German submarine exports

German shipyards are world champions in exporting conventional submarines. No country has ever sold more submarines to other countries than Germany has. So far, more than 120 have been sold to 17 countries on four continents. Nearly every second country whose navy possesses submarines has German-manufactured submarines.

The 'success story' of German submarine export already started in the 1960s. The first orders came from Scandinavia. In 1962, Norway ordered 15 type 207 submarines that had been designed by the Ingenieurkontor Lübeck (IKL) and produced by the Rheinstahl Nordseewerke in Emden. Denmark also ordered two submarines of this type three years later.

Submarines type 209

The successor model of the submarine type 209 became a real 'top seller'—the so far most built submarine with diesel-electric drive worldwide. Also designed by the IKL, it is mostly marketed and produced by the Howaldtswerke Deutsche Werft (HDW). The great popularity of type 209 can be traced back to the fact that the producer was prepared to modify the submarines according to individual customer specifications.

After Greece having ordered four type 209 submarines in 1967, HDW exported more than 60 abroad—with different specifications—until the end of the 1990s, either as full product or, later, by part packets that were assembled on-site at the customer's. The largest buyers were Turkey (14 orders), South Korea (nine orders) and Greece (eight orders). Latin America became an important export region. In total, 21 submarines type 209 were sold, of which two to the Argentinian Navy, six to Peru, two to Colombia, two to Venezuela, two to Ecuador, two to Chile and five to Brazil. Until the end of the 1970s, Argentina ordered another two submarines type TR 1700 from Thyssen-Krupp Nordseewerke (TNSW) in Emden.

Indonesia and India also bought submarines type 209 (two and four respectively). The so far last deal was concluded between South Africa and HDW and TNSW together. In 1999, South Africa ordered three submarines that were commissioned between 2005 and 2008. According to information by the German government, the export value amounted to 540 million euros.

Even though they have in the meantime been replaced by a new generation, type 209 submarines are still very popular. In 2004, Portugal commissioned HDW and TNSW with the production of two submarines type 209PN that were delivered in 2010 and 2011. The order volume of this variant amounted to a total of 805 million euros, which was a close approximation of the price to the follow-up generation (and that had also been inspired by it technically). In 2011, Indonesia ordered three more type 209 submarines with the Daewoo shipyard in South Korea.

Besides new orders, HDW also deals with the modernization or modification of already delivered submarines type 209. Larger projects of this kind took place in Colombia (2008) and Greece (2002).

The next generation

With the types 212A, 214 and dolphin, German submarine makers developed a larger and more powerful follow-up generation of type 209 as of the mid-1990s. An important characteristic of many of these submarines—and of type 209PN—is their so-called fuel-cell drive. Compared to submarines with diesel-electric drive, it permits a much longer submerged time that would only be possible otherwise with a nuclear propulsion system. HDW is so far the only manufacturer of submarines that offer this special technology.

Submarines type 212A were developed for the German Navy alone and generally must not be exported. The one exception so far was the sale to NATO partner Italy that had been involved in the further development of the type and that had ordered two submarines for its own navy in 2008.

Submarines type 214, on the contrary, is meant to be exported abroad, and HDW intends to continue the success of its predecessor model 209. It currently seems as if HDW has succeeded. Greece ordered four submarines of this type in total in 2000 and 2002, South Korea nine in total in 2000 and 2009 and Turkey ordered six submarines in 2009. Nearly all contracts foresaw final assembly on-site at the customer's. Pakistan is another possible customer of a type 214 submarine. It is true that the German government gave the go-ahead for the submarine export to Pakistan some years ago but currently (March 2012), a new tender is running that HDW needs to win against French and Chinese producers. An order by Greece of two more submarines type 214 of 2010 was cancelled a year later due to the threatening insolvency of the country.

The submarines type Dolphin are a special case. They were developed by order of Israel, which has a share in the rights to their technology and are only intended to be exported to the Israeli Navy. Between 1999 and 2000, three submarines were delivered, with the German government financing the first two submarines; Israel paid half of the third one. In 2005 and 2006, Israel ordered another two submarines type Dolphin, which are to be delivered in 2012 and 2013. It also offered the prospect of a third vessel. This time, the German government subsidized about one-third of the costs, which amounted to one billion euros in total. Counter to the vessels of the first delivery, these are equipped with a fuel-cell drive and thus have a much higher performance. The order of the third vessel is expected in the course of 2012.

Sources and further information:

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