Submarines: Bad Bolts Break Brand New Boats

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May 27, 2011: Three of South Korea's new Type 214 subs were out of action for most of 2010 because of defective components. This was very embarrassing, as these subs were built in South Korea. Building submarines is a very specialized and exacting type of manufacturing, and South Korea has only been doing it for less than a decade. The first subs built in South Korea were these three German Type 214s, and the first of those entered service three years ago. The boats were built using licensed technology from the German developer (HDW), and many of the components were manufactured in South Korea as well. But then metal bolts in the Type 214s began coming loose or breaking five years ago. The problem was traced to the South Korean supplier of the bolts which were not, it turned out, manufactured to the German specification. Eventually, German specialists were called in, and by February of this year, the problem had been fixed.

South Korea now plans to build six additional Type 214 subs over the next 12 years. South Korea already has nine 1,100 ton Type 209 subs, designed and built in Germany. The Type 214 boats use fuel cells, enabling them to stay underwater for up to two weeks. The Type 214 is a 1,700 ton, 65 meter (202 foot) long boat, with a crew of 27. It has four torpedo tubes and a top submerged speed of 35 kilometers an hour. Maximum diving depth is over 400 meters (1,220 feet).

AIP boats go for up to a billion dollars each. The second batch of South Korean 214s will have an improved AIP system, which is apparently more reliable, and provides a small increase in time underwater. South Korea will probably become a supplier of AIP systems as well, because they now have the industrial expertise for this sort of high tech.

 


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