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German Schnellboot (S-boat)

E-boat (German S-boat)

E-Boat (German 'Schnellboot' or 'S-boat')
Motor torpedo boat (MTB)
Known to the British for some illdefined reason as an E-boat ('Enemy boat'), the German Schnellboot, or S-Boot, differed greatly from its Royal Navy counterparts. From its origins in a Lurssen civil design of the early 1930s, the S-boat was built of wood on alloy frames and had a round-bilged hull form which, while possessing a lower maximum speed than the hard-chined British equivalents, was very much more seakindly. In the event, the S-boat was able to sustain its maximum speed in sea states that forced the British to throttle back to avoid excessive pounding.

S1 prototype of E-boat
S1, the prototype S-boat, here seen in the Kiel canal, had to make do with a petrol engine while a diesel unit was perfected. The round-bilged hull enabled the S-boats to maintain high speeds even in a rough sea.

Diesel drive was specified from the outset, though the prototype S1 of 1930 and the follow-on S2-S5 of 1931-32 had to take petrol engines while Daimler- Benz and MAN developed a suitable unit. Only with the S56-73 of 1934-35 did the three-shaft diesel layout become established. These craft were 32.4 m (106.3ft) in length and powered for 35 kts. This speed was considered insufficient, so in the next group the seven-cylinder diesels were exchanged for 11-cylinder units, improving speed but necessitating an increase in length to 34.7m (113.8ft), which remained remarkably constant until 1945, in heavy contrast to the variety of boats under the British flag.

Because of their greater length the S-boats carried their two torpedo tubes forward of the wheelhouse, giving space for two skid-mounted reloads abaft them. It was then a small design step from S26 onwards to raise the forecastle by 1 m (3.28 ft), so enclosing the tubes and leaving a forward gun-pit between them and, importantly, raising the freeboard to give the craft an enviable dryness.

E-boat S81 full speed
S81 works up to her full speed of 39 kts. The low profile of the S-boats was a considerable advantage in the nocturnal melees along the Channel coast.

Always quieter than British equivalents, the S-boats also had a profile that was hard to spot without radar. Gun armament had continually to be increased to match that of their opponents, the extra weight being offset to a great extent by improved weightsaving techniques in hull construction and engines of higher power. Protection was improved by the adoption of the armoured 'Kalotte' type bridge. By 1945 speeds had been pushed (by extremely unreliable engines) to a maximum 42 kts and, while no longer, the S700 type introduced two extra, aft-facing torpedo tubes.

E-boat S100 class
E-boat of the S100 class with 117 tons.

Over 200 S-boats were built, of which about half survived the war.

Users: Germany (Navy), Spain (total of 5 boats in 1943).

PC game WW2 Total
E-Boat S26
Motor torpedo boat (MTB)
93 tons
Displacement (full loaded)
115 tons
114.67 ft
16.73 ft
4.6 ft
Main Armament
two 20-mm-cannons
Secondary Armament
Torpedo tubes
(with 4 torpedoes)
two depth-charge racks (total 8 depth-charges)
Protection side (belt)
Protection deck
Protection main deck
Protection armor deck
Protection main artillery
Protection barbetts
Protection Secondary artillery
Three Daimler-Benz diesels delivering 6,000hp to three shafts
6,000 hp
17 tons
39.5 kts
750 nm (864 miles) at 35 kts
Build time S1 class 1929-30, S18 class 1938-39, S38 class 1942-43, S186 class 1944-45 (total over 200 built, of which about half survived)

3d model of E-Boat
3d model of E-Boat.

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