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Joint submarine programmes.

The submarine is the modern capital boat and technically one of the most sophisticated weapon systems available. The sophistication of the technology and its integration and the demanding fabrication standards make them extremely expensive, and for smaller navies the only way to acquire this capability is through multi-national production.

It is a field that, in Europe, is essentially led by two organisations; the German Submarine Consortium (GSC) and France's DCN with its Spanish partner Izar. While the focus of their efforts has been Third World exports to Latin America and Asia, they have not neglected Europe. In fact, the German Submarine Consortium is involved with several programmes both directly in partnership with foreign yards (such as the Type 212A programme with Italy) and indirectly such as the Scandinavian Viking project and the Greek programme through HDW (Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft) and its subsidiaries.

While surface ship programmes increasingly adopt a multi-national approach to equipment procurement, submarine projects tend towards a more nationalist approach. The Type 209s built for export by the German Submarine Consortium, centred upon HDW with Thyssen Nordseewerke (TNSW) and Ferrostaal, had STN Atlas (now Atlas) Elektronik sensors and weapon control systems as well as torpedoes, Zeiss periscopes, MTU diesels and Siemens electric motors. The Franco-Spanish Scorpene leans toward Thales and UDS electronics, Sagem electo-optics and DCN torpedoes although the Franco-Italian Eurotorp's weapons are also contenders. Electric propulsion is usually by Jeumont Schneider, and while Semt-Piel-stick diesels are on offer the boats for Chile and India have seen MTU selected to reflect national preferences.


The German Submarine Consortium dominated the Cold War export submarine market with sales to more than a dozen countries as well as to its domestic customer. But in the 1990s this dominance was challenged by vigorous efforts of DCN with the Spanish yard Izar (formerly Bazan) to promote the Scorpene.

In common with market requirements this is a modular single-hull with the Basic variant being 66.4-metres long with a submerged displacement of 1711 tonnes. Also available are the Basic-AIP (Air-Independent Propulsion) which is 76.2 metres long with a submerged displacement of 2000 tonnes and the Compact for shallow water which is 59.4 metres long and has a 1450-tonne displacement.

Scorpene Chile

The first sale was to Chile with the two manufacturers supervised by the French Delegation Generale pour l'Armement (DGA) and Spanish defence ministry as well as a Chilean inspection team. Izar is responsible for a third of the programme including detailed design of the rear third, while DCN is producing the remainder, including the combat system. The Spanish company is providing logistical support and DCN the training.

DCN Cherbourg is responsible for the whole pressure hull as well as outfitting the forward section while Izar's Cartagena yard builds the rear half. Assembly and trials of the O'Higgins are at Cherbourg with commissioning scheduled for this year. Cartagena will perform a similar role for the Carrera, which will be commissioned next year.

Scorpene Malaysia

A similar two-boat arrangement is planned for the Malaysian Navy, which, unlike Chile, has never previously operated submarines. Consequently the 1.04 billion [euro] contract includes the construction of a dedicated base at Sepanggar Bay in Borneo supervised by Armaris, the DCN-Thales consortium created to provide prime contractorship of major programmes. In addition there is a four-year training programme using the former French submarine Ouessant.


While India has apparently agreed in principle to acquire the Scorpene to meet its Project 75 requirements no contract has been signed. Although other customers have apparently selected the Basic design it is believed that India is seeking the Basic-AIP solution with the Module d'Energie Sous-Marin Autonome (Mesma) and it is probable that New Delhi will also seek a technology exchange. It is likely that up to six boats will be required; with the first built in France and the remainder at the Mazagon yard in Mumbai.


In a separate agreement DCN is already providing Pakistan with an air-independent propulsion capability. The company was contracted in 1994 to provide three Agosta 90B class submarines. The first two, PNS Khalid and Saad, will initially be conventionally powered, but the third, PNS Hamza, will have a 200 kW Mesma system, which will be back-fitted into the earlier vessels. The PNS Khalid was commissioned in September 1999 and recently completed an exercise involving an 'attack' upon an escorted merchant ship. The Saad is soon to be commissioned while the Hamza will be commissioned in 2006. The first boat was built completely at Cherbourg but the others are being assembled at the Karachi Naval dockyard with pressure hull sections supplied by DCN. The remainder will be fabricated in-country, as Islamabad is using the agreement to establish a submarine building capability with the assistance of the KCW yard. The French will supply submarine project definition, design, construction and quality inspection procedures as well as help to upgrade the two yards. DCN is also slated to provide certain specialist training in submarine construction.

The Scorpene seems well placed to win the competition to meet the Spanish Navy's S80 requirement, but it lost out to the GSC's Type 209PN in neighbouring Portugal. This success in Europe will no doubt be encouraging to the GSC even though it has had several European successes in the meantime.

Type 212A, Germany and Italy

The double-hulled Type 212A is being built for both the German and the Italian Navies. The boats are 55.9 metres long and have a submerged displacement of 1830 tonnes with the German boats built under a 1.5 billion [euro] contract by HDW (lead yard) and TNSW and the Italian ones by HDW's industrial partner Fincantieri in Muggiano.

In the German programme HDW constructs the forward sections while TNSW produces the aft sections. Final assembly, test and trials are conducted by HDW for the first and third boat, and by TNSW for the remainder. Two unusual features of the design are the use of the Siemens Peru fuel cell technology to provide an air-independent propulsion capability and the selection of the Norwegian Kongsberg MSI-90U combat system.

The Italian boats, although fabricated and assembled independently, are almost identical in equipment but will use Whitehead and Eurotorp torpedoes rather than the Atlas weapons selected by the Germans. However, the submarine's maximum diving depth has been modified, a Riva Calzoni electro-optic mast will be used and there will be satellite communications. The accommodation will also be adapted for operating longer patrols in the warmer Mediterranean waters.

U31 and Type 214

HDW and Fincantieri have also created a joint venture to develop and market submarines with a displacement of less than 700 tonnes. The agreement also makes Fincantieri HDW's partner of choice for work on submarines above 1000 tonnes when its own yards are at full capacity.

The first German boat, U 31, was commissioned in March and the last will be commissioned in September 2006. Italy's first-of-class, the Salvatore Todaro, will be commissioned in June 2005 and her sister boat in May 2006.

Other collaborative programmes involving the German air-independent propulsion system are based upon the Type 214 design, which is an evolutionary development of the Type 209 that formed the 'keel' of the German submarine export industry. The Type 214 is a 65-metre-long boat with a submerged displacement of 1860 to 1980 tonnes and is based upon an air-independent propulsion system. It was selected by Greece, as the Katsonis class, by South Korea and Portugal although the last is currently officially designated 'Type 209 PN'.

The Greek programme, which is likely to cost around $1.7 billion, is an interesting example of a joint project. The main contractor is the domestic Hellenic Shipyards at Skaramanga with the prime subcontractors being HDW (technical) and Ferrostaal (commercial). But HDW, itself purchased by One Equity Partners, which is an investment branch of the Chicago-based Bank One, has acquired Hellenic Shipyards, and added it to Sweden's Kockums.

The lead boat, HS Papanikolis was built by HDW at Kiel and launched on April 22 as the first dedicated export AIP boat. She is to be commissioned in October 2005 while her three sister boats, using material packages from HDW/ Ferrostaal, will be built at Skaramanga with the last being delivered in 2010.

In addition to the usual German subcontractors there will be a substantial Greek presence, including pressure hull sections from Metka, batteries from Germanos and fibre reinforced plastic components from Motomarine. It is possible that the Kanaris combat system, developed by Unisys for the Greek Navy, will also be incorporated in the new boats, although the more likely alternative is an Atlas Isus 90 system. The programme also involves a degree of technology transfer for three of the Greek Navy's four Type 209/1200 submarines, which are scheduled to be back-fitted with the air-independent propulsion Skaramanga.

The Korean vessels will be built by Hyundai to plans, materials and other equipment provided by the GSC, the first steel for which was cut in November 2002. The programme, designated KSS-2, has the boats scheduled for delivery between 2007 and 2009. No details are available about the Portugal programme although it is likely the subs will be built in Kiel with some Portuguese input.

Type 209

There is some South African input in the programme to provide three Type 209/1400 (Sa) submarines. These are 62 metre long vessels with a submerged displacement of 1594 tonnes with the first boat being built by HDW for delivery in September 2005 and the others by TNSW for delivery in 2006 and 2007. An integrated logistic support and a training package are included.


Most of the equipment, including a Zeiss non-hull penetrating mast, will be German although domestic producer Grintek Avitronics will provide an intercept ESM system. The Armament Corporation of South Africa (Armscor) is providing programme management and a project team, which includes members of the South African Navy. With only a limited naval industrial capability the South African government has had to rely upon an industrial offset package that largely emphasises defence-related products not related to the submarine programme and acquisitions relating to the civil market. The economic package was extremely important in selling the programme to the domestic voter and is aimed at encouraging sustained economic growth, job creation/retention, foreign investment and black economic empowerment.

The economic package is often a key element in any joint submarine programme, but changing political expectations or a declining defence budget can also affect them. This is especially true of the Scandinavian Viking submarine project that began life as a regional programme to meet a common requirement.

Feasibility studies between 1995 and 1997 concluded that, while there were differing concepts, a modular submarine design would enable Denmark, Norway and Sweden to meet their requirements in the years after 2005. In August 1997 a 30-month feasibility study and concept phase began to harmonise requirements further, to develop cost models and to study industrial participation with Finland joining as an observer. The multinational nature of the programme was emphasised by the placing of specific studies with non-Nordic companies who were to examine issues such as propulsion (Ballard Power Systems, Jeumont Industrie and Merlin Gerin), sonar (Reson and Thales Underwater Systems), combat systems (Thales Underwater Systems), electro-optical (Sagem and Thales Optronics), navigation systems (Sagem) and weapon launcher systems (Strachan & Henshaw).

In 2000 the Viking Submarine Corporation (VSC) was established by Kockums, Kongsberg Defence & Aerospace and Odense Staalskibsvert as potential prime contractor for the programme and to prepare for the first stage of the project definition phase (PDP Step 1). It was envisaged there would be ten boats delivered between 2009 and 2016 with four each for Denmark and Norway and two for Sweden, the work share being 36, 44 and 20 per cent respectively. However, the financial turbulence, which has seriously affected all defence budgets, buffeted the Viking Programme. Sweden had originally wanted four boats but had been forced to halve its requirement as its forces were contracted to meet the post Cold War world and similar perceptions were growing in Oslo. There were delays, partly due to the difficulty of harmonising budgets to requirements, and the $18.8 million twelve-month PDP Step 1 contract was not awarded to VSC until June 2002.

Meanwhile, all three participants were preparing restructuring plans, and Oslo's decision to reduce its submarine force to six Ula class boats meant there was no longer a requirement to replace the Kobben class. Norway decided to end participation in the programme with the conclusion of PDP Step 1 although retaining observer status.

In May 2003 Sweden and Denmark decided to continue to the next stage and, shortly afterwards, the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV) awarded Kockums a SK 129 million contract to lead the PDP Step 2, which will continue until the end of this year. This will include assessing the costs and risks, producing a technical specification, planning for production and industrial participation. It will also provide an outline plan for life-cycle support and reducing through-life.

Kockums and Odense have also signed an agreement which sees Kockums assuming the role of prime contractor designate replacing the VSC, which has been dissolved. Sweden's SaabTech Systems and Denmark's Terma assume responsibility for defining the combat system. Denmark still plans to be the lead customer although there is now intensive discussion in Parliament about the need for four boats or even for new submarines.

The partners have not ruled out the possibility of other participants from the Baltic region, notably Finland and Poland, and the likelihood of participation by Singapore has been mentioned but remains speculative at present. However, it is felt that the best way to ensure the programme will proceed is on the present basis.

The K9 design concept is for an air-independent propulsion boat with a length of about 50 metres and a submerged displacement of about 1350 tonnes. The modular design will allow the creation of fully equipped sections at various yards which will then be assembled at one of them.

The boats will be extremely stealthy and highly automated with the crew possibly reduced to 20. There will be an integrated sonar suite that includes large aperture flank and conformal bow arrays, an integrated passive ranging sonar, a low frequency towed array for long-range detection and an active sonar for target tracking, navigation and mine avoidance. There will he a combat system with multi-function consoles and it is probable that a non-hull-penetrating mast with an electro-optical sensor package will be incorporated. The weapon suite will probably include the traditional ordnance such as torpedoes, mines and anti-ship missiles, but land-attack missiles might also be included as might be unmanned vehicles.

With the growing emphasis on special operations it seems likely that the boat will have to have provision for this requirement. This could mean accommodation for a Special Forces party and also for them to exit and enter the boat as well as the attachment of underwater vehicles. In many respects the Viking requirement is one of the most demanding joint submarine programmes underway. However, experience has shown that where political will exists it is achievable.
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Title Annotation:Submarine
Author:Hooton, E.R.
Publication:Armada International
Date:Aug 1, 2004
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