October 3, 2016

Swedish Submarine Industry Neutralised by Russia?

Features of the the Swedish Navy's future A26 (hugely expanded here). The A26 is the only submarine left featuring and marketing the horizontal multi-purpose lock (HMPL). This is what Saab calls the "multi-mission portal" (above and below). (Digarams courtesy).

Russia's Sputnik News has reported on the trouble Sweden's Saab is having selling submarines to Poland, Norway, the Netherlands and any other customer countries. Russia may be happy there are cracks between Sweden and the NATO countries, given there is occasionally popular support within Sweden for joining NATO.

Saab has been unable to sell its latest future submarine, the A26, or used smaller submarines, to other countries. With only the Swedish Government's order for two A26s (for delivery by 2022) the fixed costs of development for such a small production run may be too steep. Sweden-Saab would therefore prefer to share the development costs with customers. 

If there are no foreign orders delivery of the A26s may be delayed to 2024 or longer.

The Swedish Government ordered the two A26s in March 2015. Saab may have hoped that the Swedish Government would follow up with orders for three additional A26s as replacements for the 3 existing Gotland class. Instead the Government decided on midlife upgrades for 2 of the Gotlands (HSwMS Gotland and  HSwMS Halland) by 2020. Those 2 Gotlands could then be operational for 10-15 years, thus delaying a need for additional A26s for 10 or more years. 

The Swedish submarine service also operates 2 Sodermanland class which will be retired once the A26s join the service. Resale of the 2 retired Sodermanlands (which boast AIP) remains a possibility. 

The sale of Sweden's traditional submarine builder, Kockums, to German interests in 1999 weakened Kockum's competitiveness.

- an existing customer, Singapore, had been happy with 4 ex-Swedish Navy Challenger class and 2 Archer class). But in December 2013 Germany's TKMS, which owned Kockums, engineered a deal with Singapore which shifted Singapore's new submarine choice to a new German built submarine type, the TKMS 218SG.

- in 2014 Sweden, through Saab, regained control of Kockums. Unfortunately another existing Kockums customer Australia (that had bought 6 Kockums designed Collins class) was not interested in buying new submarines from Kockums.

Now, in 2016, with the increasing threat from Russia, there has been an increase in NATO solidarity among Baltic NATO countries including Poland and Norway. These two countries have strongly expressed an interest in buying from NATO countries that build submarines (effectively Germany's TKMS or France's DCNS). In June-July 2016 an operational alliance deal between Poland and Germany further increased the chances of a German sale.

There may be some concern that Sweden may be more susceptible to Russian pressure than "great NATO  powers" Germany and France. 
-  this is because non-NATO, neutral Sweden is only a small-middle sized power. Its wholey Baltic position also makes it more vulnerable to the Baltic's nuclear superpower, Russia.

Suspicions may exist that Sweden may have been further neutralised by Russia. This arises from highliy publicised sightings, near Sweden's capital Stockholm in late 2014, of what Sweden first described as Russian submarine activity. Then Sweden backtracked saying the sightings (which included photographic evidence) were not Russian submarines at all.  Was this backtracking due to quiet Russian pressure?

A concern would be if there was a prolonged period of NATO or Swedish tension with Russia. Would Sweden provide submarines, a steady flow of spare parts and would Sweden enable the combat system fitout of long range land attack cruise missiles desired by Poland? Russia would be the logical target for such missiles. 

Another possible A26 customer is the Netherlands. In early 2015 there may have been agreement between Saab and the Netherlands shipbuilder Damen to consider building A26s. I suspect the Netherlands is also tipping in a pro-NATO buying direction - meaning from Germany or France, and  not from Sweden.

The mighty F-35A.

Is Gripen vs F-35A still an issue?

Russia's Sputnik News also notes, September 30, 2016, that Norway did not buy Saab's Gripen fighter. According to Sputnik Saab is still hoping to sell Gripens to Poland and the Netherlands. Or have both Poland and the Netherlands already chosen the F-35 and Sputnik is just trying to stir up ill-feeling against the US and the F-35? 



Nicky K.D Chaleunphone said...

Hi Pete,
Here's the $64,000 question. Can you name the countries that Sweden can sell the A-26 SSK to. I think Canada could be one of them who are in need of a brand new SSK.

Anonymous said...

Hi Pete

Weak point of small submarine is its small bow sonar with low detectability of target. Big submarine with large bow sonar can detect target at long distance, but, small submarine detects it at relatively short distance. Also, big submarine can equip thicker absorbing tiles than small submarine. In discussion on optimum size of submarine, above mentioned matters as well as operation situation of submarine should be considered. The HMPL obviously results in reduction of bow sonar size and detectability. Increase in stealth such as adoption of non-magnetic hull may alleviate weak point of small bow sonar.


Ztev Konrad said...

Small bow sonars arent the only sonars. They are along the flanks and towed from a cable.
The Saab A26 is roughly the same size as the current diesel French and German submarines in production.
For example Atlas Electronik offers an integrated series of submarine sonars:
Expanded Flank Array (EFAS)
reelable thin line Extended Towed Array Sonar (ETAS).
Intercept and ranging sonars for rapid detection and classification of off-platform sonars and transients,
such as IDRS and CIA arrays.
medium frequency sonar with near 360° coverage – Enhanced Cylindrical Array Sonar (ECAS) with vertical beam steering capability.
Forward Look Active Sonar (FLAS) with sea bottom mapping, mine and collision avoidance capabilities.


Will Australia just get European 'small submarine' hardware but cobbled together with a US combat system, where they end up with the worst of both. The history of Australia only defence systems isnt good.

Peter Coates said...

Hi Ztev

Its gonna be a party. Sonar types of many uses invited.

This LM website mentions LM Australia, Saab and Thales as likely attendees http://www.lockheedmartin.com.au/au/news/press-releases/2015/25092015.html


Anonymous said...

Hi Pete

Australia and Japan are competing for F35 servicing hub in Asia. Judging from chemistry of Abe-Obama and Turnbull-Obama, Australia has an advantage. From the view point of technology, Japan shows higher maintenance performance or ability of fighter or air plane than Australia. From the view point of submarine business, Australia is not customer of Japanese submariner and Japan will cast off all restraint in this competition. Australia is a customer of Lockheed Martin AN/BYG-1, but, this fact does not work as pressure for the said F35 deal, because of AN/BYG-1 being in seller’s market. Recently, head of Japanese branch of LM expressed that LM welcomes joint development of weapon with Japan. In USA, Minister, Mr. Pyne may explain safety of information security of Australia, but, how can he prove it in recent leaks of DCNS secret and CEP process?

http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2016/s4547921.htm (Oct/04/2016, Australia and Japan battle for regional military supremacy)


Peter Coates said...

Hi S [at 7/10/16 10:34 AM]

It is possible all the money Australia will pay to LM for the submarine combat system (AN/BYG-1) may contribute to a decision from LM to give Australia the F35 servicing hub in Asia prize. I don't know what such a prize means.

It makes sense that Australia and Japan do their own servicing - see this 2014 article https://sputniknews.com/military/20141218/1015969613.html

Or maybe best if Australia and Japan rely on the deepest servicing in the continental US, Guam or Hawaii.