July 19, 2017

Walrus Replacement Submarine Program Delayed

This article follow comments by special Netherlands' correspondent Kevin on July 17, 2017, below Submarine Matters article Dutch Submarine Talks With TKMS & Kockums, not with DCNS of March 2, 2017.

The Netherlands' process to decide on a Walrus replacement submarine has been slowed down by the Dutch general election of March 15, 2017. The election result has been a hung parliament of parties unable to form a stable decision making coalition.

This means delays in parliament approving a large expensive (estimated at 2.5 Billion euros initial costs) new submarine program.

A June 2016 briefing by Defence Minister Jeanine Hennis envisages a submarine class:
-  that is stealthy and long range
-  with powerful weapons
-  that is capable of ISR
-  perhaps completely submerge for weeks, and
-  can carry and deploy special forces.

All of these functions cannot be performed by unmanned platforms – very obviously not carriage and deployment of special forces.

With the first of the Walruses due to be retired in 2025 there is increasing pressure to research, decide on and order a new submarine class. Consultation with Australia, Germany, Norway and Sweden is important, but difficult.

Information following the March 2017 election is that some new parliamentarians (in the parliamentary committee hearings at Troelstra Hall) are less familiar with submarine issues. Also some are less than enthusiastic about ordering new submarines. This is slowing down decision making. 

Much more discussion about submarines and agreement is needed. Salima Belhaj (scroll a third down) of the Democrats 66 sees a need for submarines but they should definitely not be nuclear armed. [As in Australia most Dutch parliamentarians would oppose nuclear weapons in their submarines].

Other issues deemed important by some parliamentarians are:
-  recognition that no off-the-shelf submarine design meets the Netherlands' needs [this strongly
   implies a larger than usual European submarine design (ie. more than 2,000 tons surfaced – perhaps
   Walrus sized) will be chosen]
-  giving Dutch companies the right to bid in any submarine competitive selection process
-  building the [probably 4] new submarines in the Netherlands [by Damen at the old RDM 
    shipyard?] and
-  the Netherlands holding the submarines intellectual property rights.

With a deliver first submarine intention in the mid 2020s the Netherlands has even more issues to decide than Australia (deliver submarines by the early 2030s). The Netherlands decision makers have not even reached consensus on a submarine size or chosen a submarine designer or builder. All this suggests that the Netherlands may take several more years than currently expected to start building submarines.

Three out of four of the Netherlands' Walrus submarines undergoing maintenance on ship stands. The photo may indicate how limited and congested shipbuilding space is in the Netherlands. Also the situation of only one Walrus being available may become standard as the Walrus' reach their use by date. (Photo courtesy Willem Severins)

Kevin and Pete


Nicky K.D Chaleunphone said...

Hi Pete,
if the Walrus-class submarine are reaching the end of their service, what country on the 2nd hand SSK Market, would you see most likely going to.

Peter Coates said...

Hi Nicky

I would say Taiwan.

This is if Taiwan sheds its assumption that it is a non-paying charity case

and instead is prepared to pay real market prices.

Anonymous said...

Hi Pete,

The troelstrazaal is were they hold parliamentary committee hearings.

D66 is ok with submarines but they are not allowed to cary nuclear weapons, like nuclear tipped torpedoes or cruise missiles. Nuclear propulsion is not a subject of debate.


Peter Coates said...

Thanks Kevin

I will change the text accordingly.



Anonymous said...

Hi Pete

Dutch should ask TKMS for state of art technologies such as PMSM (Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor), hydrophobic coating, non-magnetic steel, LIBs, highly efficient exhausting system for snorkeling, and methanol reforming fuel cell


Anonymous said...

Hi Anonymous.

In past the Germans did not alwayss export its state of the art tech in there export models like ther is no the non-magnetic steel in the Type 214. The question is what are they willing to sell to us around 2020.

Dutch submarines are to be used around the world, so the fuel need to be easily accessible and transportable. My best guess is still diesel with lithium-ion batteries.



ONeil Padilla said...

Mmmm I'm aware of the tie up Saab have with Damen to try to get their foot into the door in relation to this contract. Saab is desperate to get an export contract for their A26, question is can it be up scaled?

I think this is a real opportunity for the Japanese here, If they have a real crack at this and have learned their lessons from the Australian competitive evaluation process. Obviously tech transfer and IP rights will be a stretch but if Abe really wanted make a statement........

Peter Coates said...

Hi ONeil Padilla

Yes there have been several reports of a possible Saab-Damen deal. For the Australian competition Saab seemed to be marketing a 4,000 tonne upscaled version (known as the "Type 612") of the A26. Perhaps a 2,500 tonne Type 612 is currently a Saab concept to meet the Netherlands needs:

- see http://gentleseas.blogspot.com.au/2015/02/sweden-and-netherlands-replacement.html (see the Anonymous Comment of 11/6/15 3:23 AM 4th point on the 612 )

- also see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A26_submarine#Order_cancelled_and_alternatives :
"In December 2014 an agreement between Saab and Damen Shipyards was announced to jointly develop, offer and build next-generation submarines (based on the Type 612 design).[citation needed] Initially focused on replacing the four Walrus-class submarines currently in use by the Royal Netherlands Navy by 2025 combined with the still existing Swedish submarine requirements after cancellation of the previous A26 program."

If the Netherlands could disregard its buy from NATO country and/or from European Community country conventions Japan may be a logical supplier.



Anonymous said...


Is there any shipyard in The Netherlands capable of building submarines any more? The company that designed & built the current boats no longer exists. While there is an agreement between Damen & SAAB, I don't believe Damen have ever built military submarines (to their or anyone elses design) in any of their shipyards. So if sucessfull would Damen build in The Netherlands or would they be built in Sweden & maintained by Damen?

Also who maintains the current boats? If its Damen, would this cause a problem if TKMS gets the contract? Did Damen partner with SAAB purely to try & maintain the subs (too far to take them to Sweden but Germany is right next door & could win the maintenance contract)?

John Weyne said...

The artcle is fine but in above discusion experts seem confused. The Netherlands is still THE country in the Western world that holds the most expertise in designing, enginering and operating ocean-going conventional submarines. Held in industry (like Nevesbu, RH-marine and many smaller ones), in reasearch (eg TNO, Marin and Delft University) and the Navy (we run the eg the COQC for many NATO countries and do more than exercieses ....). Yes coordination in The Hague is less than before and RDM and Wilton (the old building dockyards) are gone. But the knowledge (and key people are still around. We can keep that Dutch expertise by designing and enginering our own submarines still. And not think that we can upscale a small submarine (not able to go alone to the Carib or Gulf) or adjust a former nuclear powered sub to a conventional one. Lets not through away our money and moreover our century old but innovative submarine expertise.

Peter Coates said...

Hi John

You are clearly incorrect despite your knowledge of Dutch databases.

Given the Netherlands has not built new subs for decades, with the latest Walrus launched in 1992 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walrus-class_submarine#Ships_in_class The Walrus design is even based on a much older US teardrop hull.

while Germany (TKMS), Japan (being Western) and France (Naval Group) have built many more recent subs for ocean going customers

Even Australia (with the help of Kockums) likely knows more than the Netherlands about building more recent submarines.