Sunday, May 21, 2006

Taras Riding a Dolphin - Home of 212A Submarines

You may recognize the pictured submarines as Type 212A (fuel cell) AIPs. Can you guess who built them and what port they are entering? (Three Dolphin class submarines built for the Israeli Navy are of a similar design, but employ diesel-electric propulsion versus fuel-cell.)

These submarines of the German U212A design were built by Italian shipyard Fincantieri for the Italian Navy. The German Type 212A is an advanced design developed by Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft AG (HDW). It features air-independent propulsion (AIP) using nine 34-kilowatt Siemens hydrogen fuel cells, allowing the submarines to cruise under water for weeks without surfacing, silently, and with no exhaust heat. HDW is the first shipyard in the world to offer a fuel cell propulsion system ready for series production. The Fincantieri boats are of identical design except for different torpedoes, electro-optic masts, adaptations for warm water operation, and the lifesaving system: individual in the U212A Germans, individual and collective in the Italian boats.

Salvatore Todaro (S526) built by Fincantieri for the Marina Militare (Italian Navy) and her sister sub, Sciré, are the first; two additional, Italian Type 212As are planned.

So what (Middle-eastern looking) homeport are they entering and what is the dolphin connection? Well the boats are not entering Italy's main naval base (La Spezia). Note the city seal in the upper left corner. It depicts the hero Taras (son of Poseidon) riding a dolphin. The city is Taranto (on the Ionian sea). Taras was the original name of the city founded in 706 BC by Greek immigrants as Sparta's only colony.


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