3 German Type XXI submarine

German Type XXI submarine

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 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 in the Type XXI was greatly increased battery capacity, roughly three times that of the Type VIIC. This gave these boats enormous underwater range, and dramatically reduced the time spent 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 using the snorkel. The Type XXI was also much quieter than the VIIC, making it more difficult to detect when submerged.

The Type XXI's streamlined and hydrodynamically clean hull design allowed high submerged speed. The ability to outrun many surface ships while submerged, combined with improved dive times, made it much harder to chase and destroy. It also gave the boat a 'sprint ability' when positioning itself for an attack. Older boats had to surface to sprint into position. This often gave a boat away, especially after aircraft became available for convoy escort.

The Type XXIs had better facilities than previous classes, including a freezer for foodstuffs. Conveniences for the crew included a shower and a washbasin – crews on other boats spent weeks-long patrols without bathing or shaving. The Type XXI featured a hydraulic torpedo reloading system that allowed all six torpedo tubes, located 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 aiming torpedoes without using the periscope, increasing stealth.

Between 1943 and 1945, 118 boats of this type were assembled by Blohm & Voss of Hamburg, AG Weser of Bremen, and F. Schichau of Danzig. The hulls were constructed from 8 prefabricated sections with final assembly taking place at the shipyards. This new method could have pushed construction speeds below half a year per vessel, but in reality all the assembled U-boats were plagued with severe quality problems that required extensive post-production work to fix. The blame lay as much with the cutting-edge technology as with Albert Speer's insistence that the sections be made by inland companies, even though these had little experience in naval construction. It would have made more sense to concentrate all construction at the shipyards, where the expertise was available to build sophisticated vessels. The extent of the industrial fiasco can be gauged by the fact that out of 118 assembled XXIs, only four were rated fit for combat before the war ended in Europe. [cite book | last=Tooze | first=Adam |authorlink=Adam Tooze| title=The Wages of Destruction | publisher= Penguin Books| location=London, UK | year = 2006|isbn=978-0-141-00348-1 | pages=p616-618 ]


"U 2511" and "U 3008" were the only Type XXIs to go on wartime patrol, and both failed to sink any ships. 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.

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 restored Type XXI and became a museum ship as part of the German Maritime Museum in Bremerhaven, Germany.

In 1985 it was discovered that the partially-scrapped remains of "U 2505", "U 3004", and "U 3506" were still in the partially-demolished "Elbe II" U-boat bunker in Hamburg, Germany. The bunker has since been filled in with gravel for safety reasons and lies beneath a car park and the wrecks are completely inaccessible. [cite web | last = | first = | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = 3 Type XXI boats in the Elbe II in Hamburg | work = | publisher = uboat.net | date = | url = http://uboat.net/history/hamburg_elbe2.htm | format = | doi = | accessdate = ]


The Type XXI design directly influenced USS "Nautilus", the world's first nuclear submarine, USS "Albacore", the first submarine with a teardrop hull, the French Narval class submarine, the British Porpoise class submarine, and the Soviet submarine classes known by the NATO reporting names Zulu and Whiskey, although the Whiskey class was smaller and less sophisticated.

ee also

* List of Type XXI Submarines
* Zulu class submarine (the Soviet Project 611 submarine class derives from the Type XXI boats)



* Camarasa, Jorge: "Puerto Seguro", Ed. Norma, Buenos Aires, 2006.
* http://www.histarmar.com.ar/InfHistorica/OpGolfoNuevo.htm (1958) incident) and for 1960 incident: *http://www.editorialbitacora.com/armagedon/golfonuevo/golgonuevo.htm
* Trelew "Crónica", 27 November 1996 (re sightings in Golfo San Matías)

External links

* [http://ipmsstockholm.org/magazine/2003/11/detail_uboot_xxi.htm U-Boot Type XXI in Detail] with lots of pics.
* [http://www.uboat.net/types/xxi.htm Type XXI] on www.uboat.net
* [http://www.uboataces.com/uboat-type-xxi.shtml Type XXI] on www.uboataces.com

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