Museum in Bremerhaven, Germany.

[edit] Specifications

Type XXI submarine diagram.
Type XXI submarine diagram.
  • Displacement: 1621 t/1819 t, 2100 t full load
  • Length: 76.7m (251ft 7.7in) overall, 60.5m (198ft 5.9in) pressure hull
  • Beam: 5.3m (17ft 4.7in) pressure hull, 8m (26ft 3in) overall
  • Draft: 6.3m (20ft 8in)
  • Height: 11.3m (37ft)
  • Propulsion: 4000 hp (3 MW) surfaced = 15.6 kt (29 km/h), 4400 hp (3.3 MW) submerged = 17.2 kt (32 km/h)
  • Range: 15,500nm at 10 kt (28,675 km at 19 km/h) surfaced, 340 miles at 5 kt (630 km at 9 km/h) submerged
  • Crew: 57

[edit] See also

Groundbreaking submarines

U-boats U-47
U-boatBattle of the Atlantic (1914–1918)Battle of the Atlantic (1939–1945)Operation Deadlight
U-boats: List of U-boatsList of successful U-boatsList of U-boats never deployedList of Austrian U-boatsForeign captured U-boats
Flotillas: List of U-boat flotillas1. Unterseebootsflottille2. Unterseebootsflottille3. Unterseebootsflottille4. Unterseebootsflottille5. Unterseebootsflottille6. Unterseebootsflottille7. Unterseebootsflottille8. Unterseebootsflottille9. Unterseebootsflottille11. Unterseebootsflottille13. Unterseebootsflottille29. Unterseebootsflottille
Commanders: List of successful U-boat commandersAces of the DeepErich RaederKarl Dönitz
Wolf packs: BlücherEisbärEndrassHaiHechtLachsPfadfinderSteinbrockTümmlerVorwärtsWolf
Combats: Convoy SC-7Convoy PQ-17Mediterranean U-boat CampaignBattle of the St. LawrenceBlack MayBismarck Chase
Capital ships sunk: HMS Royal OakHMS BarhamHMS CourageousHMS Ark RoyalHMS AudacityHMS AvengerHMS EagleUSS Block IslandUSS Virginia
Technology: AsdicLeigh LightQ-shipSchnorkel edit

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