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German Type VII submarine


German Type VII submarine

{class="infobox" style="width:315px;border-spacing:2px;"

| colspan="2" style="text-align:center;line-height:1.5em;" | Type VIIC/41 U-995
U-995 Type VIIC/41 at the Laboe Naval Memorial near Kiel

|} Type VII U-boatswere the most common type of GermanWorld War IIU-boat. U-boat stands for Unterseeboot, which means undersea boat in German.

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, designed through the Dutch dummy company Ingenieurskantoor voor Scheepsbouw den Haag (I.v.S) which was set up by Germany after World War I in order to maintain and develop German submarine technology and to circumvent the limitations set by the Treaty of Versailles, and was built by shipyards around the world. 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 cut down only after two boats; the reasons for this are not certain and range from political decisions to faults of the type. 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.[4] 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.[5] 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. Type VIIA U-boats were generally popular with their crews and 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 quick-firing deck gun with about 220 rounds.[5]

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 and which is the first submarine to sink a ship in World War II, both scuttled in Kupfermühlen Bay on 4 May 1945).[5]

The boat was powered on the surface by two MAN AG, 6 cylinder 4-stroke M6V 40/46 diesel engines giving a total of at 470 to 485 rpm. When submerged it was propelled by two Brown, Boveri & Cie (BBC) GG UB 720/8 double-acting electric motors giving a total of at 322 rpm.[5]

List of Type VIIA submarines

General characteristics (Type VIIC)
  • 769 tonnes (757 long tons) surfaced
  • 871 t (857 long tons) submerged[1]
  • 67.10 m (220 ft 2 in) o/a[2]
  • 50.50 m (165 ft 8 in) pressure hull[2]
Height: 9.60 m (31 ft 6 in)[2]
Draft: 4.74 m (15 ft 7 in)[2]
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[2]
  • 17.7 knots (32.8 km/h; 20.4 mph) surfaced[2]
  • 7.6 knots (14.1 km/h; 8.7 mph) submerged[2]
  • 8,500 nmi (15,700 km; 9,800 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph) surfaced[2]
  • 80 nmi (150 km; 92 mi) at 4 knots (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph) submerged[2]
Test depth:
  • 230 m (750 ft)[2]
  • Calculated crush depth: 250–295 m (820–968 ft)[2]
Complement: 44-52 officers & ratings[2]
Type VIIA submarines
Date launched Name of U-boat Date commissioned Ships sunk or damaged Fate
1936|June|24|format=dmy}} U-27[6] 1936|August|12|format=dmy}} 2[7] Sunk September 1939
1936|July|14|format=dmy}} U-28[8] 1936|September|12|format=dmy}} 15[9] sunk in training accident 1944
1936|August|29|format=dmy}} U-29[10] 1936|November|16|format=dmy}} 13[11] scuttled 1945
1936|August|4|format=dmy}} U-30[12] 1936|October|8|format=dmy}} 19[13]
1936|September|25|format=dmy}} U-31[14] 1936|December|28|format=dmy}} 14[15]
1937|February|25|format=dmy}} U-32[16] 1937|April|15|format=dmy}} 25[17]
1936|June|11|format=dmy}} U-33[18] 1936|July|25|format=dmy}} 11[19]
1936|July|17|format=dmy}} U-34[20] 1936|September|12|format=dmy}} 24[21]
1936|September|24|format=dmy}} U-35[22] 1936|November|3|format=dmy}} 5[23]
1936|November|4|format=dmy}} U-36[24] 1936|December|16|format=dmy}} 3[25]


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 of range at surfaced.[26] They were slightly faster than the VIIA, and 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 , which lacked a stern tube and carried only 12 torpedoes.[26]

Prien's VIIB U-47 (model)
Prien's U-47 (model)

Type VIIBs included many of the most famous U-boats of World War II, including (the most successful), Prien's , Kretschmer's , and Schepke's .[26]

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 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 at 295 rpm.[26]

List of Type VIIB submarines

Type VIIB submarines
Name of U-boat Date launched Date commissioned Ships sunk or damaged
U-45[27] 1938|June|25|format=dmy}} 1938|April|27|format=dmy}} 2[28]
U-46[29] 1938|September|10|format=dmy}} 1938|November|2|format=dmy}} 27[30]
U-47[31] 1938|October|29|format=dmy}} 1938|December|17|format=dmy}} 39[32]
U-48[33] 1939|March|8|format=dmy}} 1939|April|22|format=dmy}} 55[34]
U-49[35] 1939|June|24|format=dmy}} 1939|August|12|format=dmy}} 1[36]
U-50[37] 1939|November|1|format=dmy}} 1939|December|12|format=dmy}} 4[38]
U-51[39] 1938|June|11|format=dmy}} 1938|August|6|format=dmy}} 6[40]
U-52[41] 1938|December|21|format=dmy}} 1939|February|4|format=dmy}} 13[42]
U-53[43] 1939|May|6|format=dmy}} 1939|June|24|format=dmy}} 8[44]
U-54[45] 1939|August|15|format=dmy}} 1939|September|23|format=dmy}} 0
U-55[46] 1939|October|19|format=dmy}} 1939|November|21|format=dmy}} 6[47]
U-73[48] 1940|July|27|format=dmy}} 1940|September|30|format=dmy}} 15[49]
U-74[50] 1940|August|31|format=dmy}} 1940|October|31|format=dmy}} 7[51]
U-75[52] 1940|October|18|format=dmy}} 1940|December|19|format=dmy}} 9[53]
U-76[54] 1940|October|3|format=dmy}} 1940|December|3|format=dmy}} 2[55]
U-83[56] 1940|December|9|format=dmy}} 1941|February|8|format=dmy}} 8[57]
U-84[58] 1941|February|26|format=dmy}} 1941|April|29|format=dmy}} 7[59]
U-85[60] 1941|April|10|format=dmy}} 1941|June|7|format=dmy}} 3[61]
U-86[62] 1941|May|10|format=dmy}} 1941|July|8|format=dmy}} 4[63]
U-87[64] 1941|June|21|format=dmy}} 1941|August|19|format=dmy}} 5[65]
U-99[66] 1940|March|12|format=dmy}} 1940|April|18|format=dmy}} 44[67]
U-100[68] 1940|April|10|format=dmy}} 1940|May|30|format=dmy}} 30[69]
U-101[70] 1940|January|13|format=dmy}} 1940|March|11|format=dmy}} 25[71]
U-102[72] 1940|March|21|format=dmy}} 1940|April|27|format=dmy}} 2[73]


A cross-section of a Type VIIC U-boat.
Miniature model of a Type VIIC.

The Type VIIC was the workhorse of the German U-boat force, with 568 commissioned from 1940 to 1945.[74] The first VIIC boat commissioned was the in 1940. The Type VIIC was an effective fighting machine and was seen almost everywhere U-boats operated, although its range of only 6,500 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.[74] The VIIC came into service toward the end of the "First Happy Time"[Note 1] 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.[74]

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.[74]

They had the same torpedo tube arrangement as their predecessors, except for , , , , and , which had only two bow tubes, and for , , , , , and , which had no stern tube.[74]

On the surface the boats (except for , and to which used MAN M6V40/46s) were propelled by two supercharged Germaniawerft, 6 cylinder, 4-stroke M6V 40/46 diesels totaling at 470 to 490 rpm.[74]

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 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.[74]

Perhaps the most famous VIIC boat was , featured in the movie Das Boot.[74]

=== U-flak "Flak Traps" ===

The concept of the "U-flak" or "Flak Trap" originated the previous year, on 31 August 1942, when 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 , , , and . Conversion began on three others (, , and ) 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 relatively limited 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 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.[75] 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 .)

Type VIIC/41

Type VIIC/41 U-995. Laboe Naval Memorial

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 onwards lacked the fittings to handle mines.

Today one Type VIIC/41 still exists: is on display at Laboe (north of Kiel), the only surviving Type VII in the world.

List of Type VIIC/41 submarines

There were 91 Type VIIC/41 submarines commissioned.


Type VIIC/42

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 - 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.[76] 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 to 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.[76]

Only one () managed to survive the war; the other five were sunk, killing all crew members.[76]

List of Type VIID submarines

Type VIID submarines
Date launched Name of U-boat Date commissioned Ships sunk or damaged
1941|July|24|format=dmy}} U-213[77] 1941|August|30|format=dmy}} 0
1941|September|18|format=dmy}} U-214[78] 1941|November|1|format=dmy}} 6[79]
1941|October|9|format=dmy}} U-215[80] 1941|november|22|format=dmy}} 1[81]
1941|October|23|format=dmy}} U-216[82] 1941|December|15|format=dmy}} 1[83]
1941|November|15|format=dmy}} U-217[84] 1942|January|31|format=dmy}} 3[85]
1941|December|5|format=dmy}} U-218[86] 1942|January|24|format=dmy}} 5[87]


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.[88]

Only four Type VIIFs were built. Two of them, and , were sent to support the Monsun Gruppe in the Far East; and remained in the Atlantic. Type VIIF U-boats used the same engines as the Type VIID class.[88] Three were sunk during the war, the last was scuttled after the war along with the majority of the surrendered U boats

List of Type VIIF submarines
Name of U-boat Date launched Date commissioned Notes
U-1059[89] 1943|March|12|format=dmy}} 1943|May|1|format=dmy}} sunk by Allied aircraft on second supply patrol in support of Far East operations
U-1060[90] 1943|March|8|format=dmy}} 1943|May|15|format=dmy}} completed six supply patrols to Norway before attacked and forced aground by British carrier aircraft. Subsequently bombed by Allied aircraft.
U-1061[91] 1943|April|22|format=dmy}} 1943|August|25|format=dmy}} completed five supply patrols to Norway and was surrendered at end of war
U-1062[92] 1943|May|8|format=dmy}} 1943|June|19|format=dmy}} sunk by US escorts on return from first supply patrol to Far East


Class Gröner|p=71}} Gröner|p=71}} Gröner|p=72}} Gröner|p=72, 74}} Gröner|p=102}} Gröner|p=103}} Gröner|p=104}}
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|ftin|abbr=on}} 66.5|m|ftin|abbr=on}} 67.2|m|ftin|abbr=on}} 67.2|m|ftin|abbr=on}} 68.7|m|ftin|abbr=on}} 76.9|m|ftin|abbr=on}} 77.63|m|ftin|abbr=on}}
pressure hull
44.5|m|ft|abbr=on}} 48.8|m|ftin|abbr=on}} 50.50|m|ftin|abbr=on}} 50.50|m|ftin|abbr=on}} 50.9|m|ft|abbr=on}} 59.8|m|ftin|abbr=on}} 60.4|m|ftin|abbr=on}}
5.85|m|ftin|abbr=on}} 6.20|m|ftin|abbr=on}} 6.20|m|ftin|abbr=on}} 6.20|m|ftin|abbr=on}} 6.85|m|ftin|abbr=on}} 6.28|m|ftin|abbr=on}} 7.3|m|ftin|abbr=on}}
pressure hull
4.70|m|ftin|abbr=on}} 4.70|m|ftin|abbr=on}} 4.70|m|ftin|abbr=on}} 4.70|m|ftin|abbr=on}} 5.0|m|ftin|abbr=on}} 4.70|m|ftin|abbr=on}} 4.70|m|ftin|abbr=on}}
Draft 4.37|m|ftin|abbr=on}} 4.74|m|ftin|abbr=on}} 4.74|m|ftin|abbr=on}} 4.74|m|ftin|abbr=on}} 5.0|m|ftin|abbr=on}} 5.01 |m|ftin|abbr=on}} 4.91|m|ftin|abbr=on}}
1,700 kW[Note 2] 2,400 kW[Note 3] 2,400 kW[Note 4] 2,400 kW[Note 5] 2,400 kW[Note 6] 2,400 kW[Note 7] 2,400 kW[Note 8]
560 kW[Note 9] 560 kW[Note 10] 560 kW[Note 11] 560 kW[Note 12] 560 kW[Note 13] 560 kW[Note 14] 560 kW[Note 15]
17|kn}} 17.9|kn}} 17.7|kn}} 17.7|kn}} 18.6|kn}} 16.7|kn}} 17.6|kn}}
8|kn}} 8|kn}} 7.6|kn}} 7.6|kn}} 7.6|kn}} 7.3|kn}} 7.6|kn}}
range at 10 knots
6200|nmi|abbr=on}} 8700|nmi|abbr=on}} 8500|nmi|abbr=on}} 8500|nmi|abbr=on}} 12600|nmi|abbr=on}} 11200|nmi|abbr=on}} 14700|nmi|abbr=on}}
range at 4 knots
74|–|94|nmi|abbr=on}} 90|nmi|abbr=on}} 80|nmi|abbr=on}} 80|nmi|abbr=on}} 80|nmi|abbr=on}} 69|nmi|abbr=on}} 75|nmi|abbr=on}}
operating depth
220|m|ft|abbr=on}} 220|m|ft|abbr=on}} 230|m|ft|abbr=on}} 250|m|ft|abbr=on}} 270|m|ft|abbr=on}} 200|m|ft|abbr=on}} 200|m|ft|abbr=on}}
Crush depth 230|–|250|m|ft|abbr=on}} 230|–|250|m|ft|abbr=on}} 250|–|295|m|ft|abbr=on}} 275|–|325|m|ft|abbr=on}} 350|–|400|m|ft|abbr=on}} 220|–|240|m|ft|abbr=on}} 220|–|240|m|ft|abbr=on}}
Complement 42 – 46 44 – 48 44 – 52 44 – 52 44 – 52 46 – 52 46 – 52
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 16]
Stern tubes 1 [Note 17]
11 14 14 14 16 14 14 / 39 [Note 18]
Mines 22 TMA mines
or 33 TMB mines
26 TMA mines 15 SMA mines in
vertical chutes and
either 26 TMA mines or
39 TMB mines
10 24 568 91 0 [Note 19] 6 4




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