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Transfer of de-commissioned German U-206A U-boat to Columbia

During a ceremony on 28 August 2012 at the Naval Arsenal Kiel the two Type 206A U-boats U 23( S-172) and U 24 (S-173) of the German Navy, which had been de-commissioned on 31 March 2011, were transferred to the Navy of Columbia and re-commissioned as ARC Intrépido (U 23) and ARC Indomable (U 24). The Columbian Navy will also take over two more of the de-commissioned Type 206A U-boats, to use them as spare part reserve in Columbia, although the selection among the remaining and de-commissioned 4 U-boats (U 15 to U 18) still has to be completed, with U 16 and U 18 laid up at the Naval Arsenal being the most likely candidates for that. The U-boats will be transported to Columbia on board a special cargo vessel to the U-boat base of Cartagena de Indias at the Caribbean coast of Columbia. Before the U-boats will go to Columbia they will receive an upgrade to be operable under tropical conditions, a contract with HDW at Kiel is foreseen for that.

Currently, the Navy of Columbia operates 4 submarines, besides two 70 t midget submarines (Intrépido/SS-20 and Indomable/ SS-21, in the inventory since 1972) built in Italy there are two more German export submarines of the Type 209 (ARC Pijao/ SS-28 and ARC Tyrona/ SS-29), built at HDW between 1972 and 1975. The Pijao was commissioned on 18 April 1975 and the Tyrona on 16 July 1975, both submarines were modernized at Kiel 1990/ 1991. It is almost certain that the two midget submarines will be taken out of service since their names Intrépido and Indomable are taken over by the two re-commissioned Type 206A.

The recent hand-over to Columbia of 4 of the 6 Type 206A U-boats still being operated by the German Navy until 2010 had brought back some movement to the fate of the last remaining U-boats of this class. Surprisingly, their service time intended originally to last until 2016-2018 had been announced in June 2010 to end immediately, and the last 6 U-boats still in service then executed a ceremonial farewell steam past in the Eckernförde Bight on 30 October 2010, to be de-commissioned officially in two batches: U 15 and U 17 on 14 December 2010 and U 16, U 18, U 23 and U 24 on 31 March 2011. These U-boats were not given to scrap straight away, rather they were kept in a condition enabling further talk for possible sell, as there were negotiations underway with Thailand for some years already. U 15 and U 17 were transferred to the Naval Arsenal at Wilhemshaven to be mothballed, whereas the other four U-boats were kept at the Naval Arsenal at Kiel, to maintain them in a condition ready for sail allowing making an agreement that comes into exist faster than anticipated.

The recent agreement with Columbia came somewhat out of the blue, because all attention was directed to possible further progress in the talks with Thailand. The deal with Columbia seems to have finally killed the saga of a possible sell of the last 6 remaining Type 206A U-boats to Thailand. Although statements and other news came from Thailand now and then indicating an ongoing interest, the matter, however, should be closed for good now, in particular since there has been no further development after the Thai government´s decision of March 2011 to put the U-boat deal on idle until further notice. We have reported about that in our flotsam of March 2011 and February 2012.


Lively discussion about Type 209 submarines for Egypt

In early September 2012 a considerable media echo arose following a statement by the newly appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Egyptian Navy, Rear Admiral Osama Ahmed el-Gendy, on 31st of August 2012 about the signing of a contract between Egypt and the German submarine shipyard HDW at Kiel to build two Type 209 submarines. So far no official confirmation has been given whether the two submarines will receive air indepen-dent propulsion systems. Since the late 1960ies the various versions of Type 209 submarines are a major export hit of the German submarine industry, so far some 60 submarines have been sold to 13 countries, and were built not only at German shipyards but also under license at shipyard of the receiving countries.

It appears that the media have taken on the statement of the Egyptian Admiral just because there were hefty reactions in Israel, allegedly the government of Israel is to have complained with the German government about this deal. Sources within the Israeli government are quoted that “there are serious concerns in Israel, the Egypt of today is other to the Egypt under President Hosni Mubarak”. According to other reports the German government has assured to Israel to re-consider the delivery of the submarines whenever Egypt under its President Moham-med Mursi, who comes from the Muslim brotherhood, would turn to be “hostile” against Israel. In contrast to that, German Minister of Defence Thomas de Maizière said that “no country on this earth has a right to veto against decisions of the Federal German Government”.

Israel itself is a recipient of German submarine exports. After the construction of three “Dolphin”-Class (is based on the German export Type 209 submarine) submarines between 1992 and 1999 a fourth and fifth submarine was ordered, which were, however, larger and received an air independent propulsion system. The first of these two submarines, being designated as “Dolphin II”-Class, will be delivered at the end of this year. In 2011, there has been significant media attention about the order and the budgeting of a sixth “Dolphin”-Class submarine (which would be the third “Dolphin II”-Class submarine), we have reported about in our flotsam 09/2011, 12/2011 and 01/2012. Now, Israel believes its advantage in military underwater capabilities in the region would be threatened by the intended delivery of Type 209 submarines to Egypt.

Meanwhile, the issue seems to have reached somewhat calmer seas, above all direct contacts regarding this matter are to have been established between German Chancellor Merkel and Israeli Prime Minister Netanjahu.

Since decades arms deliveries to Egypt have been a touchy subject before the background of the tensions in the Middle East. Repeatedly changes in the general political attitude toward Egypt could be observed on the side of potential arm exporters. Therefore, there are arms from the former Soviet Union and today´s Russia in the Egyptian military inventory as well as weapon systems from the USA. In the late 1990ies rather advanced talks between Egypt and the Netherlands about the takeover of the Dutch submarines “Tigerhaai” and “Zwaardvis” were broken off.

Officially, the 16,000 strong Navy of Egypt is still possesses submarines, although serious questions should be raised about their combat readiness. On the other hand, in late August 2012 Rear Admiral el-Gendy confirmed the “full operational readiness” of it submarines. In two batches in 1982 and 1984 Egypt´s Navy received two subma-rines each of the Soviet “Romeo”-Class from China, which had built over 100 units of this diesel-electric subma-rine under license. These four submarines were modernized between 1992 and 1998. It is said that the submari-nes with their 1,700 t displacement are equipped with Sub-“Harpoon” anti-ship missiles besides their torpedo armament.


More than 150 years of U-boat construction at HDW and its predecessors

In 1851 the engineer August Friedrich Howaldt built at Kiel for the first time in Germany an experimental U-boat called Brandtaucher, which is on display today in the German Military Museum at Dresden. Although Howaldt built another experimental U-boat in 1897, the start of U-boat construction in Germany in 1905 occurred at other shipyards, above all at the Germania shipyard of Friedrich Krupp, Howaldt´s neighboring shipyard at Kiel. The massive construction of U-boats by Germania for the Imperial German Navy and the Kriegsmarine has caused the occasional confusion between the early years of Germania and Howaldt, which also was heavily engaged in military shipbuilding, but not in U-boat building. The Germania shipyard was closed for good in 1945 after the end of World War II.

After its start in the mid 19th century Howaldt in the following years became one of the big German shipyards, with about 1,500 merchant vessels, special ships and warships built until today. The Howaldt shipyard was active in civil (as of 1865) as well as military shipbuilding (after the foundation of the German Reich in 1871). In 1968 the Hamburg and Kiel located Howaldt shipyards merged with the Deutsche Werft at Hamburg to become “Howal-dt Deutsche Werke/ HDW”, and in 2005 it became part of the ThyssenKrupp shipbuilding company.

After the virtual end of the construction or larger merchant vessels and passenger ships in 2002 HDW is concen-trating on military shipbuilding, including work areas associated to it. For decades Howaldt has been an important designer in military shipbuilding of surface warships for the Imperial German Navy, the Kriegsmarine and the Navy of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Series production of U-boats at Howaldt/ HDW (and it then organizational forms of Howaldt at Kiel and Hamburg, and Kriegsmarinewerft at Kiel) did not start before 1935, it were U-boats of the type II A, II C, II D and VII C, plus a prototype of the midget U-boat “Seehund” in 1944. The today dominating role in U-boat design and construction did not begin before 1961, when U 1 was constructed for the Navy of the Federal Republic of Germany. Until today, more than 100 U-boats for the German and other Navies have been constructed in cooperation with the Emden based “Nordseewerke”, or have been supported as construction under licence at foreign shipyards.

The HDW shipyard of today has about 2,000 employees, and it has developed to be one of the leading shipyards worldwide in conventional U-boat design and construction. The introduction of air independent propulsion to U-boat design at the end of the 1990ies has made HDW one of the market leaders in this segment of underwater shipbuilding. Currently, there are Type 212A U-boats No. 5 and No. 6 for the German Navy under construction, as well as submarine No. 5 and No. 6 of the “Dolphin”-Class (formally still called Type 209, but actually based on the Type 212A/ 214) for the Navy of Israel. In addition to that, construction of two Type 209 submarines for Egypt (see above) is expected to start soon if the development of political condition will allow. Also, licence construction is supported for the export Type 214 in Greece (5 units), South Korea (6 units) and Turkey (6 units), after in 2010 the first Type 214 submarine for Greece had been commissioned at Kiel and two submarines of the same type (although officially being designated as Type 209PN) were delivered at Kiel to Portugal.