Type XXI U-Boat Electric-Powered Attack Submarine
The electric German U-Boat Type XXI was a ground-breaking design as important as the nuclear submarine would be a decade later.
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The Type XXI series of German U-boats were a revolutionary design of fighting boats brought about in 1944. Their type was designed specifically for lengthy submerged operation centered around proven high-powered electrical machinery with density cells built directly into the hull. This, in effect, allowed the Type XXI to produce more power submerged than the vessel could create when on the surface as compared to her diesel-powered counterparts and closed-cycle turbine engines in operation with other submarine types.
The Type XXI hull was of all-welded construction and pieced together from eight preconstructed major sections. The vessel featured an extremely streamlined shape from bow to stern with the elongated fin conventionally jutting out amidships. The Type XXI separated itself from its predecessors by implementation of several vital amenities including improved food refrigeration storage, crew showers, integrated air-conditioning and air recycling systems. Armament consisted of twin automatic turrets mounted on the sail as these could be comprised of either 4 x 20mm cannons or 4 x 40mm cannons help forward and aft for anti-aircraft defense. Primary anti-ship armament was 6 x forward-facing 533mm torpedo tubes with 23 reloads. There were no stern-facing torpedo tubes common to other submarines of the war.
The heart of the Type XXI was the propulsion system which was made up of 2 x MAN M6V40/46KBB supercharged 6-cylinder engines, 2 x SSW GU365/30 double-acting electric motors and 2 x SSW GV232/28 "silent running" electric motors. Active and passive sonar systems were the power behind the potency of the Type XXI and supplemented periscope use when aiming, targeting and firing the torpedoes. This addition alone brought about a new age of submarine warfare consistent with philosophies still in use today.