The Type IX was designed with two objectives in mind – to be the long range counterpart to the medium-range Type VII, and to serve as a tactical command boat for the leader of a wolf pack. After the fall of France, the second requirement became unnecessary as the powerful land based transmitters on the French coast meant that tactical command could be handled from shore.
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The Type IXs were excellent sea boats, which had sufficient range to operate in distant waters in the South Atlantic, Indian and even the Pacific oceans - although some had even reached the east coast of North America. It was designed to travel fast to and from distant operational zones, while carrying an adequate supply of torpedoes and stores for sustained solo patrols. It carried more torpedoes than the Type VII but was handicapped with a slow diving time and was more vulnerable to attack – mainly due to its comparatively large size.
This model was much bigger, longer and employed more powerful diesel engines. It used a supercharged 9-cylinder diesel instead of the standard 8-cylinder on the Type VIIs. To balance the much heavier weight, the engine room was located immediately rear of the control room. The Type IX had a full double hull, with the outer hull almost completely surrounding the pressure hull. The upper deck was wide and flat, which provided additional space to store ten torpedoes externally in watertight containers. When the war started, the standard gunnery of the Type IX was one 105mm deck gun, one 37mm flak and one C30 machine gun. It had four forward torpedo tubes and two backward tubes, with a total capacity of 22 torpedoes.
Together with the Type VII, the Type IX combined to form the backbone of the U-boat force, which had fought relentlessly for control of the shipping lanes of the Atlantic. More than 200 Type IXs were built in seven sub-classes.
The first of the original design, a total of eight Type IXAs were built. The first was U-37, launched on May 4 1938, and commissioned on August 4 1938. It was equipped with three periscopes, two in the conning tower and one in the control room.
Fourteen Type IXBs were built. The fuel capacity was increased from 154 tons to 165 tons, giving a slightly extended range from 8,100nm to 8,700nm.
Fifty four Type IXCs were built. The main difference was an increased fuel capacity to 208 tons, resulting in an extended range from 8,700nm to 11,000nm. This subclass onward had two periscopes, both housed within the conning tower.
Eighty seven Type IXC/40s were built. The fuel capacity was yet further increased to 214 tons, giving an extended range to 11,400nm.
A highly desirable trait was for a U-boat which could combine high speed with very long range. However given the technology of the day, it was recognized that to develop such a boat would cause excessive complications. Instead, it was decided to develop two versions, one which maximized speed, and the other very long range. This led to the design of the Type IXD1 (speed) and IXD2 (range).
Only two Type IXD1s were built, U-180 and U-195. Their standard diesel engines were substituted with six Daimler Benz MB501 diesels, producing an output of 1,500hp each. Though the maximum range was somewhat reduced, this design could achieve a respectable top speed in excess of 20 knots. Considerable technical problems were encountered, including overheating and the emission of white exhaust smoke which was visible for miles. The unsatisfactory engines were removed and the original MAN engines were reinstalled. They were later converted to transport U-boats and could to carry up to 252 tons of cargo. In this configuration, the torpedo tubes were removed to provide additional cargo room. Both variants of the Type IXD1s were equipped with a Focke Achgelis, a rotary winged kite for making distant observations.
Twenty eight Type IXD2s were built. In addition to their standard MAN diesel engines, this variant had two additional six cylinder diesels which could be used for cruising on the surface. They had additional fuel bunkers, giving them the exceptional range of 23,700nm – the longest range of any German attack U-boat. Like the IXD1, it was equipped with a Focke Achgelis kite.