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.
- 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
- 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)