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Naval Warfare

Type 201 (class)

Diesel-Electric Coastal Submarine [ 1962 ]

The Type 201 was the first German submarine built after the close of World War 2 - just three operated with the West German Navy.

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 04/06/2020 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.

In the post-World War 2 world, Germany - now divided into an East and West part - was limited in its military-producing capabilities. It was not until the 1960s that its first post-war submarines were constructed (by West German shipyards) and built to the new "Type 201" design standard. While twelve were originally planned for the lot, just three of the type were ultimately produced - designated "U-1", "U-2", and "U-3". They were completed with non-magnetic steel hulls for passive survival and designed for close-to-shore, coastal operations. As such, they carried a modest crew complement and were of equally-modest structural dimensions.

The class was built from the period spanning 1960 to 1962 and served in commissioned status from 1962 until 1967 (the Type 205 would become its direct successor). The design was given a deep hull with integrated sail while the nose cap was well-contoured for cutting through the sea. The tail section was tapered quickly towards the stern, fitting a traditional cruciform plane arrangement ahead of the single propeller shaft extending aft. Dive planes were set at the sail (as opposed to the hull).

As built, the class was given a surfaced displacement of 400 tons (short) with a submerged displacement reaching 435 tons. Dimensions included a running length of 139 feet, a beam of 15 feet, and a draught of 12.5 feet. Propulsion was had from a single diesel generator of 1,180 horsepower coupled with a single electric motor of 1,500 horsepower. Top speeds reached over 10.5 knots when surfaced and 17.5 knots when submerged. Range was a useful 3,800 nautical miles and the hull was tested to depths of 330 feet (100 meters).

Aboard was a crew numbering about twenty-one men and the usual systems - sonar, radar, optics - were all present. Armament centered on 8 x 533mm (21") torpedo tubes with just 8 x Torpedoes carried. The submarine could also haul sixteen naval mines when called upon to do so.

U-1 carried pennant number S180 and was built by Howaldtswerke with her keel laid down on June 8th, 1960. Launched on October 2nd, 1961, the vessel was commissioned on March 20th, 1962 and operated until decommissioned a short time later on June 22nd, 1963.

U-2 (S181), also built by Howaldtswerke, followed with her keel laid down on September 1st, 1960. She was launched on January 25th, 1962 and commissioned on May 3rd of that year, serving until August 15th, 1963 (the vessel was stripped of her war-making usefulness and ultimately broken up).

U-3 (S182), also by Howaldtswerke, was laid down on October 12th, 1960 and launched on May 7th, 1962. She entered commissioned service on June 20th, 1964 and managed a career until September 15th, 1967. U-3 was initially on loan to the Royal Norwegian Navy (as "Kobben") during the period of 1962-1964, ultimately returned to the West German Navy thereafter. The boat was expended during trials in 1971.

After inducted into active service with the West German Navy ("German Navy"), the steel hulls of these submarines was shown to fracture under normal use. This large failing effectively limited their service lives and led to the cancellation of the remaining, planned nine boats - with a shift-in-focus to developing a suitable successor / replacement, the Type 205. The new series did not rely on non-magnetic hulls and paved the way for the improved Type 206 models still to come.

The Type 201 boat design was also influenced the design of the export-minded "Kobben-class" which found service with Norway and then Denmark and Poland. Fifteen were constructed for Norway - four apiece then having been sold off to Denmark and Poland. Amazingly, Polish forms have served into the 2010s (two still active as of January 2019).©MilitaryFactory.com
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West Germany
Operators National flag of modern Germany
National Origin
Decommissioned, Out-of-Service
Project Status
Type 201-class
Hull Class
NOTE: Originally 12 planned; three were completed as U-1, U-2, and U-3. Remaining 9 were then cancelled.

Submerged Attack
Traveling under the surface to search, track, and / or engage or reconnoiter areas.
Offshore Operation
Activities conducted near shorelines in support of allied activities.
Maritime Patrol
Active patroling of vital waterways and maritime areas; can also serve as local deterrence against airborne and seaborne threats.
Fleet Support
Serving in support (either firepower or material) of the main surface fleet in Blue Water environments.

139.0 feet
(42.37 meters)
15.0 feet
(4.57 meters)
12.5 feet
(3.81 meters)
Displacement (Submerged)

1 x Diesel generator of 1,180 horsepower output with 1 x Electric motor developing 1,500 horsepower to 1 x Shaft.
10.5 knots
(12.1 mph)
Surface Speed
17.5 knots
(20.1 mph)
Submerged Speed
3,823 nm
(4,400 miles | 7,081 km)
1 knot = 1.15 mph; 1 nm = 1.15 mile; 1 nm = 1.85 km

8 x 533mm (21") torpedo tubes with 8 x Torpedo reloads. Also support for 16 x Naval mines.


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