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The following is reprinted with permission from NAVINT. which is published twice monthly by Tileprint, Ltd. Of 13 Condace Road, London, SW6 4BB.

From the 15th March 2002 issue

Canadian SSKs Hit Problems

The Canadian Navy has encountered technical problems with its four Victoria class diesel electric submarines (SSKs). As a result none will be fully operational until spring next year at the earliest.

The problems have arisen during the installation and setting-to-work of Canadian-specified equipment such as fire control and communications. Three Loral Librascope SFCS fire control systems have been transferred from the paid-off Ojibwa class SSKs, replacing the UK Royal Navy’s DCC systems. Presumably a fourth SFCS set has had to be bought from the manufacturers. Another change is the replacement of the 2046 towed sonar array for a Canadian product; the SFCS is already capable of handling the U.S. Navy-pattern Mk48 Mod 4 torpedo. The submarines will not be armed with UGM-84C Sub-Harpoon anti-ship missiles.

Inevitably these changes have generated problems; it is never easy to install equipment in a warship designed around other systems, and submarines are even more complex because of the restricted space. Some earlier problems had arisen when the four Upholder class were being refurbished at BAE Systems’ Barrow in Furness shipyard after being laid up for some time, High-pressure welds in three boats, a leaky fuel tank in another, and a leak in the hull of a third boat were dealt with at Barrow in Furness during their refurbishment.

To reduce delays in the training programing the Canadian Navy has decided to get the second of class, HMCS WINDSOR, to sea for crew-training, even though she is still equipped with the DCC fire control system and her original communications system. The remaining pair will become operational in 2004 and 2004 respectively.

The Navy has long-term plans to upgrade the four Victoria class with an air-independent propulsion (AIP) system. A fuel cell system is the likeliest choice, and Can$250 million has been earmarked. Recently Rolls-Royce Marine recently described a suitable plant for the Victoria class, based on its high energy-density Zebra battery and an unspecified fuel cell AIP system. The Zebra sodium/nickel chloride battery weights 55 percent less than a standard lead-acid battery with the same energy-storage, or 35 percent more energy-storage and a weight-reduction of 40 percent. Zebra has a typical operating temperature of 270° C, but uses safe-to-touch vacuum-insulated modules. In a submarine the only impact would be the provision of appropriate mountings and temperature-management.


  • According to the Portuguese Defence Minister, Rui Pena, the decision to order new diesel electric submarines will be taken by the Government after the General Election on 17 March. The original intention was to order three, but budget problems forced a reduction to two, with a third leased. The eventual contract, payable over 25 years, is expected to be about €1. 7 billion (US$1.48 bn) including interest. Although the partner-ship of DCN and IZAR has widely expected to be the winner with the Scorpene, Military Procurement International (MP/) suggests that the German Submarine Consortium may offer its IKL Type 214 design as an alternative.
  • An Indian Defence Ministry announcement on 12 February said that the US$600 million deal to acquire Scorpene type submarines is close to completion. Project 75 calls for two submarines to be built at DCN Cherbourg and another six to be built with French technical support at Mazagon Dock Ltd in Mumbai. The prime contractor will be Thales, in partnership with DCN International, the commercial arm of Direction Constructions Navales (DCN). The Indians are also talking with the Russians about the possible of two Project 677 Amur type, possibly with an air-independent propulsion (AIP) plant. The Indian Navy plans to acquire 26 new submarines over the next 25 years, using two building facilities to reduce its dependence on foreign suppliers.
  • The Australian Government’s National Audit Office has published some disturbing figures on the Fast Track upgrade of the Collins class submarines HMAS DECHAINEUX and HMAS SHEEAN.
    The cost of this interim upgrade is quoted as US$139 million, but it has produced only a limited increase in capability. A major improvement programmer taking in all six boats is estimated to cost US$444m, and another US$434m is to be spent on weapons upgrades.

From the 1st April 2002 issue

Surprise U.S. Takeover of HDW

On 11 March the U.S. investor One Equity Partners unexpect-edly took control of German shipbuilders Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Wertf (HOW). The private equity firm has negotiated a complex deal with HDW’s parent companies Babcock Borsig (50 percent plus one share) and Preussag AG (50 percent minus one share); 20 percent of the Preussag shareholding is held by a German financial investor. The deal provides for a purchase by One Equity Partners of75 percent (minus one share). The U.S. company is a subsidiary of U.S. Bank One.

The takeover of the country’s largest shipbuilder opens the door to closer cooperation among all German shipyards, and is likely to reshape the relationships already forged between HOW and other European builders such as Kockums in Sweden. Cross-sharehold-ing has been likely for some time, but negotiations between ThyssenKrupp and Babcock Borsig had broken down. Preussag will give up its stake completely, and in return One Equity Partners has offered 15 percent each to Ferrostaal and ThyssenKrupp, owner ofThyssen Nordseewerke (TNSW) and Blohm+ Voss. If accepted, this would leave One Equity Partners as the single largest share-holder in HDW, with 45 percent. Last December, SAAB received DM355 million (US$159.2m) for its 25 percent stake in HDW.

Only two months ago HOW and Babcock Borsign’s chief executive Prof Klaus Lederer announced that HDW would in the future concentrate on shipbuilding. In addition to general ship-building HDW is noted for its lucrative partnership with submarine design bureau Ingenieurkomor Lubeck (UCL), giving it a dominant position in the submarine export market. It is also active in the construction of surface warships. At present only 10 percent of HDW’s Euro5 billion (US$4.38 bn) order book is mercantile. As the Gennan Submarine Consortium is now one of only three Western exporters of diesel electric submarines (SSKs), the U.S. Department of Defense now has an extra option if it wishes to support Taiwan’s bid to acquire SSKs.

Two days after the announcement of the takeover, HOW confinned that it will remain active in shipbuilding. Prof Lederer said that the agreement was “enshrined in the contract”. He will remain in control at HDW, but will give up his post as Chief Executive of Babcock Borsig, probably in June.

News in Brief

  • The UK Royal Navy’s nuclear powered strategic missile submarine (SSBN) HMS Vanguard arrived at Devonport Naval Base on 3 February to begin a two-and-a-half year long overhaul period (refueling), at an estimated cost of £217 million. The overhaul period includes trials and training. The plutonium hydrodynamic experiment conducted in Nevada on 14 February is officially to “ensure that UK nuclear weapons [i.e. Trident] remain safe and reliable”. The SSBN was first commissioned in 1993.
  • Further details of the air-independent propulsion (AIP) conver-sion of Japan’s Maritime Self Defence Force (MSDF) subma-rine ASASHIO (TSS-3501) have emerged. The V-4-275R Mk 2 Stirling system fitted has a diameter of 60cm and a height of 140cm. At 2000 rpm it generates 65kW (88 hp). It is designed to operate at 4-5kn or to float the load on the batteries when the submarine is motionless. The system includes four Stirling engines on the upper deck level, two liquid oxygen (LOX) tanks and other items are sited a deck down. Kerosene is stored in a pressure-tight tank between the pressure hull and the external hull. Unlike diesel fuel, the consumed kerosene cannot be replaced by seawater because of contamination. The AIP compartment is unmanned, and handling is done from a console in the control room.
    The hull was separated between the machinery compartments and the accommodation, to allow a 9m plug containing the AIP system to be inserted. This increased the length to 87m and increased displacement by 400t. The Stirling engines were produced under licence by Kawasaki, and 90 percent of the components were produced in Japan.

  • On 5 March the UK Armed Forces Minister arutounced a revised timetable for the paying-off of Swiftsure and Trafalgar class nuclear attack submarines (SSNs):
    HMS SPLENDID (2003)
    HMS SOVEREIGN (2005)
    HMS TRAFALGAR ( 2007)
    HMS TURBULENT (2008)
    HMS SCEPTRE (2010)
    HMS TIRELESS (2011)
    HMS TALENT (2017); serving two years longer
    HMS TRIUMPH (2019); serving two years longer
    HMS TORBAY (2021); serving a year longer
    HMS TRENCHANT (2023); serving a year longer

The 1998 Strategic Defence Review (SDR) ordered the reduction of the SSN force to ten boats, but the latest figures show that number will fall to nine in 2006, and then to eight or nine until 2015.

From the 1st May 2002 issue

Refurbishment of Third Canadian SSK Goes Well

The major programme of work required to bring the Canadian navy’s third diesel-electric submarine (SSK), HMCS CORNER-BROOK (ex-HMS URSULA), into service has been completed four weeks ahead of schedule. The submarine has been refurbished after a long lay-up at BAE Systems Marine’s Barrow in Furness shipyard.

CORNERBROOK was rolled into the Devonshire Dock Hall (DOH) on 24 October 2000 for what was seen as an eight month overhaul, but it became clear that the amount of work had been seriously underestimated. Tests revealed excessive corrosion in two hull valves, which had to be cut off the hull for repair. A review of the boat’s maintenance history while in Royal Navy service revealed the need for a large amount of work, caused by the fact that she had paid off before her Extended Docking for Essential Defects period fell due. Corrosion was also found in the upper rudder, necessitating the removal of the skin on the starboard side for repair. Post-shotblast inspection of No. 3 and No. 4 main ballast tanks revealed large areas of pitting in the plating which brought the thickness below minimum tolerance. The plating was removed and a new section was manufactured and installed.

Because of the extent of the extra work the contractor agreed with both the Canadian Ministry of National Defence and the UK Ministry of Defence to the submarine’s undocking should be put back from December 2000 to March this year. She was rolled out of the DOH onto the shiplift on 25 February, and was then prepared for basin dives, and trim and incline dives at the end of March. The Canadians will then assume operational control and sea trials will start in June.

Malaysia to Buy French SSKs

Kuala Lumpur. According to a Reuters report on 9 April, the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) has agreed to order three French submarines. This will make the RMN the third ASEAN member to own submarines, and is part of a concerted effort to modernize its armed forces, according to local defence sources.

The sources told Reuters that the Ministry of Defence (MinDef) issued a letter to agreement (LOA) to a Malaysian company which is representing French warship builder DCN International (DCNI). The LOA was issued last month and DCNI has been given three months to work out terms of the contract, according to the same source.

DCN and its commercial arm DCNI had been considered front-runners to land the Malaysian deal, wich analysts value at US$1. 08 billion.

Apart from DCN/DCNI, Germany’s Howarldtswerke-Deutsch Werft (HOW), leader of the German Submarine Consortium (GSC), the Netherlands’ ROM and a Russian company (possibly the Rubin Bureau) were also believed to be bidding for the contract. Didier Arnaud, regional director for DCN, said that the company was in talks with the Malaysian agent and the government over the submarine deal. Malaysian Defence Minister Najib Razak, speaking to reporters the week before, declined to say which company had won the submarine order. “We will announce it at an appropriate time”, he said. But Najib has said the French Navy was willing to train Malaysian Navy personnel in submarine warfare if Malaysia agreed to buy French submarines.

The French nuclear powered aircraft carrier, CHARLES DE GAULLE, will visit Malaysia next month and will play host to key RMN personnel. DCN, in collaboration with Spanish shipbuilding IZAR, has offered to supply the new generation medium-sized Scorpene type diesel electric submarines (SSKs) to the RMN. The deal under negotiation involves two new build Scorpenes and a refurbished Agosta class boat. In return, the French Government has decided to consider a request from the Malaysian flag carrier Malaysian Airlines for more flights to Paris, sources said.

Malaysia is building a naval base to house its submarine fleet at Teluk Sepanggar in the east Malaysian state of Sabah in Borneo. The RMN has been considering the purchase of SSKs at lest since 1988, but changing priorities have moved the decision to the right more than once. Malaysia is seen as trying to match Singapore’s submarine capability, and is expected to send personnel overseas to gain experience.

UK MoD Accepts Recommendations on Redundant Submarines

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has accepted 57 out of 65 recommendations in an independent report from Lancaster University into issues the public wants to be considered in finding the best option for future land storage of redundant nuclear submarines. Five more recommendations will be considered further as the project develops, and before the next stage of consultation.

Defence Minister Dr Lewis Moonie said, “‘We have been open and consultative from the start on this important project, and will expect our industry partners to be prepared to take the same bold approach that has been the mark of the work so far. The majority of the recommendations made by Lancaster University have been embraced by the Ministry of Defence and will be taken forward. Key among these are the need to continue our policy of openness and trust with the public, and to consider nuclear and environmen-tal safety over cost. We will consider further another five recom-mendations, which concern how future consultation will be carried out.”

The report indicated public support for storing of submarines on land rather than afloat. The public accepted that the consultation was a positive step but emphasized the need to continue with this open and honest approach, and that more needs to be done to engender trust and understanding. Concerns that the involvement of private industry will mean the decision will be driven by profit have also been addressed, with the MoD making it clear that industry has the necessary expertise for storage of rector compart-ments. There will therefore need to be some form of partnership with industry. but it will not be at the expense of factors such as safety.

From the 15th May 2002 issue


Trials of the UK Royal Navy’s new Core H long-life reactor core for nuclear submarine reactors have begun at the Vulcan Naval Reactor Test Establishment at Dounreay in Scotland. The shore test facility comprises a PWR pressurized water rector and the associated turbo-generators, mimicking the plan in a Vanguard class strategic submarine (SSBN). The 13 year programme began late last year, when Rolls-Royce Naval Marine was awarded a £360 million contract for the Vulcan Test Operation and Maintenance (VTOM) programme. Under a separate £190m contract, awarded in 1997, the PWR 2 reactor at Dounreay was prepared for Refuel-ling, Updating, and Revalidation (RUR).

The recipient of the first operational Core H, the SSBN HMS VANGUARD, has already been docked in No. 9 Dock in the 0154 complex at Devonport Naval Base. The new core will be retrofit-ted to the remaining three Vanguards, and will be fitted in the Astute class during construction.

Dounreay was originally known as the Admiralty Reactor Test Establishment (ARTE), and the Dounreay Submarine Prototype (DSMP 1) was assembled in 1957-65. Core A went critical in January 1965; it was burned up by October 1967, and was followed by Cores Band Z. Core B achieved initial criticality in June 1968; it was installed in the Swiftsure class attack submarines (SSNs) and was retrofitted to the Valiant class SSNs and the Resolution class SSBNs. Core Z started testing in 1974 and was installed in the Trafalgar class SSNs.

From the 1st June 2002 issue

Germans and Italians Hope to Move in on Small Submarine Markets

Howaldtswereke Deutsche Werft (HOW) and Italy’s stated owned shipbuilding group Fincantieri Navali SpA recently announced a joint venture to design and build small submarines displacing 700t or less. The two companies have had a loose collaborative agreement since 2000, although ten years ago HOW supplied details of its German Navy Type 212 submarines to allow Fincantieri to build virtually identical boats for the Italian Navy. The headquarters of the new joint venture will be at Muggiano, outside La Spezia, site of a long established submarine building shipyard.

The two partners are not sanguine about the shrinking European submarine market, and see an urgent need to export, but they also face competition from other suppliers. Fincantieri has been hit badly, having received no submarine orders since 1988, apart from the two HOW Type 212A boats in hand at Muggiano. Although HOW has a full order book, it has also had setbacks; some expon prospects have gone sour, either through financial difficulties or coming second in competitions. In these circumstances HOW is very much in favour of pan-European cooperation. According to an HOW spokesman quoted by Defense News, teamwork cuts costs and continuous technological development helps to keep abreast of challenges from other shipyards. A Fincantieri spokesman added that markets will soon develop for submarine under 700t, but did not identify potential customers.

Cold water was thrown on the idea by Arthur 0 . Baker III, the Editor of Combat Fleets of the Word, who says that he has seen no significant interest in small submarines. He is quoted as saying, “I’d say that the deal is probably more to show that there is life in both companies than in expectation of any immediate sales of small submarines”. Baker points out that HOW has tried for a decade to see a 300t submarine. VSEL (now part of BAE Systems Marine had its SOOt Piranha, while Fincantieri continues to produce catalogues full of small designs. As Baker points out, the steeply rising prices of existing small submarines, are not driven by size, but by the cost of combat systems.

There is also the frequently neglected aspect of habitability. Many Third World navies’ submarines spend little time at sea, so in theory a 300t boat is just as effective as a lOOOt boat. But navies buy submarines because they want flexibility, and crew fatigue rises sharply in a small, cramped hull sent out on a long patrol. The Second World War exploits of midget submarine were performed by highly motivated personnel, prepared to accept the harsh conditions. In comparison, today’s personnel have higher expectations, and are unlikely to take kindly to lengthy peacetime patrols.

In practice the new partners will concentrate on the Italian Navy’s planned submarine replacement programme by working on the next two Type 212A boats. These will replace the Nazario Sauro class, and will eventually be followed by four more to replace the Improved Sauro class. Neither the German nor the Italian governments are prepared to countenance sales to Taiwan, so the likelihood of the new venture providing a back door to Taiwan is remote. In any case, the recent partnership agreement between General Dynamics Electric Boat and ASC in Australia offers a much more direct route for the Pentagon to meet its commiunent to Taiwan.

From the 1st July 2002 issue

Norway Withdraws From Viking Submarine Project

The Norwegian Parliament has voted to end the Royal Norwegian Navy’s participation in the Viking collaborative project to build a common design of submarine with the navies of Sweden and Derunark.

The cost of the programme is the most obvious cause of the Norwegians’ loss of interest, but there are other reasons. A recent survey of the six Ula class diesel electric submarines (SSKs) shows that their hulls will last until 2020, so a replacement programme is not urgent. The Royal Norwegian Navy’s commiunent to NATO operations in the North Norwegian Sea would also require major departures from the Baltic standards envisaged by the Royal Danish Navy and the Royal Swedish Navy. The withdrawal simplifies the problems of the design authority, HDW’s subsidiary Kockums, although the loss of a partner will increase the unit cost.

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