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Offensive and defensive armament of the U-Boote

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Offensive and defensive armament of the U-Boote Offensive and defensive
armament of the U-Boote
Attack means
TORPEDOES - Several types of torpedoes were built. For example:

OF PERCUSSION FUZE, which exploded when hitting on the target; OF MAGNETIC FUZE, which exploded when passing at a certain distance from the magnetic mass of the target; OF ACOUSTIC GUIDANCE, capable of automatically heading toward the target by following the noise from the engines, guided by a special head fitted with sensitive elements; OF FAT AND LUT TYPES, special torpedoes which allowed launchings from long distances and followed pre-determined routes, calculated for having the greatest number of probabilities of hitting a ship even when launched roughly toward the direction of the convoy.
ARTILLERY - In general, the U-Boote were fitted with one artillery piece (often one of 88 or 105 millimeters) plus some machine guns of anti-aircraft purpose. Near the end of the conflict there would be a notable increment of these latter, being the cannon often removed, for the fight against ships was carried out with torpedoes only. MINES - Some types of submarines were adapted to the laying of mines, something which never found the favor from the Submarine Command, albeit in some cases severe damages were inflicted to the enemy.
A brief allusion to the employment tactics successively used. After the attacks carried out in isolation in the first times, the U-Boote began to use the tactic known as "wolf pack", which gave so favorable results for the German as tragic for the Allies. This tactic would be used until the late autumn of 1943, when the Allied aerial superiority and the utilization of detection by radar at an increasing scale rendered impossible the utilization of large concentrations of submarines. From that moment the U-Boote returned to operate in small groups of two or three units or in isolation.
Detection means
HYDROPHONE - It was not easy to sight ships for a submarine fitted with a conning tower of little height over the sea level, especially at certain distance. But the hydrophone ensured, despite all of its limitations, a greater radius of localization. Besides, submarines had an advantage over ships because they did not have the problem of guessing the depth of the adversary. It was enough with following the direction of the sound source, and sooner or later the target would be sighted.

OPTICAL LOCALIZATION - When a submarine navigated in the surface it had a certain number of watchers, and each of them watched a limited sector of the sea. Others did the same with the sky, because of aerial attacks. But given that the scarce height limited the radius of localization, in 1942 the Focke Achgelis company began to produce on request aircraft denominated FA 230 Bachstelze (Wagtail), which were nothing else than large kites fitted with rotatory blades like those of an helicopter, which towed by the U-Boote could ascend to many tens of meters with an observer onboard. As soon as they localized a ship, the kite was retrieved and the submarine set course toward her prey. RADAR - Also the German would use the radar for detection, but they would start with a delay in respect of the Allies and would suffer from this disadvantage during the whole conflict.

Defense means
Passive
SILENCE - For a submarine which was attacked and forced to immersion the main means of passive defense was silence, a sort of acoustic blackout, so to speak. Since the speed of a submerged submarine was insignificant in respect of that of a surface ship, it was useless to attempt a getaway, which would be certainly discovered because of the working engines, even if these were electric and very silent. By remaining in silence and effectuating only small displacements from time to time, the U-Boote might not be localized with precision and save themselves. As it happened to the U-763, commanded by Ernst Cordes, which being attacked on 6 July 1944 escaped from the adversary ships after 30 hours of hunt and 550 depth charges.
METOX - Detector of electromagnetic emissions, called also "Biscay Cross" because of its shape and because it had been devised for being able to cross the Biscay Gulf while avoiding the Allied aerial hunt. This one had begun to use radars against the U-Boote in that zone and, after some sinkings, the German had searched for a remedy by fitting the units with a detector which allowed to get submerged as soon as the submarine entered the radar beams. This worked until the Allies created a radar which operated with a wavelength of one centimeter, which was not detectable for the Metox.
SCHNORKEL - Periscopic tube fitted with a terminal safety valve which allowed the submarine to navigate in immersion by using the thermal engines. Two ducts allowed the renovation of the air inside the submarine without this one being forced to navigate in surface with the hatches opened, being so an easy prey for aircraft.
RADAR-ABSORBENT RESINS - At a certain point it was thought to isolate the whole hull of the submarine, by coating it with special resins to absorb the electromagnetic waves without reflecting them. Despite some modest initial results obtained in laboratory, this way was abandoned.
Active
INCREASE OF ANTI-AIRCRAFT ARTILLERY - From the mid 1943 the U-Boote began to be fitted with increasingly powerful anti-aircraft armaments, up to the point of arming each of them with eight 20-millimeter machine guns and one 37-millimeter cannon. Since this armament could be placed in a very small space, the submarine could direct a true beam of fire upon the attacking aircraft. RADAR - Naturally, radars were used to detect with enough time the attackers, with whom, if possible, it was always better to avoid to engage in battle. PILLENWERFER - It consisted of containers holding chemical substances, placed externally to the submarine, which in contact with the water produced huge and persistent acetylene bubbles, capable of reflecting the goniometric pulses like they were other submarines. This effect could confuse the adversary hunters, increasing the probabilities of salvation.

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