January 5, 2014

Brazil's Future SSN - DCNS Assistance - Australian Interest?

An April 2013 model of Brazil's future SSN known as SN-Br or SNBR see  http://www.shephardmedia.com/news/imps-news/laad-2013-brazil-reveals-submarine-design-details/

Is this a French designed 2131-R Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR) to be fitted in Brazil's future SSN known as SN-Br or SNBR?

The French company DCNS is providing a package of four conventional subs and one nuclear sub that will be domestically built. Brazil is the first customer for this package and may not be the only customer. Such an industrial solution might be more promising option for Australia than other industrial mixes of all conventional, all nuclear or foreign built.

The conventional diesel-electric subs DCNS is assisting Brazil to build are four slightly larger than usual Scorpenes. The first might be launched in 2015.

The nuclear propelled submarine DCNS is helping Brazil build is dubbed the "SN-Br" or "SNBR" for Submarine-Nuclear-Brazil. It may be the SN-Br will have attributes of DCNS SSNs - perhaps somewhere between 2,500 ton Rubis-Améthyste SSN and the not yet completed 5,000 ton Barracuda SSN. Such tonnage would make it small by 7,000+ ton  US, UK and Russian SSN standards. The SN-Br may feature all horizontal torpedo tubes or some additional VLS
see http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/brazil-france-in-deal-for-ssks-ssn-05217/ The SN-Br might be commissioned in 2023 and enter operation in 2025.

The Brazilian SSN (SN-Br's) Reactor

SN-Br will be powered by a nuclear reactor reportedly developed entirely by Brazil under Project Aramar.

This confusion or ambiguity about the extent of French content in the SN-Br's reactor may be due to French and Brazilian sensitivity about any criticisms that France is proliferating military nuclear technology to Brazil. In a similar vein Russia's extensive assistance in designing and building India's INS Arihant reactor has also largely been kept out of the news.

In any case the SN-Br reactor may use less proliferation sensitive Uranium of only 7% and 10% enriched - see http://www.nti.org/analysis/articles/brazil-submarine-import-and-export-behavior/ [more details below] - although this is hard to believe on power to weight and frequency of refuelling grounds.

The four conventional DCNS subs and SN-Br are part of Brazil's program to build a navy that can defend its oil and trade interests in the South Atlantic. The SN-Br will also represent a revival of military uses of nuclear energy - noting that Brazil had discontinued its nuclear weapons program by 1990 http://www.nti.org/country-profiles/brazil/ .
Australian Interest in DCNS Brazilian Solution?
For Australia's future submarine project, known as SEA 1000, Australia has several solutions to consider from submarine suppliers. So far this website has mentioned TKMS German HDW, TKMS no longer supplying (?) Swedish Kockums, Spain's Navantia S-80, Japan's Soryu subs and the US Virginia Class.

The increasing need for Australia to domestically build submarines given the rundown in Australia's manufacturing industry will work against the already remote possibility that Australia would opt for the Virginia Class SSNs. The unlikelihood of US technology transfer, small production runs of very large (8,000 ton Virginia subs) and Australia's very low level of nuclear know-how are all reasons making the Virginia's unlikely.

The DCNS solution of Australia building its own conventional and nuclear propelled subs under DCNS guidance may be the best fit as an industrial solution. While DCNS has no experience making conventional subs in the 4,000 ton range required by Australia DCNS has experience making nuclear subs of that tonnage and greater. Due to DCNS' lack of experience making a conventional and AIP propulsion system for 4,000 tons Australia may need to consider the propulsion system used by Japan's 4,000 ton Soryu class.


NTI July 18, 2013 reported http://www.nti.org/analysis/articles/brazil-submarine-capabilities/ The Brazilian Navy's overall strategic goal is to gain an increased sea-denial capability, and it views submarines as a way to achieve that goal. Brazil's USD 8.3BN submarine development program (known as PROSUB) has set a goal of producing 15 diesel-electric submarines and 6 nuclear-powered submarines by 2034. These boats are slated to replace the older Tupi and Tikuna-class submarines. [9]

In January 2008 Brazil signed a defense cooperation agreement with France that was followed up with an agreement on submarines in December of the same year. Detailed contracts were finally signed in September 2009, stipulating the terms of the submarine acquisitions and related technology transfer programs. [15] According to these agreements a strategic partnership was formed between the two countries to build four conventional Scorpène-class submarines as well as the hull for Brazil's planned nuclear powered submarine (referred to as 'SNBR'). Brazil is solely responsible for the nuclear parts of the 'SNBR' vessel, and the contract clearly states that "the Brazilian party will not receive assistance from the French party for the design, construction and putting into operation of the on-board nuclear reactor, the installations in the nuclear reactor compartment, and the equipment and facilities whose functions are primarily concerned with the reactor's operation or nuclear safety." [16]

http://www.nti.org/analysis/articles/brazil-submarine-import-and-export-behavior/  The fuel (most likely enriched to levels between seven and ten percent U-235) and the reactor will be provided by the Navy's Aramar Technological Center in Ipero and based on the Nuclear-Electric Generation Laboratory (Laboratorio de Geracao Nucleo-Eletrica - LABGENE) and USEXA (a pilot uranium hexafluoride conversion plant) projects. [17] Furthermore, parts for a prototype 48MW pressurized water reactor (RENAP-11) have allegedly already been manufactured. Negotiations on a verification regime for Brazil's naval nuclear fuel involving the IAEA and the Brazilian-Argentine Agency for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials (ABACC) are ongoing. [18]

The 2009 contract also provides for the formation of a joint venture between DCNS and Brazilian construction company Odebrecht Engenharia. [19] The joint venture covers the construction of a new shipyard and naval base at Sepetiba Bay (near Rio de Janeiro), as well as the production of the submarines themselves. [20] The total cost of the order is expected to be around $8.4 billion over 20 years for the completion of five submarines, the shipbuilding infrastructure, and the weapons system. The conventional submarines are rumored to cost an estimated $600 million each and the nuclear vessel is estimated at $1.5 billion.

[21] The first four submarines will be single-hull, conventional Scorpène-class attack submarines that are slightly modified for greater endurance and time between maintenance. This enables them to meet the operational requirements of patrolling and protecting the expansive Brazilian coast, offshore natural resources and sea-going commerce. [22] Similar to the deal with HDW in the 1980s, the contract with DCNS states that construction on the nose of the first submarine will begin at the DCN shipyard in Cherbourg, France, and will then move to Brazil for completion at Sepetiba Bay.

[23] Assembly and construction of the remaining three conventional submarines, as well as the nuclear-powered variant, will take place entirely in Brazil, though many preassembled parts and components will be brought in from France. [24] Construction on the Scorpènes began in July 2011, with the first submarine slated to be commissioned into the Navy around 2017. [25] According to the construction schedule the last of the conventional submarines is due to be completed by 2025 and the nuclear vessel is expected to be finished by 2023.

[26] Seeking an increased sea-denial capability, the Brazilian Navy plans to procure fifteen diesel-electric submarines and six nuclear-powered submarines to replace the Tupi and Tikuna-class boats when those submarines are retired. The extent of foreign involvement in the development of these new submarines is unclear, but given the Brazilian emphasis on development of an indigenous submarine building capacity it seems likely that a significant amount of construction will take place domestically. [27]


See also Anthony Boadle of Reuters, March 1, 2013, http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/03/01/brazil-defense-submarines-idUSL1N0BT5WK20130301

ANU’s Stephan Fruehling wrote in ASPI Strategist a most interesting article on this:  Nuclear propulsion and the future of Australia’s submarine force of March 11, 2016



hyro said...

Hey pete,
Been following your blogs for some time, and I have this question is it that easy to to integrate a naval nuclear power-plant in a conventionally powered submarine hull, wont the layout drastically change, usually conventional diesel subs are built on a raft to isolate noise. Won't it be easier to purpose build a hull than adapt an existing design. That said the Indian prototype submarine seems to be a mix-match of various Russian and German design philosophies. So unless a navy wants lets say 6-7 SSN's only then it makes sense to purpose build a hull or go in for conventional AIP subs. The other question is regarding thermal scaring of SSN's are they reliably able to detect submarines using FLIR's on aircraft and infrared sensors on satellite's
Thanks in advance

Pete said...

Hi Harish

I don't know of any company trying to place nuclear propulsion in a conventional hull.

Doing any major arranging or re-arranging in a sub hull is difficult and experience helps. This is the problem of inexperienced Navantia arranging the insides of the S-80. The S-80 has real balance problems.

The SN-Br design may well be based on the 2,500 ton Rubis-Amethyste hull with perhaps some late model Scorpene or Barracuda characteristics. Construction will be under the close direction of DCNS. These elements would mean that Brazil and DCNS are not drastically changing designs to build SN-Br. The design knowledge of companies like DCNS means even purpose built hulls will be an evolution of existing knowledge and design solutions.

India's inexperience in designing its own subs mean that it is having problems integrating lessons from Russian, German, French, UK, Chinese and US designs. India will pickup such diverse knowledge in many ways.

On satellite detection of subs emissions this existing reference should help http://gentleseas.blogspot.com.au/2012/08/satellite-detection-of-submarines.html . Aircraft and UAVs might see smaller areas better than satellites.