Can Germany have nuclear submarines?

panorama : Nuclear submarine in distress: "Unimaginable for us" - Why German submarines cannot be compared with Russian ones

The technology makes the difference: the German submarines cannot be compared with the Russian nuclear submarines. The class 206 A stationed in Eckernförde, one of the smallest types in the world, displaces 450 tons submerged. The modern Russian class "Oscar II" 40 times: around 18 500 tons of water. The new submarine type 212, which is to replace the 206s built between 1973 and 1975 in a few years, will displace 1,450 tons. The first model has been under construction in Hamburg since 1998.

There are also worlds between German and Russian technology when it comes to the drive and construction. There are no nuclear-powered warships, and the German types only have a pressure hull with a cell. If a German submarine were to leak after a collision or an explosion, it would fill up and sink. It hasn't happened yet. Once a German submarine collided with an oil rig: Since very elastic steel is used, there was only one dent. Only part of the hull of the "Kursk" has flooded. Even in the diving depth, the class 206 A only reaches around 100 meters in normal operation, up to 300 meters would be possible. "That is why the scenario is inconceivable for us," said Frigate Captain Krebs from the Ministry of Defense.

Another difference to the Russians is the rescue training. If a German submarine sinks after a crack or a leak, "the only chance to disembark," said a naval officer. The Navy has no lifebells or submarines. During the major NATO exercise in Norway in 1995, the focus was on rescuing a wrecked submarine. On land, disembarkation is trained in the "submarine training center" (AZU) in Eckernförde. A so-called diving rescuer is available to each of the 22 men on a 206 A. This is not a diving suit, just a kind of swimming collar with an air supply in a cartridge. With the shallow diving depth, that's enough. The boats were procured for the Baltic Sea - which is mocked by submariners as "flooded meadow".

Through a torpedo tube

The better rescue suits from NATO that allow leaving the boat from greater depths do not yet exist in the German Navy, said frigate captain Stoffers from the Flottenkommando in Flensburg to Tagesspiegel. Stoffers did not want to say whether a lack of money is the reason that this rescue device is not being procured. Retrofitting would make sense, because German submarines no longer only operate in the Baltic Sea, as in times of the Cold War, but also frequently in the North Sea, the Atlantic or the Mediterranean. German marines would already be trained on this device in the Navy's "diving pot" in Neustadt, said Stoffers. According to an expert from the Lübeck company Dräger, which manufactured the diving rescuers for the German Navy, these "gas protective suits", built in England, should work at depths of up to 180 meters.

German combat swimmers also train to exit and board a submarine through an empty torpedo tube. This exercise is considered extremely difficult and psychologically stressful. "Normal" soldiers in a submarine do not learn that. "Ten horses can't get me into a torpedo tube," said a naval officer.

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