Type VII submarine
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|Preceded by||Type II submarine|
|Succeeded by||Type IX submarine|
|In commission||1936 – 1970 (G-7)|
|General characteristics (Type VIIC)|
|Height||9.60 m (31 ft 6 in)|
|Draft||4.74 m (15 ft 7 in)|
|Propulsion||2 × supercharged 6-cylinder 4-stroke diesel engines totalling 2,800–3,200 PS (2,100–2,400 kW; 2,800–3,200 shp). Max rpm: 470–490|
|Complement||44–52 officers & ratings|
Type VII U-boats were the most common type of German World War II U-boat. 703 boats were built by the end of the war. The lone surviving example, U-995, is on display at the Laboe Naval Memorial located in Laboe, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany.
Conception and production
The Type VII was based on earlier German submarine designs going back to the World War I Type UB III and especially the cancelled Type UG. The type UG was designed through the Dutch dummy company NV Ingenieurskantoor voor Scheepsbouw Den Haag (I.v.S) to circumvent the limitations of the Treaty of Versailles, and was built by foreign shipyards. The Finnish Vetehinen class and Spanish Type E-1 also provided some of the basis for the Type VII design. These designs led to the Type VII along with Type I, the latter being built in AG Weser shipyard in Bremen, Germany. The production of Type I was stopped after only two boats; the reasons for this are not certain. The design of the Type I was further used in the development of the Type VII and Type IX.
Type VII submarines were the most widely used U-boats of the war and were the most produced submarine class in history, with 703 built. The type had several modifications. The Type VII was the most numerous U-boat type to be involved in the Battle of the Atlantic.
Type VIIA U-boats were designed in 1933–34 as the first series of a new generation of attack U-boats. Most Type VIIA U-boats were constructed at Deschimag AG Weser in Bremen with the exception of U-33 through U-36, which were built at Friedrich Krupp Germaniawerft, Kiel. Despite the highly cramped living quarters, type VIIA U-boats were generally popular with their crews because of their fast crash dive speed, which was thought to give them more protection from enemy attacks than bigger, more sluggish types. Also, the smaller boat's lower endurance meant patrols were shorter. They were much more powerful than the smaller Type II U-boats they replaced, with four bow and one external stern torpedo tubes. Usually carrying 11 torpedoes on board, they were very agile on the surface and mounted the 8.8 centimetres (3.5 in) quick-firing deck gun with about 220 rounds.
Ten Type VIIA boats were built between 1935 and 1937. All but two Type VIIA U-boats were sunk during World War II (famous Otto Schuhart U-29 and U-30, which was the first submarine to sink a ship in World War II, both scuttled in Kupfermühlen Bay on 4 May 1945).
The boat was powered on the surface by two MAN AG, 6-cylinder, 4-stroke M6V 40/46 diesel engines, giving a total of 2,100 to 2,310 brake horsepower (1,570 to 1,720 kW) at 470 to 485 rpm. When submerged it was propelled by two Brown, Boveri & Cie (BBC) GG UB 720/8 double-acting electric motors,[Note 6] giving a total of 750 horsepower (560 kW) at 322 rpm.
The VIIA had limited fuel capacity, so 24 Type VIIB boats were built between 1936 and 1940 with an additional 33 tonnes of fuel in external saddle tanks, which added another 2,500 nautical miles (4,600 km; 2,900 mi) of range at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph) surfaced. More powerful engines made them slightly faster than the VIIA. They had two rudders for greater agility. The torpedo armament was improved by moving the aft tube to the inside of the boat. Now an additional aft torpedo could be carried below the deck plating of the aft torpedo room (which also served as the electric motor room) and two watertight compartments under the upper deck could hold two additional torpedoes, giving it a total of 14 torpedoes. The only exception was U-83, which lacked a stern tube and carried only 12 torpedoes.
On the surface the boat was powered by two supercharged MAN, 6 cylinder 4-stroke M6V 40/46 diesels (except for U-45 to U-50, U-83, U-85, U-87, U-99, U-100, and U-102, which were powered by two supercharged Germaniawerft 6-cylinder 4-stroke F46 diesels) giving a total of 2,800–3,200 metric horsepower (2,100–2,400 kW) at 470 to 490 rpm. When submerged, the boat was powered by two AEG GU 460/8-276 (except in U-45, U-46, U-49, U-51, U-52, U-54, U-73 to U-76, U-99 and U-100, which retained the BBC motor of the VIIA) electric motors, giving a total of 750 metric horsepower (550 kW) at 295 rpm.
The Type VIIC was the workhorse of the German U-boat force, with 568 commissioned from 1940 to 1945. The first VIIC boat commissioned was the U-93 in 1940. The Type VIIC was an effective fighting machine and was seen almost everywhere U-boats operated, although its range of only 8,500 nautical miles was not as great as that of the larger Type IX (11,000 nautical miles), severely limiting the time it could spend in the far reaches of the western and southern Atlantic without refueling from a tender or U-boat tanker. The VIIC came into service toward the end of the "First Happy Time"[Note 7] near the beginning of the war and was still the most numerous type in service when Allied anti-submarine efforts finally defeated the U-boat campaign in late 1943 and 1944.
Type VIIC differed from the VIIB only in the addition of an active sonar and a few minor mechanical improvements, making it 2 feet longer and 8 tons heavier. Speed and range were essentially the same. Many of these boats were fitted with snorkels in 1944 and 1945.
They had the same torpedo tube arrangement as their predecessors, except for U-72, U-78, U-80, U-554, and U-555, which had only two bow tubes, and for U-203, U-331, U-351, U-401, U-431, and U-651, which had no stern tube.
On the surface the boats (except for U-88, U-90 and U-132 to U-136 which used MAN M6V40/46s) were propelled by two supercharged Germaniawerft, 6 cylinder, 4-stroke M6V 40/46 diesels totaling 2,800 to 3,200 PS (2,100 to 2,400 kW; 2,800 to 3,200 shp) at 470 to 490 rpm.
For submerged propulsion, several different electric motors were used. Early models used the VIIB configuration of two AEG GU 460/8-276 electric motors, totaling 750 PS (550 kW; 740 shp) with a max rpm of 296, while newer boats used two BBC GG UB 720/8, Garbe, Lahmeyer & Co. RP 137/c or Siemens-Schuckert-Werke (SSW) GU 343/38-8 electric motors with the same power output as the AEG motors.
U-flak "Flak Traps"
The concept of the "U-flak" or "Flak Trap" originated the previous year, on 31 August 1942, when U-256 was seriously damaged by aircraft. Rather than scrap the boat, it was decided to refit her as a heavily armed anti-aircraft boat intended to combat the losses being inflicted by Allied aircraft in the Bay of Biscay. Two 20 mm quadruple Flakvierling mounts and an experimental 37 mm automatic gun were installed on the U-flaks' decks. A battery of 86 mm line-carrying anti-aircraft rockets was tested (similar to a device used by the British in the defense of airfields), but this idea proved unworkable. At times, two additional single 20 mm guns were also mounted. The submarines' limited fuel capacities restricted them to operations only within the Bay of Biscay. Only five torpedoes were carried, preloaded in the tubes, to free up space needed for additional gun crew.
Four VIIC boats were modified for use as surface escorts for U-boats departing and returning to French Atlantic bases. These "U-flak" boats were U-441, U-256, U-621, and U-953. Conversion began on three others (U-211, U-263, and U-271) but none was completed and they were eventually returned to duty as standard VIIC attack boats.
The modified boats became operational in June 1943 and at first appeared to be successful against a surprised Royal Air Force. Hoping that the extra firepower might allow the boats to survive relentless British air attacks in the Bay of Biscay and reach their operational areas, Donitz ordered the boats to cross the bay in groups at maximum speed. The effort earned the Germans about two more months of relative freedom, until the RAF modified their tactics. When a pilot saw that a U-boat was going to fight on the surface, he held off attacking and called in reinforcements. When several aircraft had arrived, they all attacked at once. If the U-boat dived, surface vessels were called to the scene to scour the area with sonar and drop depth charges. The British also began equipping some aircraft with RP-3 rockets that could sink a U-boat with a single hit, finally making it too dangerous for a U-boat to attempt to fight it out on the surface regardless of its armament. In November 1943, less than six months after the experiment began, it was discontinued. All U-flaks were converted back to standard attack boats and fitted with Turm 4, the standard anti-aircraft armament for U-boats at the time. (According to German sources, only six aircraft had been shot down by the U-flaks in six missions, three by U-441, and one each by U-256, U-621, and U-953.)
Type VIIC/41 was a slightly modified version of the VIIC and had the same armament and engines. The difference was a stronger pressure hull giving them a deeper crush depth and lighter machinery to compensate for the added steel in the hull, making them slightly lighter than the VIIC. A total of 91 were built. All of them from U-1271 onwards lacked the fittings to handle mines.
The Type VIIC/42 was designed in 1942 and 1943 to replace the aging Type VIIC. It would have had a much stronger pressure hull, with skin thickness up to 28 mm, and would have dived twice as deep as the previous VIICs. These boats would have been very similar in external appearance to the VIIC/41 but with two periscopes in the tower and would have carried two more torpedoes.
Contracts were signed for 164 boats and a few boats were laid down, but all were cancelled on 30 September 1943 in favor of the new Type XXI, and none was advanced enough in construction to be launched.
It was powered by the same engines as the VIIC.
The type VIID boats, designed in 1939 and 1940, were a lengthened – by 10 m (32 ft 10 in) – version of the VIIC for use as a minelayer. The mines were carried in, and released from, three banks of five vertical tubes just aft of the conning tower. The extended hull also improved fuel and food storage.
On the surface the boat used two supercharged Germaniawerft, 6 cylinder, 4-stroke F46 diesels delivering 3,200 bhp (2,400 kW) at between 470 and 490 rpm. When submerged the boat used two AEG GU 460/8-276 electric motors giving a total of 750 shp (560 kW) at 285 rpm.
The Type VIIF boats were designed in 1941 as supply boats to rearm U-boats at sea once they had used up their torpedoes. This required a lengthened hull and they were the largest and heaviest type VII boats built. They were armed identically with the other Type VIIs except that they could have up to 39 torpedoes onboard and had no deck guns.
Only four Type VIIFs were built. Two of them, U-1062 and U-1059, were sent to support the Monsun Gruppe in the Far East; U-1060 and U-1061 remained in the Atlantic. Type VIIF U-boats used the same engines as the Type VIID class. Three were sunk during the war; the surviving boat was surrendered to the Allies following Germany's capitulation. Like most surrendered U-boats, it was subsequently scuttled by the Royal Navy.
|626 tonnes||753 tonnes||769 tonnes||759 tonnes||999 tonnes||965 tonnes||1084 tonnes|
|745 tonnes||857 tonnes||871 tonnes||860 tonnes||1099 tonnes||1080 tonnes||1181 tonnes|
|64.51 m (211 ft 8 in)||66.5 m (218 ft 2 in)||67.2 m (220 ft 6 in)||67.2 m (220 ft 6 in)||68.7 m (225 ft 5 in)||76.9 m (252 ft 4 in)||77.63 m (254 ft 8 in)|
|44.5 m (146 ft)||48.8 m (160 ft 1 in)||50.50 m (165 ft 8 in)||50.50 m (165 ft 8 in)||50.9 m (167 ft)||59.8 m (196 ft 2 in)||60.4 m (198 ft 2 in)|
|5.85 m (19 ft 2 in)||6.20 m (20 ft 4 in)||6.20 m (20 ft 4 in)||6.20 m (20 ft 4 in)||6.85 m (22 ft 6 in)||6.28 m (20 ft 7 in)||7.3 m (23 ft 11 in)|
|4.70 m (15 ft 5 in)||4.70 m (15 ft 5 in)||4.70 m (15 ft 5 in)||4.70 m (15 ft 5 in)||5.0 m (16 ft 5 in)||4.70 m (15 ft 5 in)||4.70 m (15 ft 5 in)|
|Draft||4.37 m (14 ft 4 in)||4.74 m (15 ft 7 in)||4.74 m (15 ft 7 in)||4.74 m (15 ft 7 in)||5.0 m (16 ft 5 in)||5.01 m (16 ft 5 in)||4.91 m (16 ft 1 in)|
|1,700 kW[Note 8]||2,400 kW[Note 9]||2,400 kW[Note 10]||2,400 kW[Note 11]||2,400 kW[Note 12]||2,400 kW[Note 13]||2,400 kW[Note 14]|
|560 kW[Note 15]||560 kW[Note 16]||560 kW[Note 17]||560 kW[Note 18]||560 kW[Note 19]||560 kW[Note 20]||560 kW[Note 21]|
|16 knots (29.6 km/h; 18.4 mph)||17.9 knots (33.2 km/h; 20.6 mph)||17.7 knots (32.8 km/h; 20.4 mph)||17.7 knots (32.8 km/h; 20.4 mph)||18.6 knots (34.4 km/h; 21.4 mph)||16.7 knots (30.9 km/h; 19.2 mph)||17.6 knots (32.6 km/h; 20.3 mph)|
|8 knots (15 km/h; 9.2 mph)||8 knots (15 km/h; 9.2 mph)||7.6 knots (14.1 km/h; 8.7 mph)||7.6 knots (14.1 km/h; 8.7 mph)||7.6 knots (14.1 km/h; 8.7 mph)||7.3 knots (13.5 km/h; 8.4 mph)||7.6 knots (14.1 km/h; 8.7 mph)|
range at 10 knots
|6,200 nmi (11,500 km; 7,100 mi)||8,700 nmi (16,100 km; 10,000 mi)||8,500 nmi (15,700 km; 9,800 mi)||8,500 nmi (15,700 km; 9,800 mi)||12,600 nmi (23,300 km; 14,500 mi)||11,200 nmi (20,700 km; 12,900 mi)||14,700 nmi (27,200 km; 16,900 mi)|
range at 4 knots
|74–94 nmi (137–174 km; 85–108 mi)||90 nmi (170 km; 100 mi)||80 nmi (150 km; 92 mi)||80 nmi (150 km; 92 mi)||80 nmi (150 km; 92 mi)||69 nmi (128 km; 79 mi)||75 nmi (139 km; 86 mi)|
|220 m (720 ft)||220 m (720 ft)||230 m (750 ft)||250 m (820 ft)||270 m (890 ft)||200 m (660 ft)||200 m (660 ft)|
|Crush depth||230–250 m (750–820 ft)||230–250 m (750–820 ft)||250–295 m (820–968 ft)||275–325 m (902–1,066 ft)||350–400 m (1,150–1,310 ft)||220–240 m (720–790 ft)||220–240 m (720–790 ft)|
|Deck gun||8.8 cm SK C35 naval gun, with 220 rounds||none|
|2 cm FlaK 30||Various||2 × 2 cm Flak C30
with 4,380 rounds
|3.7 cm Flak,|
with 1,195 rounds
2 × C30 20 mm,
with 4,380 rounds
|Bow tubes||4 [Note 22]|
|Stern tubes||1 [Note 23]|
|11||14||14||14||16||14||14 / 39 [Note 24]|
|Mines||22 TMA mines
or 33 TMB mines
|26 TMA mines [Note 25]||15 SMA mines in
vertical chutes and
either 26 TMA mines or
39 TMB mines
|10||24||568||91||0 [Note 26]||6||4|
- post war; U-1057, U 1058, U 1064, U 1305 as respectively TS-14, S-81 – S-84
- post war – U-995 and two others
- U-570 as HMS Graph (P715)
- U-471/Le Millé (S 609), U-766/Laubie (S 610)
- G-7/German submarine U-573
- in this context "double-acting" means the same device was capable of acting as a motor, powered by battery and turning the propeller; or as a generator powered by an engine, charging the battery.
- U-boat ace Otto Kretchmer took issue with use of the term "Happy Time." He didn't see how the U-boat war could ever be characterized as having a "Happy Time" when losses of U-boats and crews were running at 50%. (See interview on YouTube.)
- 2 MAN, 6 cylinder 4-stroke M6V 40/46 diesels totalling 2,100 – 2,310bhp. Max rpm: 470–485.
- 2 supercharged MAN, 6 cylinder, 4-stroke M6V 40/46 diesels totalling 2,800 – 3,200bhp. Max rpm: 470–490.
- 2 supercharged Germaniawerft, 6 cylinder, 4-stroke M6V 40/46 diesels totalling 2,800 – 3,200bhp. Max rpm: 470–490.
- Same as VIIC
- Same as VIIC
- 2 supercharged Germaniawerft, 6 cylinder, 4-stroke F46 diesels totalling 2,800 – 3,200bhp. Max rpm: 470–490.
- Same as VIID.
- 2 Brown, Boveri & Cie GG UB 720/8 double-acting electric motors, totalling 750shp. Max rpm: 322.
- 2 AEG GU 460/8-276 electric motors, totalling 750shp. Max rpm: 295.
- Same as VIIA or VIIB, 2 Siemens-Schuckert-Werke GU 343/38-8 electric motors, totalling 750shp and max rpm: 296 or 2 Garbe Lahmeyer RP 137/c electric motors, totalling 750shp and max rpm: 296.
- Same as VIIC
- Same as VIIC
- 2 AEG GU 460/8-276 electric motors, totalling 750shp. Max rpm: 285
- Same as VIID
- A small number of VIIC boats were fitted with only two forward tubes
- A small number of VIIC boats were fitted with no stern tube
- 39 Torpedoes were carried in the transport role
- Type VIIC/41 boats from U-1271 on lacked mine handling equipment
- None of the boats were ready by the end of the war
- Gröner, Erich (1990). German Warships 1815–1945. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. p. 77. ISBN 0-87021-790-9.
- Poirier, Michel Thomas, Commander, USN (20 October 1999). "Results of the German and American Submarine Campaigns of World War II". Archived from the original on 9 April 2008. The cost of a Type VII is estimated at US$2.25 million (equivalent to $30 million in 2019).
- Helgason, Guðmundur. "Type VIIC". U-Boat War in World War II. Uboat.net. Retrieved 10 February 2010.
- Möller, Eberhard; Brack, Werner (2004). The Encyclopedia of U-Boats. London: Chatham. pp. 69–73. ISBN 1-85367-623-3.
- Campbell, John (1985). Naval Weapons of World War Two. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. p. 251. ISBN 0-87021-459-4.
- "Type VII U-Boat". German U-Boat. Uboataces.com. Retrieved 13 February 2010.
- Helgason, Guðmundur. "Type VIIA". U-Boat War in World War II. Uboat.net. Retrieved 10 February 2010.
- Helgason, Guðmundur. "Type VIIB". U-Boat War in World War II. Uboat.net. Retrieved 13 February 2010.
- Helgason, Guðmundur. "Type VIIC". U-Boat War in World War II. Uboat.net. Retrieved 13 February 2010.
- Busch, Harald (1955). U-Boats at War. New York: Ballantine Books.
- Helgason, Guðmundur. "Type VIID". U-Boat War in World War II. Uboat.net. Retrieved 15 February 2010.
- Helgason, Guðmundur. "Type VIIF". U-Boat War in World War II. Uboat.net. Retrieved 20 February 2010.
- Gröner 1991, pp. 43–46.
- Gröner 1991, pp. 65–66.
- Gröner 1991, pp. 66–67.
- Gröner 1991, p. 67.
- Gallop, Alan, author. (November 2014). U-boat owners' workshop manual : 1936–45 (type VIIA, B, C and type VIIC/41. ISBN 978-0-85733-404-6. OCLC 894127110.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
- Gröner, Erich; Jung, Dieter; Maass, Martin (1991). U-boats and Mine Warfare Vessels. German Warships 1815–1945. 2. Translated by Thomas, Keith; Magowan, Rachel. London: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-85177-593-4.
- Rossler, Eberhard (1981). The U-Boat. Annapolis, Maryland (USA): Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-966-9.
- Stern, Robert C. (1991). Type VII U-boats. Annapolis, Maryland (USA): Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-828-3.