With this article I will set some guidelines for such a program. I try to look at some organisational and operational demands. And some required capabilities. For these I have used an interesting article from my colleague of the well informed marineschepen.nl website (GT). This business case also underpins the vision of DutchForce21 as I have written earlier (GT). Some remarks are drawn from the interview with Captain Ammerlaan. Captain Ammerlaan is commanding officer of the RNLN submarine service. I will write those in Italics, to make clear what the requirements are according to the RNLN .
Equal cooperative partnership
First of all, building a submarine is a very important and strategic asset. Currently we could say that the Dutch Walrus class submarines are the only real strategic weapons the Dutch government has at its disposal. They gather strategic Intel, they follow ships, and movements on the ground. And in times of war, submarines can be used to hold or block (Sea/Control / Sea Denial) other countries naval fleets. The high operational tempo of submarines requires, in my opinion, to be capable of supporting such ships in country and not depend on (most of the) spare parts to come from elsewhere.
Building in the Netherlands
if we read the interview with Commander Ammerlaan correctly we see they have done some research on the possibility to build new subs in the Netherlands. I was positively surprised because Ammerlaan mentions that he sees it possible… with some good arguments too. Dutch navy and industrial partners can do 80% of building with current level of technology and knowledge. For example IMTECH builds trimming, floating, driving systems for Royal Navy Astute class nuclear powered submarines, we have a design capacity within RNLN/TNO/Nevesbu, they have design, engineer and research skills available. Other hardware for example, such as pumps, diesel engines, valves and taps, are available. Besides that Thales and the RNLN own software organisation Force Vision are able to develop Software +Battle management systems.as they did on the current (upgrade) Walrus class ships and all other naval vessels.
If we read the article correctly then we see a clear preference towards cooperation with the Norwegian navy, thus we can see a “slight” focus on the German designed submarine models of TKMS. In my opinion this would be a very unwise thing to do. It looks like in my opinion that they already are stuck with Norway/German submarines, ignoring other
Together but independent
I think there is a need for “independent” builders of submarines (and other relevant weapons) which shouldn’t be in the hands of just a couple of companies worldwide. Also the knowledge that TKMS and/or MTU sells high-tech engines to power submarines for example China to improve their performance, is a very bad thing to do. We saw German behaviour during the financial crisis: wanting all money from the Greek people…. But still selling them arms including new expensive submarines. And then there is the quality and trustworthy partnership issues in case of selling those submarines to Greece for example[i]. And of course the scandalous way the German company TKMS, with here UAE owner, dealt with Swedish shipbuilder Kockums. In short they used this takeover not to build affordable high quality submarines, but to eliminate a contender of their own HDW company and thus protect their A21X series of ships. They tried to takeover Swedish state owned submarine design knowledge contrary to agreement upon signing the contract. The contracts for A26 design and building where signed (as I read some time ago) for a very good price of about € 175 miljon a piece (building only development not included) This amount rose to about € 446 around 2013. But even that wasn’t enough for TKMS. They stopped negotiations between Kockums and FMV. Besides this TKMS also stopped Kockums from bidding the A26 design for the Singapore navy… they took over the deal and sold 2 A218SG submarines instead.
Money before people is the basis for all those problems. And to be honest we see that everywhere in Europe these days.
Therefore I propose to cooperate with a truly independent partner: with the arisen newly formed Saab Kockums Naval Systems and the Swedish government/military partners.
Low acquisition- Operational & Sustainment costs
Personally I think a cooperative effort to build future submarines at an affordable price, with affordable Operation & Sustainment (O&S) costs in mind are key. The DutchForce21 philosophy is relevant to implement in the JFS business case. The starting point is that the less resources armed forces will use to fight/secure those same resources the more the people benefit those resources. And that’s what the armed forces are for…to secure the peoples interests and safeguarding their lives and future. Because the trend of ever increasing acquisition- and O&S costs must be broken. Something that Saab has shown is possible with so many systems. For example the Gripen fighter system.
I have mentioned Augustine’s law 16 many times now: this isn’t the only law. We have a choice to comply to this rule… or to find an alternative. As Saab has shown many times, they choose the alternative. The RNLN needs new and capable submarines bud at an affordable price just like the Swedish navy. Dutch Industry could also benefit from cooperation with Sweden because such an equal partnership will also make it possible to compete for international export orders against strong contenders like TKMS/HDW from Germany, Hyundai Heavy Industries from South Korea, DCNS from France, and Navantia from Spain. Besides the Russian and possible future Chinese export submarines ofcourse. This option should at least be considered instead of TKMS trying to squeeze extra euro’s out of Dutch taxpayers pockets.
The capabilities required for a future submarine are as follows:
- A future submarine must be able to be away from home for at least 4 to 6 months.
- with our 4 boats they operate at least 100 days at sea per ship
- Independent operations: Ocean capable on its own power; The RNLN doesn’t have a support ship for those kind of trips.
High speed: For transit and underwater operations.
Silent: To stay undetected.
space for Special Forces + equipment
- Because the space on current ships are very small, these teams have to sleep between torpedo’s and don’t have appropriate mission planning center.
- Besides that we may expect the number of special forces to increase.
- The necessary gear for special operations will become bigger and more space consuming.
- Therefore it will be necessary to have a special modular space for special forces gear with an external lock / docking system. :
AIP system: To have longer periods under water, thus increasing chance to be undetected there is a need for a AIP system.
Weapons load out:
- room for at least 20 torpedo’s as current Walrus class. From a colleague I received some additional comments on possible Swedish design change (change from A26 design into new Saab Kockums Next Generation Submarine design):
We will also see a new sub design for Sweden, ofc probably same size as A26 but focus could shift to more fire power. (because of Russian activities/Ukraine)
- possibly weapon against low flying AC/heli; France is developing a Mistral missile derivative, Germany develops the IDAS missile and also the Russian industry is developing such systems at the moment.
- possibly weapon against close land / sea targets: This isn’t the land-attack capability you think. This will only be a weapon with close to shore capability. There is a weapon developed at the moment by Diehl systems in Germany which will be able to perform both the short range air defence as well as the short range land-attack mission. It is called IDAS (Interactive Defence and Attack System for Submarines) also can be used against land targets, with a range of 25km. 4 missiles fit in a box which operate from the standard torpedo tube. As far as we can know IDAS is the only in its kind that also can handle land and surface targets. For more information read the brochure (pdf).
- Unmanned systems (UXV) There are several unmanned systems in development to operate from submarines, both underwater, above water and in the air. The article also mentions Norway is keen to acquire this too.
- Low manning current crew is around 50. For the kind of missions the JFS is intended there is a need for an adequate crew. If the crew is to little it will damage the capabilities of the vessel on long endurance operations. The crew size can be downgraded because of automation but because the ship mostly will operate alone without any logistical backup. The export version of the Walrus class the Moray 1800 pfH design was supposed to have a crew of around 30-38 + The current A26 design has a very small crew, this should be dealt with by designers. Since it’s a modular design In my opinion it shouldn’t be a real problem.
Additionally, Mr. Ammerlaan point out that currently there is no political will for weapons to operate on Long Range strike missions. The current Walrus class vessels already are capable to fire Sub Harpoon anti-ship missiles,
Whom never where acquired. DutchForce21 has a different opinion on this issue. I don’t think the JFS should be equipped with Tomahawk cruise missiles with a very long range of 2000NM or so. But to have a missile to be able to operate at ranges of about 500-1000NM would be very needed in future scenario’s This way the purpose of submarines becomes even more clear. They are Joint strategic assets!