Submarines: Type 214 Stumbles Into Greece



December 11, 2006: Greece is learning that it's not a good idea to be the first customer for a new weapon design. Greece is buying four Type 214 submarines from Germany. The first one just arrived from Germany, and the Greeks quickly found themselves with a list of 400 defects. The other three 214s are being built in Greece, and the first one of those is about ready for launch. Everyone is nervous.

When the Germans first heard of the complaints, they thought it was politics. A new Greek government has just been installed, and it was common for such a new crew, to try and make the previous gang look bad. But apparently the 1,700 ton, 214 class boats, or at least the first one, do have some problems. The most serious one is that, when traveling on the surface, the boat rolls excessively in bad weather. This could be disastrous, as the waters off Greece, in the Winter, are quite rough. 

The air-independent propulsion (AIP) system does not work as promised. The output power is less than specified, and the fuel cells overheat, and must be shut down, after several hours of operation. This could a result of operating in the warmer Mediterranean. The Germans designed, and used, their AIP system in the cooler waters of the North Sea. 

The propellers are noisy, and the periscope vibrates when the boat is traveling faster than five kilometers an hour. There are leaks, and some equipment doesn't work, or work as specified. The Germans believe that some of the problems cannot be fixed, which could turn into a real disaster for the German manufacturer, HDW. While the Type 214 boats are similar to earlier Type 212 and Type 209 models, there are a number of new design elements on the 214s. Korea has six of the 214s on order, and that might change if the Greek problems do not get resolved.