September 3, 2015

Key TKMS Type 218SG details revealed after partial unveiling

Model of  TKMS-HDW Type 218SG taken at IMDEX ASIA [Singapore, May 19-21] 2015 (Courtesy Defense Studies blog)

Type 218SGs X-plane rudder is similar to the Type 212A's. Photo of model May 2015 (Courtesy "Coffee and Bullets" and Defense Studies blog).

Predictions that the TKMS-HDW Type 218SG would be a renamed Type 214 have been scuttled. TKMS has indicated the 218 weighs around 2,000 tons surfaced and is 70 meters long (while the 214 is up to 1,700 tonnes surfaced and 65 meters long).

MHalblaub correctly pointed out several times a year ago that the combined purchase price of the 2 x 218s was less than US$ 2 Billion - a sum only enough for a slightly evolved design. My original prediction of a much larger 3,000 ton (surfaced) design was incorrect - as a radically new 218 design would have cost considerably more. 

Singapore ordered the 218s in November 2013. The Type 218SGs are being built at TKMS-HDW shipyard at Kiel in northern Germany

Both TKMS and Singapore kept these details secure until May 19, 2015. "Autumn Leaf" in Comments on August 27, 2015 6:32 PM delicately pointed out on Singapore's Submarine Service - from Sweden to Germany, April 27, 2015 what I should have spotted months ago. That is at IMDEX ASIA [Singapore, May 19-21] 2015 TKMS unveiled a model of the 218 along with some major details.

Autumn Leaf identified two references:

From the photos and briefing information (see below) the 218 appears to have features evolved from several TKMS-HDW designs including Types 212A, 214 and Dolphin 2. As they are all SSKs built by TKMS-HDW this evolutionary heritage is not unexpected. 

The 70 meter long 218 is approximately 2,000 tons (surfaced). For comparison the 69 meter long Dolphin 2 is 2,050 tons surfaced.

The 218's beam (width) is 6.3 meters and the 214's beam is also 6.3 meters. The 214's draught is 6.0 meters and the Dolphin 2's draught is 6.2 meters making it likely that the 218's draught is in that narrow range - perhaps 6.1 meters.

One might plausibly describe the 218 as a:

-  214 with a long, 5 meter, plug and a 212A X-plane tail OR

-  a slight derivative of the Dolphin 2 (without the Dolphin 2's cruciform tail but retaining the Dolphin 2's X-plane rudder tail portion.

From Defense Studies the figures TKMS indicated have been bolded here: 

Armament - eight 533-mm torpedo tubes - heavyweight torpedos unknown and cruise missiles.

“torpedo tubes will be used for landing troops and deep sea submersible vehicles for special forces”

The mention of "8 x 533mm torpedo tubes" with part job "used for landing troops and deep sea submersible vehicles for special forces." is contradictory given 533mm's narrowness for troops and vehicles. While 6 tubes may be 533mm one the two remaining tubes might need to be of greater diameter (650mm (as in the Dolphin 2). Or perhaps the 7th and 8th tube places could accommodate what I call a 1.5(?) meter horizontal multi-purpose lock (HMPL) a large diameter tube. A HMPL is seen on the 1,000 ton Type 210mod design (below) which - in design - sacrificed 4 or its previous 8 torpedo tubes.

The 210 (Ula class) is an operating submarine. The diagram depicts a new possibility in a future 210mod - that is a 1.5(?) meter horizontal multi-purpose lock (HMPL) in the torpedo section. This HMPL feature may become part of other new build subs or be retrofitted into existing subs. (Diagram courtesy TKMS website for 210mod). Also see the 1.5 meter "MULTIMISSIONPORTAL" page 15 on plans for Sweden's future A26 submarine.

So the 218s 5 meter plug may enable or be ready for many things including a much larger torpedo room for fitting the HMPL. This enables easier, more rapid operations for swim out divers/special forces, diver delivery vehicle(s), large diameter LDUUV(s), or rapid fire of 6 cruise missiles (+ 6 more in the 6 torpedo tubes).

The 5 meter plug may also or alternatively:

-  provide room in the 218's mid-section behind the sail for diver/special forces accommodation and diver wet-dry chamber

-  and/or vertical multi-purpose lock or provision for a future one OR

-  extra room for a variety of purposes (eg. extra diesel fuel, extra batteries, extra AIP capacity, extra crew accommodation for longer missions).


The first Type 218SG submarine will be completed in 2020. To enter service two years later, after passing through the sea acceptance tests and final test, as well as the completion of the training program for the crew. Both units should be in line [commissioned by?] 2025.

Length - 70 meters

Width/beam - 6.3 meters

Draught - unknown (but perhaps 6.1 meters)

Displacement (surfaced) - approximately 2,000 tons (submerged displacement unknown - but based on Dolphin 2 figures the 218 submerged displacement may be 2,400 tons) 

Crew/complement - 28 officers and sailors

Diesel Engines - unknown (although likely an MTU product)

Electric motors - unknown (although likely Siemens Permasyn)

Batteries – unknown (lead acid or Li-ion)

Speed and range - unknown.

It has been previously reported the combat system is being developed by Singapore Technologies (ST) Electronics and Bremen, Germany based Atlas Elektroniks.

PEM fuel cell AIP

Pressure hull steel - unknown (may be the same non-magnetic steel used in the 212).


Note that TKMS and Singapore do not compare the 218 to the Dolphin 2. This may be due to the greater secrecy involving the Dolphin 2 which is widely seen as designed for nuclear cruise missile delivery from its 650mm tubes. Singapore via the 218 similarity would not want to associate itself with such Dolphin 2 capabilities.

A half century of close Israel-Singapore military relations remains obscure. Both Israel and Singapore are surrounded by much larger, majority Muslim countries. Both Israel and Singapore have higher GDPs per capita than almost all of their neighbours. This has encouraged both countries to buy or build higher quality weapons than their neighbours including buying the most advanced conventional submarines available.

The 218 may have a reinforced bottom like the Dolphin 2's.This would allow the 218 to sit on the seafloor (important for the 218 in/around Malacca and Singapore Straits). 

The 218s will replace the 2 remaining Challenger class submarines (RSS Conqueror and RSS Chieftain). Singapore also has two Archer class submarines which will continue to operate until they to will likely be replaced by 2 more 218s.

Note that what became TKMS previously built another large design -  2 x 2,000 ton TR-1700s for Argentina in the 1980s (after the Falklands War). 

BACKGOUND - Singapore Strait and Malacca Strait

The Singapore Strait is the most immediately important body of water for Singapore in military and economic terms. This Strait is the deepwater approach for warships, cargo ships and tankers to the port of Singapore. The Singapore Strait is 16 km wide and lies between Singapore Island (north) and the Riau Islands (south) which are part of Indonesia.

It includes Johore Strait (around 12 meters deep max - unnavigable by submarine), Keppel Harbour, and many small islands. The Singapore Strait is a channel extending for 105 km between the Strait of Malacca (west) and the South China Sea (east).

The southern part of the Malacca Strait closest to Singapore rarely exceeds 37 meters deep. The Malacca Strait is up there with the Strait of Hormuz, Suez and Panama canals as being the world's most impotant narrow waterway. 

The islands and undersea rocks on the approaches (like the Singapore Strait) to the Malacca Strait provide many places for experienced submarine captains to hide on the shallow seafloor. The shallows are also dangerous if subs collide with rocks and the seafloor and due to the increased danger from ASW platforms. Air independent propulsion (AIP), that Singpore has heavily invested in, is a major advantage. (Map courtesy welt-atlas).



Nicky said...

Hi Pete,
I think the Type 218SG is essentially a Type 214 but stretchered out and enlarged. It makes the Type 218 on par with the Dolphin class SSK.

MHalblaub said...

Dear Pete,

interesting part about the model is the ring around the propeller. The propeller seems to be symbolized by a silver ring but the outer black ring is fixed to the submarine by 8 struts. This could be a device to produce bubbles to reduce the remaining propeller noise. A similar device could be the strings between the Type 212A rudders.

Here something about Japanese submarine tactics:

Anonymous said...

You do not need submarines to choke off the Singapore Straits. Shore based long range anti ship batteries (or launched from F16, F15SG) will do more than just fine.

Peter Coates said...

Hi Nicky

218 has 212A, 214 and most fully (officially unacknowledged) Dolphin 2 aspects. I think.



Peter Coates said...


Yes there is indeed a notable wire/cable between the X-rudder planes and also scroll half way down on and there is a close-up of the X-rudder wire/cable.
Maybe to reduce noise and/or anti-cavitation - which may be the same thing.

Thanks for ,

The part most relevant to submarines is:

"The Japanese submarine force, meanwhile, will increase to 22 operational (nontraining) boats from the decades-old standard force level of 16. According to Japanese defense analysts, an important reason for this is that China has many paths to the Pacific, whereas the force only needed to cover four straits to bottle up the Soviet fleet during the Cold War.

The government is increasing the submarine force through the economic measure of simply running them for longer than the previous average of 18 years, so the increment will be six boats that are old by Japanese standards, instead of six of average age. The submarines’ effectiveness should be multiplied by information from improved surveillance of the straits they would cover."



Peter Coates said...

Hi Anonymous

Yes China or Singapore's neighbours could try choke of the Singapore Straits with airpower, ships, subs and land-based anti-ship missiles.

This is why Singapore's advanced F15SG are their to shoot intruding aircraft down, strafe anti-ship batteries. Missiles from Singapore future 218SG subs will most probably also be capable against land targets and even air targets. And then there is Singapore's US ally to lend a hand :)



MHalblaub said...

Dear Pete,

according to the location of Singapore and Israel I thing both have one common mission aim for their submarines: sit on the seafloor and just wait.

Here is a nice drawing of the Dolphin2-class submarine:

A nice space could be created by adding the extra two meter for Type 218SG to the chamber right behind the pressure hull. On the second floor enough space could be available to open a big hatche.

Here a rare view of the current configuration of Dolphin2 torpedo tubes:

The two tubes to the left are 650 mm high. So the space between the two horizontal beams is about 1.9 m high.

I could imagine that the Type 218 SG has 8 normal 21 inch torpedo tubes and an additional Horizontal Multi Porpuse Lock (HMPL) on the upper deck.

On the other side I could imagine a special diver chamber right behind the sail like on Type 212A second batch. The second batch is therefore about 1.5 m longer.

The diver equipment is stored on top of the submarine. Every meter counts for diver.

I doubt a big lock for Singapore. On the other side could a big lock be interesting to place big items on the sea floor.


Nicky said...

Hi Pete,
That's why I think the Type 218SG is essentially a marriage of features from the Type 212A and Type 214. Even the Hull and Sail, share the features of the Type 214.

Peter Coates said...

Hi Nicky

I think the German designers of the 218 would not ignore their latest major design (the Dolphin 2) which draws on Type 212A and Type 214 features.

Also it is written at :

"Over the years, Singapore and Israel enjoy close co-operation. Today, the two countries share military platforms, including early warning aircraft, anti-tank and anti-aircraft missile systems, aircraft and surveillance technologies." So, to that list can now be added the Dolpin 2/Type 218 submarine.



Peter Coates said...

Hi MHalblaub [at September 4, 2015 10:45 PM]

Yes Israeli subs may well wait on the seafloor in the Mediterranean, Arabian Sea, Persian Gulf also deliver Special Forces, nuclear SLCM. Singaporean subs varying distances from Singapore. shows how the TEN torpedo tubes (with 4 x 650mm) and AIP are the dominant features. It is possible that a 2 meter horizontal tube has been quietly installed in the 2 Dolphin 2s.

I think Israeli technicians do considerable converting after they receive the subs from Kiel.

Even just 8 x 21 inch torpedo tubes on the 218 may be adequate but with the option of retrofitting a 1.5m Horizontal Multi Porpuse Locks (HMPL).

Overall I think a HMPL eventually makes more space organising sense for Singapore than a VMPL. A VMPL may more likely be fitted onto Dolphin 2s because rapid first or second strikes with 6 x nuclear SLCM or small SLBM is more important for Israel's nuclear strategy.

Yes both Singapore and Israel need adequate facilities for divers-Special Forces.

Here's the inside of a Dolphin 1 (January 2012 or earlier). Even it looks very high tech



Nicky said...

Hi Pete,
That's why I think the Type 218SG is nothing more than evolved Type 214. Which I think they may push to sell to Australia. Don't get me wrong, the Type 214 or Type 21SG would fit perfectly well for Canada and Australia. Then you can sell the Collins to Taiwan, Thailand or the Philippines. Though I do wonder, will the Type 218SG have the capability for a Mini sub or a dry dock shelter that the US Navy and US Navy Seals use.

Peter Coates said...

Hi Nicky [September 6, 2015 at 3:10 AM ]


1st sentence - wrong

2nd sentence - maybe

3rd sentence - no

Re "...will the Type 218SG have the capability for a Mini sub or a dry dock shelter that the US Navy and US Navy Seals use." depends on the German maker and Singapore's choices. No "mini sub" but a diver-SEAL delivery vehicle may be possible.


Archimedes said...

Hi Pete,

I am reposting as I thought I did two days ago but did not get through obviously.

1/ I am sorry but, from what you said, the 218SG and the 214 have the same diameter. So, it is just lengthening and definitely the same kin. It is far much difficult to upscale as Navantia proved trying to do it from Scorpene to S80.
So TKMS/HDW has still to prove a lot and needless to be a genious to see what is the indstrialiasing challenge will be just by looking at the 216 pressure hull design.

2/ I doubt the 218SG would be a match for the Australian context, just for the range. Could somebody prove that a 214/218SG has the capability to go to 10,000nm+ @8-10 knots in mixed transit? I very much doubt so.

3/ I am with you. Collin is Australia only for many operational reasons, if not political ones.

4/ As for mini sub/UUV/DDS, you can forget all of that on a 218SG / 214 which simply does not enough surface stability.

So, no support to gain from 218SG as far as Australia and 216 are concerned.

kind regards


Peter Coates said...

Hi Archi

1/ In the text I said

"One might plausibly describe the 218 as a:

- 214 with a long, 5 meter, plug and a 212A X-plane tail OR

- a slight derivative of the Dolphin 2 (without the Dolphin 2's cruciform tail but retaining the Dolphin 2's X-plane rudder tail portion."

There are also uncertainties about the contents-structural arrangements in the Dolphin 2 and the future 218.

So it almost goes down to belief about "what is a new or sufficiently different submarine to have a new name". Sometimes newness may be mainly marketing. Sometime there is consensus that it is new. Maybe in 6 years we can conclusively say the 218 is new or not.

2/ 218 range/speed unknown for next 6 years, 214 known around the 8 knot measure. What is most important for Australia may be 10-11 knots.

3/ a Collins build is something Australia shouldn't repeat - but still might

4/ True about mini-subs that weigh 5+ tons.

The TKMS-HDW designers learnt new things at each stage 209, 212, 214, Dolphins 1 and 2 and are further leaning with the 218. Your claims cannot erase their corporate-learning experiences.



Anonymous said...

The strings are there to prevent the torpedoe guide wire from getting stuck in the propeller. They also act as great noise maker... They cause vibrations in the rudders. Germans are great at solving one small problem and at the same thing causing another.
218SG is a enlarged 214. From a TKMS source.