February 20, 2019

Singapore’s Alliance Anxieties and Submarine Setup (Part 1)

With February 18, 2019's launch of Singapore's first Invincible-class Type 218SG submarine I think it time to talk about some more general Singaporean alliance issues and some submarine aspects.


Singapore’s highly strategic geographical position (Map below) and political maturity means it is an integral member of the Western Alliance. Singapore is at one end of the Strait of Malacca choke-point and at the southern end of the South China Sea. So, despite its minute size, Singapore is a highly valued country in military, economic and intelligence terms. To top it off Singapore’s good command of English may make it the:

-  the country in Southeast Asia most trusted by Fives Eyes (Japan, Germany, the Netherlands and
    Israel might also be associate members), and
-   an associate member of the still loose US, Japan, Australia, India “Quadrilateral
     eg. a Singaporean frigate was at MALABAR 2007 

Singapore is therefore a trusted owner of the (almost) most sensitive Western weapons:

-  including the US tailor-made made Boeing F-15SG,
-  In January 2019, Singapore announced its plan to buy a small number of F-35As for an evaluation
    of capabilities and suitability before deciding on more F-35As to replace the aging F-16 fleet.
-  Up to 4 x US Navy Littoral Combat Ships operate out of Singapore Harbour under US 7th Fleet,
    Task Force 73 command.
-  US nuclear submarines visit Singapore around every 2 years (eg. 2015 and 2017).
-   Singapore has a close intelligence, including Special Forces, relationship with Israel. This is partly
     because Singapore like Israel, is a small nervous nation in a region of large Muslim countries. 
     Singapore like Israel also faces regional Islamic terrorism.

Singapore defense anxieties explain why it is the 5th highest defense spender, per capita, in the world.


Germany’s TKMS has tailor-made Singapore's 218SG submarine with a more advanced than usual Atlas Elektronik Combat System. TKMS has also supplied the German (Siemens' (?)) air independent propulsion (AIP) system (tailored to Singapore's warm water enviroment). This is all highly sensitive and very expensive equipment. The 218SG also likely has 2 or 3 x MTU396 or MTU4000 diesels. 

Singapore has maintained a 4 submarine navy of the Challenger class, part replaced by 2 x Archer class, for 22 years. As the first 2 x 218SGs are delivered/commissioned in 2021-2022 (see graphic) the remaining 2 Challengers will be retired. When the second tranche of 2 x 218SGs are commissioned in the mid-2020s the 2 x Archer class will be retired, thus forming an all 218SG force of 4. There are many tactical, logistical and safety advantages in having an all-the-same submarine force.

To prepare for the 218SGs Singapore has been given better access than usual to the Type 212A’s of the German Navy and I suspect access to Israel’s Dolphin 2 (AIP) submarines. This is given the Dolphin 2’s share very similar specifications and some tasks with the 218SG. While the Dolphin 2 has nuclear armed Tomahawk-like missiles (forget the "Popeye Turbo" cover...) the 218SG won’t have any, of course.  

Model of  TKMS Type 218SG taken at IMDEX ASIA, Singapore, May 19-21, 2015 (Photo of model courtesy Defense Studies blog)



The islands and undersea rocks on the approaches (like the Singapore Strait) to the Strait of Malacca provide many places for experienced Singaporean submarine captains to sit, hiding, on the shallow seafloor. (Map courtesy welt-atlas).

-  Air independent propulsion (AIP), that Singpore has heavily invested in, is a major tactical and
    safety advantage, when hiding motionless.
-  Note the reinforced hull bottom of the TKMS built Israeli Dolphin 2 - much like the 218SG, 
    I expect. 
-  In the Photo and (official) Youtube above can be seen the 218SG’s X plane rudder. The rudder is
    ideal for tight turning and gentle maneuvering in the tight seafloor spaces, rocks and holes.  

The shallows increase the likelihood of Singapore's subs colliding with rocks, seafloor, ships and with other subs. Submarine sonar for navigation is more than usually distorted in the shallows, so the Singaporean Navy's decades of experience is very important. 

See What the 218SG is used for? (Part 2) which includes weapons details, tomorrow.


February 19, 2019

Launch of first Invincible class TKMS Type 218SG for Singapore

See Singapore’s Straits Times, February 18, 2019 article

"Invincible, first of Singapore's biggest and most advanced submarines, launches in Germany"

at https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/singapores-first-type-218sg-submarine-launched-in-germany-named-invincible

This concerns Republic of Singapore "Ship" (RSS) Invincible - name allotted to the first of four TKMS 218SG's ordered by Singapore in 2013 and first launched in Germany on February 18, 2019.

Submarine Matters' coverage of the Type 218SG goes back to 2013 and 2015 (with specifications) with many other articles at https://gentleseas.blogspot.com/search?q=218sg

Also see the wikipeadia entry quoting Submarine Matters at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Invincible-class_submarine#cite_note-gentleseas-6

(Source Singaporean Ministry of Defence via Singapore's Straits Times February 18, 2019). 

Tomorrow details on what Singapore's submarines do.


TKMS Type 212CD submarine propulsion issues, eg. FC AIP

Anonymous has kindly supplied the following details and Table. The following is necessarally speculative about the future TKMS-Norwegian Type 212CD propulsion characteristics as the 212CD may not be launched until around 2023. One of the innovative technologies for 212CD is adoption of metal hydride for hydrogen source. This is designed to achieve safer operation of the fuel cell (FC) AIP (see Table 1). A hydrogen cylinder is used in the current conventional FC AIP on the TKMS Type 214 and 212A.

But, in the new generation FC AIP, waste heat from the FC is effectively used to generate hydrogen. This should be more discrete.

Part of a prototype TKMS/tkMS and SENER methanol reforming FC AIP process. (Courtesy slide 26 of this SENER Presentation.)

TKMS and Spain’s SENER (private engineering and technology group) are developing methanol reforming FC which is safer than hydrogen or metal hydride FC AIP (for Type 214, 212A or future 212CD).

But emissions from methanol reformer FC of carbon dioxide against the ocean’s water pressure limits a submarine’s diving depth to around 200m. In contrast hydrogen or metal hydride FC (used on Type 214, 212A and maybe future 212CD) produces water which does not limit diving depth.

(Above and below) Type 212A submarine cutaway indicating where the LOx tanks and hydrogen cylinders are. They are outside the pressure hull for greater safety. (These cutaways all over web.)

The diesel section of a Type 212A uses an outer light hull (diameter 6.8m) and a pressure hull (ca.5.6m?). The two LOx cylinders are arranged above the pressure hull. The LOx cylinder are shock resistant. These cylinder also and have an insulated “adiabatic structure” meaning they do not transfer heat to surroundings. This is totally different than if the LOx cylinders were within the pressure hull (as in a current 214)  as they may effect the temperature within the hull.

The Type 212A is equipped with 9 feul cells (8 x 34kW, and 1 x 34kW (auxiliary FC)). These are superior to the 2 x 120kW on a Type 214.

The hull diameter (8.4m) of a Type 212CD will be significantly larger than a 214’s (6.3m) which has single hull structure. The 214 has 2 x MTU396 diesels.

In contrast 3 x MTU (396 or 4000?) diesels could be installed in a future Type 212CD especially if it uses Lithium-ion Batteries (LIBs) to achieve a higher charge rate [2]. Or 2 x MTUs could be installed on a 212CD (especially those that retain existing Lead-acid Batteries (LABs). A relatively low charge rate using 1 or 2 loud diesels running a longer time (to charge LABs) may be less discrete than 2 or 3 diesels running a shorter time to charge LIBs quickly [6].

So, a double hull will presumably be adopted for the diesel section of the future Type 212CD, as with the current Type 212A. This suggests hydride cylinders will be installed between the 212CD’s light and pressure hulls.

Table 1.  Estimated Location of Cylinders and Submarine

In Diesel section
Submarine type
Inside pressure hull [1]
Metal hydride cylinder [3]
214 218SG,
LOx cylinder
Yes [4]
Yes [5]
212A, 212CD?

[1] Simple structure consists of single pressure hull.

[2] Complex structure consists of ligh and pressure hulls.

[3] Electrochemical reaction between oxygen and hydrogen generates electricity and heat in FC. Heat is transferred to metal hydride to generate hydrogen for FC. Metal hydride cylinder has adiabatic stucture.

[4] Cryogenic cylinder is used for oxygen storage located inside of pressure hull.

[5] This cryogenic cylinder is totally different from an ordinary LOx cylinder and is shock resistant to explosions (eg. depth charges) near the submarine.

[6] Three 12PA V200 SMDS with similar dimension to MTUs would likely be installed in the enlarged SAAB-Damen A26 single hull submarine design for the Netherlands Walrus replacement competition. The enlarged A26 design has a smaller diameter (of 8m) than 212CD submarine.


Pete comments:
-  Dutch Walrus replacement competition? An enlarged SAAB-Damen designed A26 (once called the
    612) might be offered. Naval Group might possibly offer some design sharing Scorpene and 
    Australian Shortfin-Barracuda characteristics.
-  Given the long trans-Atlantic distances a Walrus replacement would need to travel the Netherlands
    may not want any type of AIP – AIP being of diminishing utility with distance and instead LIBs, 
    more than LABs, may stretch fully submerged travel.
-  Western companies are interacting with China on methanol reformer fuel cell generator technology
    for cars and trucks. Such technology is dual-use, China’s vast industrial base may easily reverse
    engineer Western technology for submarine use.

MHalblaub kindly provided the following comments for the previous closely related Submarine Matters’ article:
“The Type 212A always had metal hydride storages for hydrogen.
Also I can't see a problem to use a methanol reformer and metal hydride storages together. I guess a reformer may outproduces most of the time the need of hydrogen so some kind of interim storage would be necessary.
The boat has its own hydrogen producing facility. So just methanol and oxygen is required for the fuel cells.”

Anonymous, Pete and MHalblaub.

February 15, 2019

Characteristics of the German-Norwegian Type 212CD Submarine

The above Youtube is from Poland's Balt Military Expo 2018. At 1 minute in the Type 212CD is introduced by a senior ThyssenKrupp executive. (Youtube courtesy Xavier Vavasseur, Chief Editor, Navy Recognition). 

Following Anonymous’s December 20, 2017 advice thanks Anonymous for providing comments of February 12, 2019 further translated below by Pete.

According to recent information [1], [2] and [3] the TKMS Type 212CD (for Common Design) will be equipped with Lithium-ion Batteries (LIBs), two MTU diesels, a new generation PMSM (Siemens Permasyn motor) and new generation fuel cell (FC) AIP (utilising Siemens' metal hydride).

In the new generation FC, the metal hydride as a hydrogen source makes it safer than a more flammable hydrogen cylinder. A downside of metal hydride is its heavy weight, so an overall increase in submarine buoyancy is needed.

TKMS and Spain’s SENER are developing a more advanced methanol reforming FC technology. A weak point of methanol reforming FC is its limited diving depth due to the physical need to expel carbon dioxide against countervailing water pressure. Such a limitation has already been identified in Kockums Stirling AIP technology.

Like the preceding Type 212A, the 212CD’s hull is made of non-magnetic steel.

Judging by the ease of design, efficiency of production and common use of parts, the 212CD is presumably a larger version of the existing 212A owing to the extra diesel and larger crew quarters on the 212CD . This is in the same way that SAAB A26 Pelagic series can be stretched (with a hull plug addition) into Oceanic and Oceanic ER versions.

The hull diameter/beam of the 212CD may be the same (at 6.8m) as the 212A. This is because any change to the diameter would require a total rearrangement of 212 structure and parts. L (length) to D(diameter) ratio for the 212A is 8.23 (L=56m, D=6.8m) within the maximum L/D ration of a modern submarine of 10.5.

If L/D ration for the 212CD is 10.5, then this may point to a theoretical Length of 71.5m for the 212CD. Furthermore this may point to a 212CD displacement increase of around 20% (maybe 2,200 long tons submerged) compared to the 212A’s 1,830 long tons submerged.

Noting this caution, the 212CD’s LIBs will very likely be SAFT made lithium iron phosphate (LFP) which is stable at low temperature making the 212CD suited to operation in below zero Celsius Baltic Sea or Arctic Ocean conditions.

A simple exchange of the 212A’s Lead-acid Batteries (LABs) for LIBs is not feasible because LIBs operate at significantly higher voltages than LABs. This means many of the components and electrical junctions for the 212CD will need to be new.

Use of the 212CD for the Netherland’s Walrus replacement is difficult, because the likely Dutch diameter/beam requirement is 8.4m, which is considerably larger than the 212CD’s possible 6.8m diameter. This means if TKMS does not offer a large Type 216 (once offered to Australia) TKMS may lose a Walrus replacement decision in the early 2020s. Instead a large SAAB A26  (and see) or a small Naval Group Shortfin may win the Walrus replacement competition.

[1] https://www.tu.no/artikler/norges-nye-ubater-kan-fa-nyutviklede-litiumion-batterier-fra-thyssenkrupp/449338 [right-click mouse translate from Norwegian.] Norway's new submarines can receive newly developed lithium ion batteries offered by ThyssenKrupp.

[2] https://www.tu.no/artikler/norges-nye-ubat-kan-bli-forst-med-litiumionbatterier-eller-sist-med-blybatterier/427238 [in Norwegian] Norway's new submarine can be first with lithium-ion batteries - or last with lead-acid batteries.

[3] https://www.defence24.com/pdf/?article=orka--the-german-way-will-the-polish-navy-submarines-be-built-in-szczecin [PDF about 5MB, in English] “ORKA – The German Way: Will The Polish Navy Submarines Be Built In Szczecin?” page 5. There is a scarcity of information available on the 212CD submarines. Even the dimensions remain confidential. The vessel is going to be derived from the 212A submarines. As the representatives of the shipyard admit, the [212CD] will be fitted with two MTU diesels, while the older [212As] use a single [diesel]. Also see more on Poland’s future submarine competition.


As will be seen next week there is uncertainty over the Type 212CD’s 2 x MTU diesel arrangement, which may make it more suitable as a Walrus replacement than originally thought.

Mostly Anonymous and a bit Pete

February 14, 2019

France's Naval Group About the Future Australian Submarine Program SPA

Following on from yesterday's article on what the Australian Govenment said about the Shortfin Barracuda Future Australian Submarine Program Strategic Partnering Agreement (SPA) is

what French Government owned Naval Group says about the SPA.

Further comment and analysis, at Submarine Matters, will follow next week, noting the Australian Morrison Coalition Government will almost certainly be out of office on May 18, 2019, if not before with a new Labor Party Government in office. 

A rapid ousting of the Australian Government that signed the SPA will weaken the legitimacy of the SPA.

As usual I've added comments in [...] brackets, links and some bolding for emphasis.

At http://naval-group.com.au/2019/02/11/naval-group-signs-the-strategic-partnering-agreement/

Happy signees of the Strategic Partnering Agreement Canberra February 11 2019. French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly is in the center. (Photo courtesy Naval Group and Australian Department of Defence)

A significant milestone has been achieved today with the signing of the Future Submarine Program Strategic Partnering Agreement (SPA) by the Commonwealth of Australia (CoA) and Naval Group.
The agreement was signed in the presence of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, The Hon. Christopher Pyne, Minister for Defence and Florence Parly, French Minister for the Armed Forces. 

[despite Morrison being present no equivalent French President or French Prime Minister was present. So why did Morrison turn up? Or why was the French PM not there?] 
The agreement sets out the principles of cooperation between the two partners for the Attack class Submarine Program which will see:
·       the delivery of 12 regionally superior submarines to Australia with leading edge capabilities; [maybe the Shortfin Attack class will be superior conventional subs but are/will be far inferior to China's SSNs] 
  • the delivery of new technologies and advanced manufacturing capabilities to Australia, introducing the next phase of Australian sovereignty as a submarine nation;
  • the creation of thousands of direct and indirect Australian jobs which will positively impact many generations of Australians; and
  • opportunities and long-term planning certainty for industry, allowing Australian companies involved in the submarine program to invest in the capabilities needed to support their involvement in construction and sustainment activities.
“Naval Group is known for building world-leading, technologically advanced submarines and has built 100 of them for nine different countries,” said Hervé Guillou, Chairman and CEO, Naval Group.
“This agreement with Australia will see Naval Group transfer the “know-how” and “know-why” to Australia to become a sovereign submarine nation. [Assembling a large proportion of French and Lockheed Martin (LM) US combat system parts does not add up to "sovereign". Don't forget the US LM mainly operating in Adelaide, is undertaking one third of the whole project.]
“We are very excited about the opportunities that lay ahead of us and are committed to delivering the Future Submarine Program for Australia.
“We are grateful to the teams from the Commonwealth of Australia and Naval Group who have worked hard to achieve this agreement,” said Mr Guillou.
Since being selected as Australia’s partner for the Attack class Submarine Program in April 2016, a lot has been achieved. 
[Really? Given full-sized hydrodynamic trials and stealth testing of the yet-to-be-launched baseline Barracuda SSN has not yet been achieved.]
Program milestones
  • Pre-sizing of the Future Submarine has been completed.
  • The Feasibility Study phase of the Future Submarine design contract being undertaken in France with the support of Australian engineers has been completed. This involves working closely with the Commonwealth to ensure the Future Submarine meets functionality, scheduling and cost requirements.
  • The first sod has been turned at the Future Submarine construction yard in Adelaide. Phase 1 of the onsite works will focus on site establishment, earth works and piling for the new facilities with the development to create at least 600 jobs.
  • The transfer of technology commenced with the relocation of the first group of Australian engineers to France to learn how to carry out the detailed design of the Future Submarines. The next group of engineers will depart for France in March 2019.
  • Officially opened the Future Submarine Program office in Cherbourg housing Naval Group personnel alongside their Defence and Lockheed Martin Australia [are, there LM is, in Cherbourg (not Adelaide)] colleagues.
  • Continued to work with education facilities, TAFEs and universities, having forged a collaborative engineering and research Memorandum of Understanding with the University of New South Wales.
  • Suppliers of the top five pieces of equipment including the main motor, diesel generators, switchboards, batteries and weapons discharge systems have been reviewed and will be announced in 2019.
Industry milestones
  • Continue to maximise the opportunities for Australian Industry involvement in the program, through all phases, without compromising the Commonwealths requirements against capability, cost and schedule.
o   To date Naval Group has engaged with over 1,100 Australian suppliers through expression of interests, requests for information, supplier visits and industry events to develop a in depth understanding of Australia Industry capability.
o   169 Australian suppliers have been pre-qualified for the program with Naval Group Australia.
o   Conducted numerous engagement activities in France and Australia to connect potential European and Australian suppliers.
  • Released Expressions of Interests and Requests for Information for major equipment and common technologies equipment for the Future Submarine.
  • Commenced efforts to procure capital equipment related to the Submarine Construction Yard including machining equipment, painting booths, a plate rolling machine, a plasma cutting machine, water jet cutting machine, rotating cradle and a milling machine. [the issue of "milling" a propeller OR parts of a pump jet still needs resolution.]
  • Conducted nine Future Submarine industry briefings across the nation providing Australian companies information on how to become involved in the Future Submarine Program.
Naval Group Australia milestones
  • Established our headquarters in Keswick, Adelaide.
  • Expanded the Naval Group Australia team from 15 employees to over 100. By 2028-2029, when production is in full swing, we expect to employ 1,600 people.
  • Successfully became ISO 9001 certified.
See the above Naval Group words in PDF, as well as extra wording about Naval Group and Naval Group Australia contact details here.


Next week - how Naval Group rebutted certain Australian media comments on the severe delay of Naval Group's not-yet-launched baseline Barracuda/Suffren class SSN (laid down 2007 I kid you not!).