March 10, 2017

The Saudis May Eventually Buy DCNS Scorpene Submarines.

The Saudi Royal/political leadership meet Malaysia's main politicians in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, February 26, 2017. (Photo courtesy Reuters via Malay Mail Online).
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The Saudi Arabian Navy is well equipped with 7 French built frigates and 4 corvettes but lacks a submarine service. In an era of heightened tensions with submarine owning Iran (3 Kilos, 4 smaller subs and perhaps 40 mini-subs) the Saudis may believe they need a submarine counter.

Shephard Media, December 18, 2016 reported that: “Saudi Arabia has wanted to develop its underwater force for over a decade now but plans for six diesel-electrics attack boats that are suited for the shallow waters of the Gulf have not materialised. The main Western exporters of these types of submarine are ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems, DCNS, Navantia, Saab Kockums, and Fincantieri, although there could be options from China, Russia and South Korea.” So the Saudi may have wanted small-medium sized subs for over a decade.

But, Saudi submarine leadership problems may exist. The Saudis traditionally assign middle to senior officer positions to the Kingdom’s thousands of princes. Officer positions are often valued for prestige rather than technical proficiency. Always more interesting to fly jets or take a frigate out for a day-long spin.

This places oily, unseen, submarines, that demand solid technical knowledge and reliance on “commoners” for safe operation as unpopular royal command possibilities. Hence royal command is one reason for the delay in building a submarine service.

Reports in early March 2017 that Malaysia may make a deal with Saudi Arabia to train Saudi navy personnel on submarines may be militarily substantial or a warning to Iran that the Saudis could undertake a submarine arms race. The Saudis could buy 6 more effective modern submarines against Iran’s 3 older model Project 877 Kilos and smaller, untested, submarines.

Malaysia, of course, has 2 DCNS Scorpenes. It is also significant that the Saudis have a largely covert strategic alliance with another DCNS submarine owning country, Pakistan. Pakistan operates 3 updated AIP DCNS Agosta 90Bs and 2 older Agosta 70s. A possibility exists that smaller sized 1,500 ton Scorpenes are what the Saudis may eventually buy.

The Saudis would have already noticed that nuclear tipped Pakistani Babur 3 submarine launched cruise missiles (SLCMs) are steadily maturing. With such weapons the Saudis may gain superiority over the more powerful conventional Iranian armed forces. Submarine Matters' March 9, 2017 Report to Donors contains more details about the nuclear tipped Babur SLCMs. 

Pakistan has regularly been stationing an Army Brigade in Saudi Arabia. A new brigade is being sent soon. See this Hindustan Times, March 14, 2017 report.

Pete

14 comments:

Anonymous said...


Pete

Saudi Arabia is very wealth country and pays as promisted. Though German submarine seems to be better than French convesional submarine, DCN won in business with wealthy countries such as AUS and Saudi. DCN is a magician of business.

Regards

MHalblaub said...

Dear Pete,

I would estimate Israel will not be pleased in case Germany would sell latest submarine technology to Saudi Arabia. Egypt did or will only receive Type 209 submarines.

For sallow coastal waters a Type 210 would be nice. I guess for prestige the Saudi submarines have to be bigger than Iranian ones...

Regards,
MHalblaub

Anonymous said...

Hi Pete

His Majesty, the King of Saudi Arabia is going to vistit Japan from Mar/12 with 1500 people including all of cabinet members by 40 jets! 1200 suite rooms of luxury hotels in Tokyo are reserved. Luxury taxies in regions other than Tokyo are calling, because those in Tokyo can not satisfy demand. In Saudi Arabia, as his Majesty is government, when his Majesty moves, government members of Saudi Arabia moves.

If DCN offers submarine with gold toilet, Saudi Arabia will pay.

Regards

Josh said...

@Pete

I doubt that KSA will have the money to buy new toys given the price of oil is stubbornly staying inside a $5 band even with the OPEC cuts. They're defense spending is already through the roof fighting in Yemen and bolstering their defenses against Iran; a huge billion dollar program to aquire a capability they've never dealt with I don't think is on the cards at this point. Maybe a several years ago when oil was triple digits. More over as a culture they lack the sophistication to operate such a platform in my opinion. Were they to buy SSKs they would just sit dock side.

Cheers,
Josh

Peter Coates said...

Hi Anonymous

Yep DCNS is full of people who know even more about the full spectrum of subs (SSKs, SSNs and SSBNs) than the full spectrum Russians, Chinese and Indians.

DCNS's main weakness is demonstrating proof that it has an advanced AIP system, like its Western/Nordic European competitors.

Regards

Pete

Peter Coates said...

Hi MHalblaub

Indeed Israel would not like potential strategic competitor Saudi Arabia to have AIP and Tomahawk/Babur equipped 210s or 214s. Even 209s (and any other sub) with torpedo tubes could accommodate nuclear tipped Tomahawks/Baburs. Israel is so small that even nuclear Exocet/Harpoon land attack missiles could wipe out most of the population... :(

The Saudis whould probably need to hire Pakistani allies to skillfully use Saudi subs.

The size of single hull Saudi subs would be a bit excessive if the Saudis wanted to exceed the size of Iranian double hulled Kilo subs (2,300 tons (surfaced) and 3,950 tons (submerged)).

Regards

Pete

Peter Coates said...

Hi Josh

I don't precisely know the Saudi's financial position but suspect they have enormous savings in US Treasury Bonds, US$?, maybe gold. Subs are also a longterm purchase item with submarine sellers likely confident oil prices will rise one day to make the Saudis financially liquid again.

Notice that even as recently as 2015 the Saudis were the third highest defence spenders worldwide. That is more than Russia (even building-buying nuclear subs!), India, France, UK etc https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_military_expenditures .

So the Saudis would likely have the money. What they do with what they buy is another question.

I agree the Saudis have a culture unsuited to operating subs or even unable to beat such low defence spending countries as Iran or Iraq.

Seems that most of Saudis' weapon purchases are a reciprocal foreign exchange matter, often concerning countries they sell oil to, rather than a weapons for military unit capabilities. Many complex weapons in Saudi hands seem underused and even remain crated, unused then put in warehouses.

So yes unless the Saudis hired contractors on a large scale (ideally serious experienced submariners, like Pakistanis) the Saudis couldn't efficiently operate subs.

This is noting that the Saudi have quietly hired whole battalions of Pakistani infantry (as units) over the years to actually defend the country and/or Royal family.

Regards

Pete

Anonymous said...

Hi Pete

German submaine scandal includes implicit violation of The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) by Germany [1].

[1] http://thebulletin.org/real-german-submarine-scandal10358
(“The real German submarine scandal” by Victor Gilinsky, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Jan/4/2017)

Israel is absorbed with a “submarine scandal” that centers on improprieties in the award of a billion-dollar contract under which Israel would acquire three new advanced German submarines.

But the real scandal is that Germany supplies the submarines at all, and does so through a loophole in the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Everyone who pays attention to the subject understands that the submarines are built to carry long-range Israeli cruise missiles armed with nuclear weapons.
The German newsmagazine Der Spiegel laid out the details in a six-part 2012 series. The missiles’ range is about 1,500 kilometers, which brings Tehran within reach from the Mediterranean. As if to erase any doubts, in greeting the arrival of the latest submarine, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it would be equipped with “advanced” Israeli systems that would be “used first and foremost to deter our enemies who strive to extinguish us. They must know that Israel is capable of hitting back hard against anyone who seeks to hurt us." German government claims that they know nothing about the submarines’ nuclear role are more than a little ridiculous.


Regards

Peter Coates said...

Hi Anonymous [at 12/3/17 12:39 PM]

1. Certainly it is desirable that Israel has a nuclear deterrent triad including nuclear missile armed subs. Israel's nuclear weapons are, of course, illegal under the WWII Great Power victors, legal nuclear weapons status, NNP Treaty.

Arab/Iranian/Islamic nuclear encirclement may occur over the next few decades. Also illegally nuclear armed Pakistan may well have extended a nuclear umbrella to Saudi Arabia for decades.

Germany rightly supplies submarines at low prices to Israel as one aspect of post Holocaust apologies. Corruption in the arms business is frequent - Japan may need to play the game.

I understand Israel retrofits specifically nuclear capabilities (including "Popeye Turbo" (Israeli Tomahawk) combat systems) to the Dolphin 1s, 2s and, in future, Dolphin 3s.

2. I don't think Trump's US will go to nuclear war in protection of Japan. I think Japan should one day reveal a nuclear arsenal or continue to trust the non-existent sanity of nuclear weapon state North Korea.

Regards

Pete

Josh said...

@Pete

The KSA has huge financial reserves, but like China, is burning them at a prestigious rate over the last two years. Cheap oil is breaking them and cheap isn't going away - anytime the price gets above $50 US shale output increases. Rigs are currently going up in the US just on the current price; $60 a barrel would cause US output to jump until the price went back down to $55. That's why oil is now in such a narrow window price wise, and this is *only* maintained because of the OPEC output cuts. Were that deal to no be renewed or otherwise faulter, oil prices drop even further. The KSA may make noises like it wants a sub fleet but it will never actually buy; that ship has sailed.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/timdaiss/2016/08/30/saudi-arabia-burns-through-foreign-reserves-as-oil-prices-slide/#3915f70839a5

Cheers,
Josh

Peter Coates said...

Hi Josh [14/3/17 12:27 AM]

Thanks for https://www.forbes.com/sites/timdaiss/2016/08/30/saudi-arabia-burns-through-foreign-reserves-as-oil-prices-slide/#3915f70839a5 . It seems Iranian and US oil/gas producing competition are bad news for the Saudi oil industry due to barrel price drops - good for we consumers.

Whether this has any impact on a Saudi 5+ year submarine buying process remains unanswered, noting https://www.dawn.com/news/1303871 of 22 Dec 2016:

"Saudi Arabia, at war in Yemen and competing for regional influence with arch-rival Iran, projects a 6.7 per cent rise in defence spending in 2017 to 191 billion riyals ($50.8 billion), according to official budget figures released on Thursday."

Particularly pertinent is:

"...Riyadh is expected to continue buying billions of dollars worth of weapons, mainly from Western suppliers such as the United States, Britain and France, for its land, sea and air forces in coming years."

Regards

Pete

Anonymous said...

KSA demonstrated abysmal fighting abilities in Yemen. I would fix that before buying subs.
KQN

Josh said...

@Pete

I have no faith in the KSA being able to field a technically competant submarine force and I would love to see them waste their money trying. However I suspect the their new financial reality will force them to focus their increased defense spending largely on aerospace products directed at, or as defense from, Iran. The Iranians only need Kilos because they anticipate having to tangle with the USN; KSA has no such problems. If the KSA wants to close the gulf to the Iranians, air or ballistic missile launches at the oil terminals would be sufficient.

Cheers,
Josh

Peter Coates said...

PAKISTAN SENDING A WHOLE BRIGADE TO SAUDI ARABIA

In this comments thread at 11/3/17 4:07 PM I underestimated when I said "Saudi have quietly hired whole battalions of Pakistani infantry (as units) over the years"

It is now revealed in the Hindustan Times, March 14, 2017 http://www.hindustantimes.com/world-news/pakistan-to-deploy-army-brigade-in-saudi-arabia-reports/story-3PSDzYLttsdOI1VYPUjnmJ.html

"Pakistan to deploy army brigade in Saudi Arabia: Reports"
"The Pakistan Army will send a brigade of combat troops to Saudi Arabia to strengthen defences along the kingdom’s vulnerable southern border in the face of threats from the Islamic State and Houthi rebels, according to media reports...in response to a request from Riyadh, which “wants the troops as an emergency response force”.

"...The brigade will be based in southern Saudi Arabia and will be deployed inside its borders to thwart possible attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels,"

"A brigade in the Pakistan Army comprises about 3,000 troops. Pakistani troops train and advise Saudi military personnel and sources told Hindustan Times that about 2,000 Pakistani officers and soldiers are currently in the kingdom...'

"...Sources in Islamabad said Pakistan was apparently being sucked into the conflict between Saudi Arabia and Yemen..."

Pete