Why are submarines built

History of the submarines

The beginnings of submarine construction

The first submarine designed by the American David Bushnell was 2.5 meters long, two meters high and almost a meter wide. It was so small it could only fit one man. The Turtle, in English turtle, which was essentially made of iron and oak wood, was the first submarine to undertake a long dive underwater. It was driven by hand cranks, which in turn set screws on the outer wall of the boat in motion.

Since there was no way to supply fresh oxygen, the dives were limited in time. The first submarine driver did not have more air to breathe than was in the capsule. The first use of the submersible took place in the American War of Independence in 1776.

The Turtle was supposed to dive under an English combat ship and attach a bomb to the hull of the ship. But this attempt failed and the submersible was discovered. In a daring maneuver, however, the driver of the turtle managed to escape.

First German submarines

Americans and Germans worked tirelessly in the 19th century to further develop submarine technology. The Bavarian artillery sergeant Wilhelm Bauer developed the first German submersible in 1850 in view of the German-Danish war. This boat was also powered by muscle power.

However, during the inspection run in the port of Kiel, the boat filled with water and sank. A second German submarine designer was Gustav Winkler. However, his plans for a boat sailing just above the surface of the water were never implemented. The breakthrough in submarine technology came with diesel engines, which had been driving submarines since the end of the 19th century.

The biggest obstacle was the exhaust gases generated by the running diesel engines. The boats were forced to drive close to the water surface in order to be able to exchange the exhaust gases for fresh air via the snorkel. These first submarines have not yet been able to dive particularly deep or for a long time.

Submarines in World War I

Many European nations such as the Swedes, Norwegians and Russians began to build their own submarine fleets around 1900. Submarines had their first major military use during the First World War. In addition to the Americans, it was above all the British RoyalNavy that increased the number of their submarines and used them in the First World War.

The first submarine to be put into service by the Imperial Navy after several test drives in Germany was the U1. It is noticeable that the submarines had no names, but were numbered consecutively. This order came from Kaiser Wilhelm II. The Kaiser felt that the submarines were an immortal weapon, since in his eyes they sneaked up on ships unnoticed and practically destroyed them from behind.

A catastrophic climax in the submarine war of World War I was the shelling of the American passenger ship Lusitania. On May 7, 1915, the Lusitania, which was en route between New York and Liverpool, reached the south coast of Ireland. There she was shot at and sunk by the German submarine U 20 around noon. The German warfare wanted to weaken the English trading power and destroy military equipment that was on board. Of the 2000 people on board the Lusitania, 1200 died at that time.

Submarines in World War II

The submarine battles in World War II demanded an even greater death toll. In the first years of the war, the German submarine fleet sank cargo ships on their way to England. The aim was to cut off the British Isles from all civil and military supplies.

The success of the German submarines at the beginning of the war was largely due to the fact that they could operate undetected by the Allies. In the course of the war, however, the German submarine fleet was to go from hunter to hunted. The submarine battle shifted to the North Atlantic and became increasingly bloody.

Thanks to the further development of radar and sonar technology, the Allies were able to unmask more and more German submarines. At the end of 1942, the British also succeeded in deciphering the German secret code Enigma and in following the radio messages from the German submarine fleet.

This made it possible to precisely locate the German submarines. Due to the not yet fully developed submarine technology, the German submarines were often forced to travel over water. This made them an easy target for Allied aircraft that bombed and sank German submarines from the air. British and American destroyers also torpedoed the submarines with depth charges.

The number of victims of German submarine drivers rose dramatically. Three out of four submariners lost their lives in the war. Technically, the Germans were inferior to the Allies. Their efforts to draw level with the know-how of the Allies remained insignificant for the outcome of the war.

Cold war until today

The technical challenge in submarine construction after the Second World War was aimed at extending the submarine's diving time. The longer a submarine can operate without outside air, the more protected it is. The diving depth played a rather subordinate role in the development of the submarine.

A submarine completes normal diving trips at a depth of 20 to 30 meters. The construction of nuclear submarines represented a quantum leap in technology. In addition to the French and British, it was mainly Americans and Russians who drove the armament spiral and expanded their nuclear submarine fleet during the Cold War.

Nuclear submarines have an unlimited source of energy powered by nuclear reactors on board. Therefore, they can dive for weeks without having to take new energy resources on board.

Class 212A: Ultra-modern with a hybrid system

In the conventional submarine sector, the 212A submarine class is the most modern type of submarine currently in production. With the construction of this submarine class, it became possible for non-nuclear submarines to operate submerged for longer periods of time.

The class 212A submarines operate with a hybrid system consisting of a diesel generator, a drive battery, the fuel cell system and the engine. The drive, which is based on fuel cells, can generate electricity from hydrogen and oxygen. The big advantage is that these submarines are very quiet and localization is hardly possible. Five submarines of this type are in service with the German Navy. Another is to be added.

Author: Sabine Kaufmann

Status: 08/12/2016, 10:00