HDW’s shipyard in Kiel, Germany saw the world’s first air-independent fuel cell propulsion engined submarine, U31 begin its maiden voyage.
At about 8:30 on Monday morning, 7 April, the boat pulled away from the pier to begin its first set of shallow-water sea trials that will last about six months, at which time it will transit to Norway for sonar, torpedo and other deep-water tests. The U31, HDW’s 212A class, is one of four ordered by the German Navy and is to be delivered around March 2004, with the other three appearing in May 2005, January and then June 2006.
Aboard HDW’s Pegasus chase boat, Armada’s editor saw the 56-metre boat slip along Kiel’s inlet out to the Bay, where it stopped, did what appeared to be some static angles and dangles, then lift its bow into the air and reverse for a few hundred metres at around eight knots. These manoeuvres are a part of initial tests that verify the solidity of the hulls, the integrity of the powerplant and its drive train, and generally to see if everything is bolted down correctly.
Also on HDW’s order books are four class 214 subs (the export version of the 212) for the Hellenic Navy and another three for South Korea.