Utstein participating in the exercise Odin-One in August 2003
An Ula-class submarine near Bornholm Island, Baltic Sea in March 2007
The Ula class is a Norwegiansubmarine type which was assembled in Germany in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The class, consisting of six vessels, is currently the only submarine type in service with the Royal Norwegian Navy.
The ordering of a new Norwegian submersible design stemmed from a 1972 decision to modernize the Royal Norwegian Navy (RNoN) submarine flotilla, which then consisted of the aging Kobben-class submarines. The contract was signed on 30 September 1982 for six boats with Thyssen Nordseewerke, Emden. An option for two more submarines was included in the original deal, however, it was never picked up.
The construction of the vessels was an international project. The combat systems were made in Norway by Kongsberg, the attack sonar is German and the flank sonars French. The hull sections were produced in Norway and assembled in Germany by Thyssen Nordseewerke. In Germany, the design is known as the U-Boot-Klasse 210.
When commissioned, the Ulas were the first Norwegian submarines to have enough bunks for the entire crew and a shower.
The Ula-class submarines are among the most silent and maneuverable submarines in the world. This, in combination with their relatively small size, makes them difficult to detect from surface vessels and ideal for operations in coastal areas. The Ula class is regarded as both the most effective and cost-effective weapons in the RNoN.
In 1989, while undergoing trials, Ula was damaged by a practice torpedo. In March 1991, Uredd was involved in an accident while docking. In February 1992, Uredd suffered a control room fire.
In recent years, several submarines of the Ula class have been deployed in the Mediterranean Sea in support of the NATO Operation Active Endeavour, where their intelligence-gathering ability surpassed expectations. Their operational availability proved to be highest of all ships taking part in the operation. This mission highlighted a need for better temperature regulation for crew comfort in warm waters. As a result, HNoMS Ula was "tropicalized" by the installation of new cooling systems, and two more of the class designated for "tropicalization".
During 2006-2008 the Ula class was slated for modernization. Most notably, new communication equipment (Link 11), new electronic warfare support measures and a periscope upgrade. In May 2008, a contract for new sonars was signed, with the first submarine to have new sonar 21 months after that, and the last 52 months later. Furthermore, Kongsberg was contracted in 2012 to upgrade the submarines' combat systems. The Ula class will probably be kept in service until 2020.
In 2014 the MoD will decide on a replacement submarine project, to commence 2020 or thereabouts. In December 2014, the Norwegian Ministry of Defence made the decision to begin the process of replacing the Ulas. As part of that decision, the Ula-class submarines would be kept in service for a further five years, but would not exceed 35 years total service as that would be too costly.
Six submarines were delivered (1989–1992) to the RNoN. All are based at Haakonsvern in Bergen. The boats are all named after places in Norway, with the exception of Uredd ("Unafraid" in English), in honour of the World War II submarine HNoMS Uredd (P-41). The ship prefix for RNoN vessels is KNM (Kongelig Norsk Marine, Royal Norwegian Navy), in English HNoMS (His Norwegian Majesty's Ship).