Deadly Submarines - Global Programmes

In Asia, there are several countries which are on a submarine buying spree and the next two decades is going to witness substantial acquisitions in the region

Issue: 5 / 2014By R. ChandrakanthPhoto(s): By BAE Systems
BAE Systems’ Astute submarine in wet dock quay

The global submarine market is expected to value $19 billion in 2014, and increase at a CAGR of 5.19 per cent during the forecast period, to reach $31.5 billion by 2024. The market consists of three categories of submarines: SSN (ship subsurface), SSBN (ship subsurface ballistic nuclear), and SSK (ship subsurface killer).

There is heightened activity with regard to the submarine market, particularly from the Asia-Pacific region. In Asia, there are several countries which are on a submarine buying spree and the next two decades is going to witness substantial acquisitions in the region. New submarine buyers are emerging on the scene and they include Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand.

Japanese defence writer Kyle Mizokami has pointed out that this trend reflects the desire of Asian countries to protect their recently acquired wealth and enduring economic interests. Much of Asia is dependent on open sea lanes to keep export-driven economies humming, and recognition of the importance of sea power is driving a general naval expansion throughout the region. Another, more ominous driver is the recent uptick in territorial disputes in Asian littorals, particularly those driven by China.

India is another major maritime power and recently the Ministry of Defence has cleared the decks for the Rs. 53,000-crore Project 75 India (P75-I). The recent decision is that all six submarines will be built in India on the lines of the predecessor P75 Scorpene production line at the ­Mazagon Dock Limited (MDL), Mumbai. Bids will be invited from Indian shipyards to build the six submarines using transferred technology from a foreign partner. The field, as it stands, is wide open and there are quite a few contenders.

In the light of these proposed acquisitions, SP’s Naval Forces takes a peek at some of the global submarine programmes.

ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems GmbH leads

ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems GmbH with its submarine unit in Kiel, Germany, has a long tradition of shipbuilding stretching back to the 19th century. It is among the leaders in providing global system engineering for submarines and naval surface vessels.

Virtually no shipyard the world over has more experience in the design and construction of non-nuclear submarines than ThyssenKrupp. The operating unit in Kiel partners the German Navy and has delivered submarines for coastal and blue water deployment to the navies of 17 other countries. The HDW class 209 can be found in every ocean in the world. No other class of submarine has been built more often since World War II.

HDW class 212A and 214 submarines were the first in the world to undertake extra long dives independent of external air sources, equipped with a high-performance fuel cell propulsion system.

HDW Class 209/1400mod

The HDW class 209/1400mod submarine is the most recent version of the HDW class 209 “family” in a line of 63 boats contracted with 14 customer navies. Like all its predecessors, HDW class 209/1400mod is a compact and reliable submarine featuring most recent technology, high combat strength, extraordinary battery payload and low signatures.

HDW Class 210mod

ThyssenKrupp has developed the submarine designated HDW class 210mod, an advanced, compact diesel-electric submarine to carry out domestic and international missions and tasks. Its relatively small size with a surface displacement of only approx. 1,150 tonnes makes the boat especially suited for a wide scope of missions in littoral as well as blue water areas.

HDW Class 212A

The submarines of the first and second batches of HDW class 212A can rightly be called “the peak of German submarine technology”. In line with the German basic design concept, this non-nuclear but air-independent submarine remains compact, with a high payload in the field of sensors, communication equipment, weapon control systems and weapons. Extreme attention has been paid to efficiency and energy management on board. The combination of these factors with the non-magnetic construction and acoustically optimised equipment resulted in submarines that are nearly impossible to detect.

HDW Class 214

It is well equipped to undertake a wide scope of missions ranging from operations in littoral waters to ocean-going patrols. The modular weapon and sensor mix, in combination with the submarine’s air-independent features, makes the HDW class 214 predestined for anti-surface ship and anti-submarine operations; surveillance, etc.

HDW Class 216

HDW class 216 submarine is a long-range multi-mission two-deck fuel cell submarine with exceptional endurance. It features two pressure-tight compartments, high crew comfort levels and an extremely flexible payload for weapons and mission-orientated exchangeable equipment enhanced by the innovative vertical multi-purpose lock (VMPL).

The Italian Navy has also decided in favour of a second batch of two HDW class 212A submarines, which are being built under licence by the Italian shipyard Fincantieri. That means that the Italian Navy will soon also have four boats of this class available for operations.

Navantia S-80 on course, albeit delayed

The S-80 class are AIP submarines currently under construction for the Spanish Navy. Four boats have been ordered, three of which are under construction by the Spanish company Navantia at its yard in Cartagena. The submarines are being fitted with a new propulsion system designed for a high degree of autonomy under water. Their mission includes: projection of naval power onto land, naval special warfare, surveillance, protection of naval forces and deterrence. The first was planned to enter service in the Spanish Navy in 2015, with a second in 2016, but a weight imbalance issue has been identified which is to delay the project between 12 and 24 months. The construction of the third in the series began in 2009. The Indian Navy is considering this submarine for its next-generation of submarines under Project 75(I).

The submarines of the S-80 class are designed to better complete their mission in threat scenarios. Their operational mobility will allow them to operate in remote areas, travelling discreetly at high speeds. Their AIP system, of new technological design, will ensure their ability to remain very long periods of time in an area without being detected and their ability to operate in possible conflict zones.

Their capabilities include: A combat system for multiple target acquisition in different scenarios; the ability to transport personnel, including special operations forces; low noise and magnetic signatures in order to minimise detection; and low radar and infrared signatures in order to minimise detection. Navantia has signed on the US company General Dynamics Electric Boat to help solve the excess weight. In September 2014, there was news that the problem had been resolved and construction is planned to resume soon.

DCNS improves submarine capabilities

DCNS is currently developing the Barracuda programme, which relates to the delivery of six SSNs to the French Navy, of which the first, Le Suffren, will enter service in 2017. These new-generation SSNs combine the latest technological advances in terms of acoustic discretion with nuclear propulsion. They benefit from a land strike capability thanks to their capacity to carry cruise missiles. These attack submarines can carry out intelligence-gathering, special operations – with the deployment of on-board commandos, mine laying or anti-ship or anti-submarine warfare.

DCNS has also developed a programme for four new-generation Le Triomphant class SSBN submarines. The last of these, Le Terrible, was delivered to the French Navy in 2010. These SSBNs, which are the largest French submarines, provide unprecedented acoustic discretion, a high-performance combat system and an ultra-reliable propulsion system, thus ensuring their invulnerability and guaranteeing the permanence of their deterrence.

Scorpene submarines

The Scorpene 1000 and 2000 are new-generation, conventional-propulsion submarines. Of an intermediate size and highly capable in terms of mobility and discretion, they are suited to a very broad range of operations. With 14 submarines sold, the Scorpene 2000 has now become an essential reference for conventional-propulsion attack submarines for navies all around the world. After Chile and Malaysia, India and Brazil have also placed orders with DCNS as part of transfer of technology programmes. This versatile and high-endurance submarine can carry out missions both in the open ocean and in coastal waters. Extremely stealthy and fast, it has a level of operating automation that allows the crew to be limited to 25, which reduces its operating costs significantly. The Scorpene 1000, the direct descendant of the Scorpene 2000, combines cutting-edge design with a high level of stealth, manoeuvrability and speed. While its small size and high degree of discretion allow it to excel in coastal waters, it nevertheless remains a formidable adversary in deep waters. Its latest-generation combat system can deploy the most recent heavy torpedoes and anti-ship missiles, thus endowing this submarine with a particularly dissuasive firepower.

Submerged endurance

DCNS recently unveiled major innovations in three key areas – improved submerged endurance, enhanced surface intelligence gathering, and deployment of unmanned underwater vehicles—to improve the performance and safety of conventional-propulsion submarines. To meet demand from customers for improved submerged endurance of conventional-propulsion submarines (SSKs), DCNS now offers dedicated hull sections known as autonomy boosting sections.

Whereas SSKs typically have a submerged endurance of about three days, DCNS now proposes three new technologies to extend this critical parameter to three weeks.

Chinese strengths

The Chinese navy is replacing the single Xi class (092) ballistic missile submarine with up to six modern Jin class (094) ballistic missile submarines. Each Jin class displaces 9,000 tonnes submerged and is equipped with a dozen JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missiles. The JL-2 is estimated to have a range of 7,200 kilometres (4,475 miles) and capable of carrying up to eight nuclear warheads.

The three submarines of the Shang class (093) represent the second-generation of Chinese nuclear attack submarines. Displacing 6,000 tonnes submerged, the Shang class, built with Russian assistance, features six bow-mounted 533mm torpedo tubes. Yet another class (095) is believed to be under development.

India’s capabilities

India launched its first ballistic missile submarines, the Arihant. Based on the Russian Akula nuclear attack submarine design, the Arihant class features a 10-metre plug to accommodate four vertical launch silos equipped with K-15 Sagarika ballistic missiles. The 6,500-tonne submerged submarine also features six 533mm torpedo tubes capable of launching torpedoes or Klub anti-ship missiles. At least three Arihant class submarines are projected.

A plan to build six submarines of the Scorpene class—1,700 tonne ships equipped with torpedoes and Exocet missiles—has been repeatedly delayed because of bureaucratic and technical problems.

Russian designs

The Amur class submarine is one of the latest Russian submarine designs, an export version of the Lada class, a modernised version of the Kilo class submarine with improved acoustic stealth, new combat systems, and an option for AIP. The new vessels are the fourth-generation of the Kilo submarine family, with two models developed.

The Amur-950 is armed with a VLS missile system capable of salvo-fire at multiple pre-designated targets. Sonar signatures of these submarines are several times lower than the older Kilo class submarines. Both designs are equipped with electronic warfare armament of the newer generation created on the basis of the latest science and technology. They can be outfitted with AIP fuel cells, considerably improving submerged endurance and range.

BAE Systems powerful submarines

BAE Systems push the boundaries of engineering excellence to design and construct world-class submarines. The Astute class will equip the UK Royal Navy with its largest and most powerful fleet of attack submarines. As exciting, complex and challenging as any engineering project in the world today, we’re harnessing the unique skills of our workforce and drawing on years of experience to deliver a step change in capability.