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Type XXI U-boats
Model featured: U-3532, Type XXI U-boat
- circa 1945 -
The Type XXI was a major break-through in German U-boat design - streamlined, heavily armed and equipped with improved Schnorkel equipment to give new levels of performance. Although propelled by the familiar combination of diesel engines and electric motors, the battery capacity was triple that of previous U-boats so that the Type XXI could operate below the surface at 17 knots for up to an hour.
The boats were fitted with hydrophones to detect ships at a range of 50 miles and a sophisticated echo chamber that could track, identify and range multiple targets. Equipped with an impressive array of torpedoes, the Type XXI could fire blind from a depth of 160 feet and was reloaded using a fast and efficient automated system.
If depth charged, the submarine was able to engage a silent electric motor on each shaft and dive deep to avoid detection. The Type XXI was further equipped with air conditioning and could remain fully submerged at depth for up to 11 days in ideal conditions.
The Type XXI was the answer to the growing danger facing German U-Boats from improving Allied anti-submarine activity in the second half of the war. To speed production, the all-welded hull was prefabricated in 8 sections by three shipyards employed to build sections independently. However, production was in fact slowed by the fact that different yards often did not meet the extremely fine tolerances required to assemble the sections correctly on the slipways; and the constant disruption of the Allied strategic bombing offensive.
By war's end only two Type XXIs (U-2511 and U-3008) had sailed from bases in Norway to the Caribbean combat zone. By contrast eleven were sunk en-route from Germany to Norway as a result of attack by Allied air or naval forces; and three more were destroyed by mines. At least another 22 were damaged during construction by bombing so that they were beyond repair. While it is speculative to comment on the effect the Type XXI could have had on the Battle of the Atlantic, it is a fact that - by war's end - 121 Type XXI submarines were launched (but not all commissioned) and another 1000 were either on order or under construction.
Type XXI variations
Many different variations of the Type XXI were being developed: boats with laterally mounted torpedo tubes that fired towards the rear, supply boats, and others. According to our research, none of these were ever commissioned.
The design of the Type XXI influenced future submarine construction in many countries after the war, including Russia who based their W-Class on the Type XXI.
One Type XXI submarine (U-2540) was raised after the war and then entered service in the German Democratic Republic Bundesmarine as the "Wilhelm Bauer". That submarine is now on display in Bremerhaven, Germany.
Type XXI U-boats
118 boats commissioned from June 1944 to March 1945
U-2501 to U-2531, U-2533 to U-2536, U-2538 to U-2546, U-2548,
U-2551, U-2552, U-3001 to U-3035, U-3037 to U-3041, U-3044 and U-3501 to U-3530.
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