February 19, 2015

Sweden and the Netherlands Replacement Submarine Needs

A Dutch Walrus class submarine. Note the serrated fin - probably for quieting and/or improved hydro-dynamic efficiency.

The issues of the Dutch Walrus class submarine replacement and the future Swedish Saab-Kockums A26 development-construction are relevant to Australia's future submarine selection. This would become more important if the Soryu is not selected for whatever reason, forcing Australia to seriously consider European submarine designs. 

Saab-Damen Agreement

Since mid-late January 2015 there have been several reports that Saab and Dutch shipbuilder Damen Shipyards Group have signed an exclusive teaming agreement. This is  to:

- explore future opportunities in the international submarine market including bidding jointly on submarine procurement programmes, and

- explore development of a potential Walrus-class submarine replacement for the Netherlands. 

Netherlands' Situation

The Netherlands operates 4 teardrop hulled Walrus class submarines which are a development of the Dutch Zwaardvis class (2 Zwaardvis were sold to Taiwan). The Zwaadvis was based on the US teardrop hulled Barbel class (the US's last conventional subs).

Walrus specifications:
- 4 launched 1989-1992
- displacement 2,350 tons (surfaced)
- range 18,500 km at 9 knots (snorting) vs Collins 17,000 km at 10 knots (snorting)
- 20 US weapons Mark 48 torpedos and Harpoon missiles (weapons the same as the Collins. Collins has 22 torpedos) which suggest part use of a US combat system already.
- US heritage
- no reliance (like the Collins) on AIP
- like the Collins it has four combined rudders and diving planes in an "X" configuration
- with most NATO submarine being either nuclear or brown water Baltic the Walrus are considered blue water submarines. 

The Netherlands envisages acquiring just 2 submarines to replace the 4 Walruses. Just 2 may mean the Netherlands might want to use/select a common-overlapping design with Sweden. Maybe the Netherlands may settle for modified A26s. 

[As at mid March 2015 the Netherlands' requirements remain unknown.] 

Possible Swedish Role

While Sweden is building its own two A26s Sweden might build the two to four Walrus replacements or at least supply the components for assembly in the Netherlands. 

Sweden's 3 Gotland Class submarines  (launched 1995-96) need replacing by 2025 and 2 Sodermanland class (relaunched 2003) for replacement by 2035(?).

Some extra issues/questions are:

1. How many A26s does Sweden intend to build? Two or five (?) - given the rising Russian threat and the Gotland-Sodermanland two tiered "gap".

2. Will the A26 have the same specifications as provided on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A26_submarine (1900 tons surfaced? A mixture of regular 533mm torpedo tubes and unique 400mm tubes?). Saab-Kockums' own website does not give specifications of diplacement or range. 

3. Will the A26 be built with Lithium-ion batteries?

4. Would there be some technical, industrial and political overlap in the Walrus-class submarine replacement and development and construction of Sweden's future submarine A26?

5. Would the Netherlands find only 2 Walrus replacement submarines an effective number, given the "rule" of three and usefulness to the US alliance experience with the 4 Walruses. 

6. Could the Netherlands continue to justify unusually large SSKs or scale down to the usual European country own use maximum of around 1,900 tons surfaced?



Anonymous said...

1. Sweden intends to buold 2 A26, for starters. One more could be ordered, but that depends on the development of Russia within the next few years. Out of the three Gotland class at least two, and probably also the third, will be modernized (cut up in half and totally renovated inside) so they can serve into the 2030's.

Unless there is a really serious threat directly against SwedenI don't think more than 3 A26's will be built for the swedish navy. We usually always have two different submarine classes in service. When the 2-3 A26's are built a new model will be designed.

2. The specs for the A26 is right on the Wikipedia page. However we don't know yet what armament it will have, as the swedish navy is reevaluating it's capabilities. It was only intended to be armed with torpedos for Sweden, even though it is able to carry missiles like the IDAS, Harpoon and Tomahawk. This is now what is being reevaluated again, due to the new european safety with Russia in Ukraine. Also the opening for divers that is located in the front can be replaced with more torpedo tubes if wanted.

3. No, it will still be using the AIP stirling technique. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. New new stirling engines have been greatly improved though for even more stealth.

4. There is a strong political support behind the A26. Also the bigger 612 version (4000 tons) would be strongly supported by the swedish government, no matter who is in charge. When SAAB is doing technological transfer they do it to 100%, and almost everything would be done in Holland.

5. I seriously doubt two boats would be enough. I'm not even shore it is economical viable for a country to only operate just two submarines. A 4-for-4 like replacement is likely, or at least 3, even though the later would greatly reduce the capability of the dutch submarines.

6. For national defense the 1900 ton version will be more than enough. For playing a big role in future NATO operations blue water capability would be well received. The government need to evaluate what kind of problems the new submarine should be able to handle, and then decide.

Peter Coates said...

Hi Anonymous

Thanks for answering my questions.

3 or 4 A26s, perhaps built over 10 years, sounds more logical. The 1,900 ton weight of the A26s is certainly a big jump from the 1,500 ton Gotlands.

I suppose for the export market Sweden could build an evolved development of the Gotland?

The 400mm torpedo tubes are certainly unusual - though better adopted against the smaller patrol boats and corvettes that sail the Baltic.

A small design team working on the 612 would probably be effort well spent. This is because an Australia under a Labor Government would look more kindly on Sweden's proven ability to build large subs in Australia.

One would hope the Dutch go for a modified A26 rather than again buying an unusually large sub like the Walrus.



Anonymous said...

Yes, the new submarine is doing quite a big jump in size, and to be honest most people in the navy don't like it. The swedish waters have not changed and a smaller submarine is still preferable. The increase in size is for industrial reasons, so that export can be easier.

To be honest the whole A26 concept is just wrong. Since the cold war ended the whole swedish defense have had a rough time to justify it's existence. The whole invasion defense have been completely destroyed and there is now only a small defense specialized in international operations left.

It is for this the new submarine A26 have been designed, intelligence work and special operations, and not for defense of Sweden.

However, the recent new orders from the government says that the defense of Sweden is now priority number one again, and that is why the new submarine is just wrong.

The submarine is to big and lack the right weapon capabilities. For an example here are the last swedish submarine classes and how many torpedo tubes they have:

Näcken class: 6x530mm torpedo tubes + 2x400mm torpedo tubes / 15 torpedos.
Västergötlandklass: 6x530mm torpedo tubes + 3x400mm torpedo tubes / 18 torpedos.
Gotlandklass: 4x530mm torpedo tubes + 2x400mm torpedo tubes / 18 torpedos.
A26: 4x530mm torpedo tubes, 400mm torpedo tubes removed for diver exit / ? torpedos.

I really hope they come to there senses and remove the diver exit and give the submarine the torpedo tubes it deserves! I also hope it get's the missile capacity is is lacking. A good thing at least is that FMW is reevaluating these aspects but even if they realize they need missiles they need to pay for them, and they are not gonna get the money from the government for it.

A Gotland class 2.0 with improved electrical technology, missiles and improved engines and stealth would be the most preferable solution IMO, but that is not going to happen, sadly.

Around 2008 and 2009 we got two anonymous blogs in Sweden, one is a naval captain and one is a JAS pilot. These quickly got really popular and started to get the public more involved in how things work in FMW. These blogs were highly criticized in the top of the defense, as they said the truth, which they did not want to get out.

However as they got so popular the debate climate has changed and both blogs are no longer anonymous, and have very strong support from the "military suporters" in the swedish population.

Here are two posts I think you will find really interesting, if you use google translate:


Any problems with the some part of the translation and I can help you ;)



Peter Coates said...

Hi Jakob

Yes the international trend towards larger submarine size seems unjustified in Sweden's case - due to the confined, shallow Baltic waters that they usually operate in.

One reason for increased size is having the ability to launch large UUVs. I wonder if Sweden plans to launch large UUVs from its subs?

With Russian mini-subs causing Sweden trouble one would think Sweden might trend downwards to smaller subs.

The idea of a diver tube in the front seems to go against the trend of diver hatch near the sail so divers can get into a diver delivery vehicle behind the sail.

6x530mm torpedo tubes seems much more logical for the A26.

http://navyskipper.blogspot.se/ looks interesting - I'll refer to it when I write about progress with the A26

Thanks for your offer. I will probably write on A26 progress next month.



Anonymous said...

6. No.

The 1900ton A26 sub is for the netherlands to small. The kingdom of the netherlands streets to caribbean who also need to be protected. The Dutch navy need a blue water submarine straight and simple.

The Dutch have with the Walrus class a unique position with in NATO. The Walrus is the only sub in the alliance what is capable of coast operations and oasian patrol, it will be foolish to give that up. The new sub will be in the range of 2500 and 4000 ton ,depending on the company how will supply the basic design. Thad SAAB and van Dame have a coop meens nothing, if the dutch government select the german type 216 than SAAB wil be out of the window.

It will be more logical if a german design will be selected, the german subs will fall at the end of the year onder Dutch command. It will be more cost effective if the logistics of the 2 countries are the same.


Anonymous said...

Ohja, the Australian government have already kick SAAB out of the competition.

I'm expecting nothing from SAAB at the moment, Sorry


Peter Coates said...

Hi Kevin

Thanks for both your posts.

I must admit my ignorance that https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special_member_state_territories_and_the_European_Union#Dutch_overseas_territories (Caribbean) and also close links with Suriname (South America) existed as strategic considerations for the Netherlands.

How can the activity of Dutch submarines assist the security of these territories and Suriname? Are Venezuela or Brazil potential threats?

I assume Dutch subs can act as cooperative alliance assets in NATO as far as the Middle East and US Western hemisphere?

So it sounds like the Dutch Navy needs high transit speed, long range-endurance subs of 2,500+ tonnes (surfaced). Japan would presumably not be a supplier but Germany, France or Sweden might. The Swedes could put their experience with the Collins size to more use.

Yes Sweden SAAB/Kockums needs some submarine industry rebuilding, domestic A26 ordering (2, 3 or 4? A26s) to be accomplished before they can convincingly market a large Collins size SSK. Has Sweden made any more progress developing the “A612” large SSK design or marketing it?



Anonymous said...

Hi Pete

Venezuela has a claim on Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire, so the answer is Yes. The former president Hugo Chávez threatened in 2004(?) with invasion of the Dutch caribbean. The Dutch and the US answer this with deployment of warships in the region with message 'if you want them, come if you dare'. In the last 10 years a Dutch warship is always present in the caribbean and a Marine regiment is stationed on Aruba and Curacao as a deterred. Submarines are a deterred what can be used if the situation heats up again.

The Dutch Submarine Serves fall like the Dutch Corps Commando Troops under special forces and the missions are classified. The Dutch Submarine Serves is in high demand with NATO for the gathering of intelligence. At any time 3 subs are on mission (without support ships)and 1 sub is in drydock for maintenance and shoreleave. Wats know of them in the past years is that they have operate at the coast of Somalia for the NATO anti-piracy mission and in the caribbean for the gathering of intelligence on drugs trade.

EU-guidelines prevent the Dutch government from buying military equipment outside the EU, (the exception is what cannot be bought in the EU like gen 5 fighterplanes,) so the Japanees subs are not option for the Netherlands.

The plan is to build the new subs (like the Walrus and any other dutch ship) domestic with a parnership with Norway. The problem is the company how has builded the Walrus class does not exist anymore and Norway have never build subs. Thad is the reason why Van Damen shipyards have taken in SAAB/Kockums, Van Damen has only experience in maintaining submarines not in building one from scrap. The 'A612' will be from origin Dutch and not Swedish builded. Just what you say SAAB/Kockums needs some submarine industry rebuilding and the Dutch don`t have time to wait the new subs need to be opration in 2024.

The Dutch rekenkamer (general Audit comité) have released last week a devesting report on the state of the Dutch subs (and the military in general). Most of the equipment of the Walrus is not anymore supported and spares cannot be bought from the suppliers, question is can the walrus endure to 2024, most likely not.

The alternative is to buy the german type 216 and have them built by Van Damen shipjards.
The type 216 can be operational in 2020

The decision on the purgement of the Walrus replacement class will fall in september
I wonder what will happen.



Ps. i'm looking forward on your article on the A26 progres and your view about it.

Anonymous said...

A correction on the presence of the royal dutch marines on Aruba and Curacao
On Aruba they are nou 300 mariners stationed and on Curacao a army company is stationed.
not a regemend that will be silly


Peter Coates said...

Hi Kevin

Thanks for your two June 25, comments. The comments give me enough material to do an article on Dutch submarine issues which I aim to write on Sunday-Monday.

On the A26 I'll wait till later next which - by which time Saab may have resolved a negotiating hitch with FMV http://sverigesradio.se/sida/artikel.aspx?programid=2054&artikel=6194897 .



Anonymous said...

perhaps this is interesting for you a interview with the director from the warship division director of Damen about the coperation between SAAB and Van Damen.

It is in Dutch but Google is your friend



Peter Coates said...

Hi kevin

http://marineschepen.nl/nieuws/interview-directeur-damen-schelde-over-samenwerking-saab-220115.html is interesting.

There a so many possibilities for Saab-Damen collaboration. So I take it Germany and France are also potential builders of the four future Dutch submarines?