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Posted on March 30, 2011 by  & 

Fuel-cells power German super-stealth submarine

Germany is building a formidable capability in electric vehicles by land, water and air including the new Adam Opel hybrid cars and both hybrid and pure electric cars from Daimler AG and its investment Tesla Motors. Kopf Solarschiff silent solar boats for up to 150 people ply the large lakes of Germany.
In 1994 German naval manufacturer Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft began developing technology for a non-nuclear, super-stealth, hybrid electric submarine. The first models were released in 2003 with the updated versions recently revealed.
A unique hybrid propulsion system powers the U121A submarine combining hydrogen fuel cells, a diesel generator and a high-power battery. The fuel cells create air-independence allowing the sub to stay submerged for weeks at a time, while the entire system maintains energy-efficient, virtually-silent movement. Submerged depth and diving pressure have no negative influence on performance. The company claims this is the only AIP system suitable for enclosed vessels.
The U121A is designed to track other submarines, essentially requiring near-silent operation.
"We operate in coastal waters around Europe and this submarine is specially designed for finding submarines. If you want to find other submarines of course you have to be quiet," said German Navy captain Bernd Arjes.
To achieve this high degree of stealth capability the sub is non-magnetic, acoustically optimised and "virtually undetectable" with a low infrared signature. The compact nature and composite material structure of the vessel allows for operation in both deep and shallow waters, utilising its 56m length and 11.5m height in flexible mission profiles.
Although the primary function of the sub is to track, it is also equipped with 12 heavyweight wire guided torpedoes, each capable of destroying a war ship or disabling an aircraft carrier. Few crew members are required due to a high degree of automation.
Earlier versions of the U121A have been sold to the navies of Greece, Portugal and South Korea.
Although Germany has no nuclear weapons or nuclear powered ships of its own, it is the world's third largest exporter of defense goods.
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References: Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft, CNN
Image source: Military Today
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