Established in 1951 to carry out planning for the creation of Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Germany, the “Blank Office” of the Federal Government included from the beginning the creation of a submarine force as part of the new Navy. When the Federal Republic of Germany was admitted to NATO as 15th member state on 09 May 1955, there was also the construction and commission of some 12 coastal submarines intended within the structure of the new Navy as one of three services of the new German Armed Forces (Bundeswehr).
The size of those was, however, restricted to 350 t displacement surfaced by the arms control ruling of the WEU. Their intended area of operation was to be the Baltic Sea.
In 1957, three submarines of the former Kriegsmarine were salvaged and re-activated, these were two U-boats Type XXIII (ex U 2365 and ex U 2367) and one U-Boat Type XXI (ex U 2540). They were commissioned as Type 240 (ex Type XXIII) and Type 241 (ex Type XXI).
In 1959, order was placed for a first post war new construction, which originated from earlier planning of a new Type 201 back in 1955. In 1962 U 1 was commissioned as the first of 12 new-build boats. Due to changes in requirements the boats under construction as Type 201 were re-named Type 205, starting with U-Boat No. 4 of the series. However, severe problems with the amagnetic steel material for the hulls developed with the first 6 U-Boats completed plus with 2 more still under construction, causing the U-Boats to be modified. U 1 and U 2 were actually re-build as Type 205A and U 3 was decommissioned in 1971 after it was given to Norway for a short test and trial period. Starting with U 4 all U-Boats were build to Type 205 specifications, receiving new amagnetic steel. Until 1969 all 12 units of the first series for the new German U-boat force were build and commissioned, the last being U 12 on 14 January 1969. 6 units of the Type 205 received operational improvements and were re-named Type 205A.
Between 1965 and 1966 two smaller U-boats of Type 202 were build. However, after a short period of operational service they were decommissioned as early as 1966.
Following the lifting of the WEU restriction on submarine surface displacement to a new upper limit of 450 t in 1962 and a new concept of the structure of the Navy, the construction of a batch of some 18 new submarines was started in 1971, the Type 206. Six of those were to be a replacement for 6 submarines of the Type 205. Between 1973 and 1975 all 18 new U-Boats were commissioned, to constitute, together with the 6 U-Boat of Type 205A, with some 24 U-Boats a most effective Naval contribution to NATO in the Baltic Sea.
Between 1988 and 1991 12 U-Boats of Type 206 were modified to improved Type 206A.
In 1995, building order was given for a revolutionary new class of submarine, with air independent propulsion and no restriction in displacement any longer. Initially, these were 4 U-Boats of Type 212A, the addition “A” reflects the harmonization with the similar Italian submarines, which were optimized for employment in the Mediterranean in much greater water depth. The 4 U-boats of type 212A were commissioned between 2005 and 2007. They demonstrated superior operational characteristics, unknown so far by conventional submarines. Currently, a second batch of 2 more U-boats is under construction, whose commissioning is intended until 2010.
The U-boat force of the Federal German Navy, having taken on the official name “German Navy” since 1990, has seen constant reduction in line with the several scaling downs of the size of the Bundeswehr since 1991. In 2010, this force has shrunk from former 24 U-Boats in the 1980ies to currently just 4 units, after the remaining 6 U-Boats of the Type 206A (U 15 to U 18 plus U 23 and U 24) were de-commissioned in August 2010. When the 2 U-Boats under construction will be commissioned in 2012 the German Navy will again operate 6 submarines.