Updated October 16th, 2023 at 19:48 IST

Spain's S-80 and Germany's Type 214 submarines compete for advanced naval contract

Spain's S-80 and Germany's Type 214 submarines, equipped with air-independent propulsion (AIP) systems, compete for a crucial naval contract.

Reported by: Yuvraj Tyagi
Spanish S-80 submarine | Image: Twitter/@SpainNATO

Comparative Analysis: Clash of Titans

Silent Warriors: Both submarines excel in stealth and acoustic signature reduction, ensuring their ability to operate covertly.  

Endurance Matters: Spain's S-80 takes the lead in submerged endurance thanks to its AIP system, while Germany's Type 214 offers exceptional range and global reach.  

Lethality and Versatility: The S-80's heavier armament, including heavyweight torpedoes and anti-ship missiles, gives it an edge in terms of firepower, making it a formidable force in both anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare. However, the Type 214's torpedoes and missiles are nothing to scoff at, and its international success speaks volumes.  

As these two contenders vie for a significant naval contract, the future of submarine capabilities hangs in the balance. Each model's unique features and advantages contribute to the decision-making process, which will undoubtedly have a profound impact on naval operations in the coming years. 

Big Data

Spanish S-80 submarine

Spanish S-80 submarine

German Type 214 Submarine

German Type 214 Submarine

Germany's Type 214 submarine: The German U-Boat legacy continues

Germany's Type 214 submarines, built by Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (HDW), are a continuation of the nation's proud U-boat legacy, upgraded with modern technology and capabilities.  

Stealth and Silence: The Type 214 submarines are renowned for their low acoustic signature, ensuring they remain undetected in the underwater domain.  

Global Reach: These submarines possess impressive endurance and range, allowing them to operate far from their home shores and project power on a global scale.  

Collaborative Efforts: Germany has a strong track record of exporting submarines, with several nations opting for the Type 214, showcasing the boat's international appeal.  

Spain's S-80 submarine: The silent Spanish sentinel in detail

Spain's S-80 submarine, developed by the Spanish shipbuilder Navantia, is a testament to modern maritime engineering. These submarines are known for their impressive size and advanced systems.  

Underwater Prowess: The S-80 boasts a robust AIP (Air-Independent Propulsion) system, providing the vessel with extended submerged endurance. This feature allows the submarine to stay submerged for weeks, enhancing its stealth capabilities.  

Lethal Arsenal: Armed with heavyweight torpedoes and anti-ship missiles, the S-80 can engage both surface and underwater targets, making it a versatile platform for naval operations.  

Sophisticated Sensors: The submarine is equipped with state-of-the-art sensors and combat management systems, enhancing its situational awareness and overall effectiveness.  

Weapons and Acoustic Signatures

Differences in weaponry specifications are present in the Type 214 and the Navantia ship. The Type 214 is equipped with eight 533mm torpedo tubes, offering a variety of offensive options. The Navantia vessel houses six guns of equal calibre, providing a mirroring weapon storage capacity.  

Both submarines prioritize stealth and feature reduced acoustic signatures to maintain a low profile. The Type 214 gains an advantage with its advanced sonar technology, while the Spanish Navantia vessel counters this with a meticulously designed hull and cutting-edge sonar systems.

Spanish AIP System

The S-80's air-independent propulsion system relies on a bioethanol processor, composed of a reaction chamber and Coprox intermediate reactors. This processor converts bioethanol to high-purity hydrogen, with fuel cells by UTC Power serving as the primary energy source. The complex system, known as the Reformer, uses bioethanol as fuel, oxygen stored as a liquid, and produces hydrogen and carbon dioxide.

A new system, SECO2 (or CO2 removal system), is designed to dissolve the CO2 in water until it becomes undetectable. The AIP in the S-80 submarine has at least 300 kW strength, powered by a permanent magnet electric motor. This motor drives a fixed propeller designed to avoid cavitations, even at high velocity. Spain's Ministry of Defense initiated a program to develop a Spanish fuel cell to reduce costs and reliance on foreign manufacturers. A 300 kW prototype is set to be developed within a six-year timeline.

Size and Displacement

One critical aspect under scrutiny is the displacement and size of the submarines. Spain's S-80, slightly larger at just over 80 meters and displacing 2,200 tons, offers more room for onboard systems and crew. However, this advantage might lead to a larger acoustic signature. The Type 214 from Germany accommodates 27 crew members, whereas the S-80 can house 32.  

The Type 214 boasts a diesel-electric system powered by two diesel engines and utilizes Siemens hydrogen fuel cells for its AIP. The Spanish S-80 relies on three diesel engines for propulsion and incorporates an AIP system powered by bioethanol processors. The German-made Type 214 features 20 knots underwater speed and a maximum surface travel range of 12,000 miles. In contrast, the S-80 has an underwater speed of 19 knots and an 8,000-mile range on the surface.  


The race for a contract involving advanced submarines takes centre stage as Spain's S-80 model and Germany's Type 214 go head-to-head in a competition that could redefine naval capabilities. What sets these contenders apart is their incorporation of air-independent propulsion (AIP) systems, allowing them to remain submerged for extended periods, typically a feature found in nuclear-powered submarines.  

Apart from Spain and Germany, other formidable contenders are making their presence felt. Russia's Rubin is offering the Amur 1650, while Korea's Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME) presents the Chang Bogo class. France's Naval Group brings the Scorpene into the arena, a model already utilized by India.

Published October 16th, 2023 at 19:48 IST