The Type 209-class diesel-electric attack submarine was a West German export-minded product of the Cold War that allowed budget-conscious navies of the world access to a fully modern attack class. This compact submarine design became a smart blend of cost effectiveness, noise reduction practices, firepower, and undersea performance to instantly provide any discerning customer with a useful underwater weapon for deep blue patrolling. There originally proved 64 boats completed for the class though only 61 of this total were completed with three cancelled. As of 2014, the class still sees 59 of its boats in operational service.
The Type 209-class succeeded the outgoing Type 206 series which were built from the period spanning 1968 to 1975 and numbered eighteen. The Type 209's themselves have since been succeeded by the newer Type 214-class boats appearing from 2007 onwards. Nine of the fifteen planned of this class have already been completed (2014) and serve Greece, Portugal, and South Korea with Turkey having contracted for six boats in 2011.
Operators of the Type 209-class went on to include Argentina, Brazil. Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Greece, India, Indonesia, Peru, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, and Venezuela. The first boats were commissioned in 1971 and many went on to see refit and modernization for threats of the new century. The largest operator became Turkey with fourteen total boats - the most recent of these coming into service during 2007 (the "Birinci Inonu").
Due to their global reach, Type 209 submarines were allowed local-licensed construction by foreign shipyards beyond those of Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft and Nordseewerke of Germany. Builders included Arsenal de Marinha of Brazil, Mazagon Dock Limited of India, Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering of South Korea, and the Golcuk Naval Shipyard of Turkey.
Standing as its own complete class, there exists several variants within the Type 209-class recognized by the model numbers of 1100, 1200, 1300, 1400, and 1500. Dimensions vary slightly between them though all are powered through a combination diesel-electric arrangement that features 4 x diesels tied to the sole shaft for surface operation and 4 x 120-cell batteries for undersea service. All but the 1500 model output at approximately 5,000 shaft horsepower with the 1500 outputting at 6,100shp with 4 x 132-cell battery arrangement instead of the usual 120-cell. Speed is generally around 11 knots on the surface with up to 22.5 knots undersea and range reaches 11,000 nautical miles at snorkel depth with a mission endurance window of about 50 days before requiring resupply. The vessels have been tested to a depth of 500 meters. As with all diesel-electric submarines, the class requires the boat to surface to recharge its battery stores and take on fresh oxygen supplies. The total crew complement of the boats range from 31 in the 1100 to 36 in the 1500.
Armament for the class is consistent across the variants - a collection of 8 x 533mm torpedo tubes with fourteen reloads carried. The vessels are also equipped to dispense naval mines and an optional fitting allows for support of UGM-84 "Harpoon" anti-ship missile launching.
With many Type 209-class boats still in service today (2014), the group should remain vital players on the global stage for the foreseeable future. While not as powerful or tactically flexible as their nuclear counterparts in the United States, Britain, France, and Russia, they still provide a much-needed underwater capability at cost without the dangers (and environmental waste) inherent in nuclear propulsion.