German Type U 139 submarine

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Class overview
Builders: Germaniawerft, Kiel
Operators:  Kaiserliche Marine
Completed: 3
General characteristics [1]
Displacement: 1,930 tonnes (1,900 long tons) surfaced
2,483 tonnes (2,444 long tons) submerged
3,050 tonnes (3,000 long tons) total)
Length: 92 m (302 ft) overall
71.50 m (234.6 ft) pressure hull
Beam: 9.12 m (29.9 ft) overall
5.75 m (18.9 ft) pressure hull
Height: 11.2 m (37 ft)
Draught: 5.27 m (17.3 ft)
Propulsion: 2 × diesel engines, 3,300 shp (2,500 kW) (surfaced)
1,780 shp (1,330 kW) (submerged)
Speed: 15.8 knots (29 km/h) surfaced
7.6 knots (14 km/h) submerged
Range: 12,630 nautical miles (23,000 km) at 8 knots (15 km/h) surfaced
53 nautical miles (98 km) at 4.5 knots (8 km/h) submerged
Boats and landing
craft carried:
1 cutter
Crew: 6 officers, 56 men
Armament: 6 × 53.3 cm (21.0 in) torpedo tubes with 24 G6 torpedoes (4 bow/2 stern tubes)
2 × 15 cm (5.9 in) deck guns with 980 rounds

U-139, originally designated "Project 46", was a class of large, long-range U-boats built during World War I by the Kaiserliche Marine.


Three large U-cruisers, designated Type 139, were ordered from Germaniawerft, Kiel, in August 1916. Displacing nearly 2,000 tons, and with a surface speed of 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph), they were armed with 24 torpedoes and two 15 cm deck guns, and had a cruising range of around 12,000 miles (19,000 km). They carried a large enough complement to furnish captured vessels with prize crews and their intended purpose was to capture or destroy merchantmen on the surface; their large-calibre deck guns and comparatively high speed allowed them to engage even armed merchant vessels.

Unlike the earlier Type U-151 submarines, the Type 139 was designed from the outset for war service. Four bow and two stern torpedo tubes were fitted, but the main armament was the two 15 cm deck guns, which could be laid by a rangefinder on the aft section of the bridge. The conning tower's command centre was protected by 90mm armour against the guns typically carried by enemy merchant ships, while the pressure hull was thicker than usual at 25mm, so as to increase diving depth. The superstructure was also raised by 2m so that a shell hitting it would not penetrate the pressure hull.

A Type 139 U-boat cost 8.7 million Marks at the time, the 15 cm guns accounting for around 7% of the cost. Three submarines of this type, U-139, U-140, and U-141, were ordered.[2]

The later "Project 46(a)" specified even more powerful U-cruisers, of a similar displacement to the Type 139 boats, but with an increased surface speed of 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph), and with two 88mm deck guns in addition to the two 150mm guns.

An even larger U-cruiser was proposed under "Project 47", but never reached construction; it would have displaced 2,500 tons, had a top speed of 21 knots (39 km/h; 24 mph), and been armed with four 150mm guns as well as 6 torpedo tubes, 2 of which would have fired to the side.


The Type 139 submarines were dispatched on long-range missions, south across the Equator, and to the west across the Atlantic, operating independently.

The famous Lothar von Arnauld de la Perière commanded U-139, the first of the class, and named the submarine Kapitänleutnant Schweiger, after Walther Schwieger, who had sunk the RMS Lusitania in 1915. Under von Arnauld, U-139 sank 5 small ships from May 1918, and sank the last ship to fall to a U-boat in World War I on 1 October 1918.

List of Type U 139 submarines[edit]

Three Type U 139 submarines were built, all of which were commissioned into the Kaiserliche Marine.


  1. ^ a b c Gröner, p. 44.
  2. ^ Williamson, Gordon; Ian Palmer (2002). U-boats of the Kaiser's Navy. Osprey Publishing. p. 16. ISBN 1-84176-362-4.