:: TYPE U 139 (1916) ::

Type U 139 cruiser submarine (1916) High resolution picture

A step forward by the German Imperial Navy which elicited interest and caused notable alarm was the creation of the first U-Cruiser, a large submarine armed with the 150-millimeter cannon, ostensibly intended for being used against minor targets, for in such case the powerful cannon would have been preferred over the torpedo. The first units built of this type were the U 135, U 136, U 137 and U 138 ordered in May 1916, followed three months later by the U 139, U 140 and U 141, while another group of units or larger size (U 142 to U 150) was not completed.

Unlike the Type U 151, which had been originally designed as a mercantile submarine useful to evade naval blockades, the Type 139 was from the beginning a purely military design, aimed to intercept and destroy cargo vessels in surface combat. The heavier cannons were so important for this task that a rangefinder was installed in the aft part of the bridge to direct their fire with precision. However, the importance of the larger caliber had been overestimated by the British and the German alike.

In practice, a large U-Cruiser armed with 150-millimeter cannons was not more destructive than the standard U-Boat which relied on torpedoes rather than on artillery; the German command, instead of ordering the large and costly U-Cruiser, should have opted for a larger number of standard units. Nonetheless, the Type U 139 was a well conceived design which despite the importance given to the artillery featured six torpedo tubes, and which influenced the submarine weapon after the First World War, particularly that of the Japanese and the American.

Type U 139: 3 units (U 139 to U 141)

Type: Cruiser submarine

Length: 92 meters

Beam: 9.12 meters

Draught: 5.27 meters

Displacement (surfaced): 1930 tonnes

Displacement (submerged): 2483 tonnes

Propulsion: 2 x shaft, 2 x Diesel engine 1750 horsepower, 2 x electric motor 880 horsepower

Speed (surfaced): 15.3 knots (28.3 kilometers/hour)

Speed (submerged): 7.6 knots (14.1 kilometers/hour)

Range (surfaced): 12630 nautical miles (23390 kilometers) at 8 knots

Range (submerged): 53 nautical miles (98 kilometers) at 4.5 knots

Test depth: 75 meters

Complement: 62

Armament: 6 x 533-millimeter torpedo tube (4 at prow, 2 astern), 24 x torpedo, 2 x 150-millimeter deck cannon (980 rounds), 2 x 88-millimeter deck cannon (200 rounds)

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