Flotsam – May

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Singapore orders 2 submarines from TKMS

Dr. Ng Eng Hen (pronounced Doctor Huang Jong Hong) announced on May 16,2016, in his opening speech at IMDEX Asia 2017, that his country had ordered two more submarines of the submarine type 218SG specially developed for Singapore from ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) in Kiel. According to the Supervisory Board, this new order means that the capacity utilization of at least the submarine division of TKMS will be secured until the year 2025 with the last orders, cf. last February’s Strandgut.

IMDEX Asia is a major maritime defence technology trade show in Singapore, with TKMS and its arch-rival Direction des Constructions Navales (DCNS) taking part. At this trade fair, high-ranking players from the maritime defence policy and the military are to network with key figures from industry and naval engineering and forge business relationships.

Singapore had already ordered two Type 218SG boats from TKMS in November 2013. So far, it has used only submarines manufactured in Sweden. Four Challenger-class boats of the Swedish submarine yard Kockums AB in Malmö marked the beginning of Singapore’s underwater armed forces in 1997. Originally built as a Sjöormen class for the Swedish navy at the end of the 1960s, the boats were first subjected to extensive modernisation and adaptation to their future tropical area of operation and then put into service for Singapore’s navy from 2001 onwards. In 2011 and 2013, Singapore’s submarine fleet was augmented by one Archer-class boat each. These were also decommissioned boats of the Swedish Navy, but they were of the much more modern Västergötland class built in the mid-1980s. Prior to their service in Asia, they were also extensively modernised and adapted with an air-independent propulson  in the form of a Stirling engine in a section additionally inserted into the pressure hull. In March 2015, two Challenger-class boats were decommissioned. The remaining two old Challenger-class boats will now be replaced by German type 218SG boats. The boats ordered in 2013 are expected to enter service in 2021-22, and the most recent orders are expected to follow from 2024.

RSS Swordsman, an Archer-class boat of Singapore’s navy in harbour, Photo: Asitimes – https://www.flickr.com/photos/94141246@N05/8697442661/ , CC BY 2.0

It is to be assumed that Singapore’s navy is pursuing the calculation of using a generation of older, but also cheaper submarines first to gain expertise in the field of submarine operations, and then to acquire a second generation of modern conventional submarines later on. The situation seems to be similar with the Bengal navy as described in Flotsam issue March, except that it could not reach so deeply into its pocket for its first generation of submarines as the prosperous city state and had to procure its boats at the discounter in China so to speak. For Singapore, in addition to the German type 218, Kockums AB’s submarine design, the Viking class and DCNS’ Scorpène class also came into question for its second generation of submarines. All these designs represent relatively small and manoeuvrable boats, which are fast and extremely quiet with air-independent propulsion. In addition, all the designs could be tailored to the special needs of Singapore’s navy.

The contract concluded with TKMS now includes not only the construction of the boats but also a “logistics package” and arrangements for the training of crews from Singapore in Germany. Such contract components constitute an increasingly large part of the total volume of submarine orders. Neither Singapore nor TKMS has provided any further details on the contract or type 218SG. The first order for two boats in 2013 was estimated at well over one billion euros, and a similar figure can be assumed for this second order.

The Greek submarine Papanikolis, type 214 at HDW in Kiel. With the exception of the different aft rudder designs, the appearance of class 214 is likely to be largely the same as that of the new class 218SG. Photo: GDK, CC BY-SA 3.0

The Type 218SG will be a submarine with fuel cell propulsion with a long range or sea endurance. It is assumed that it has emerged from the successful export of submarine type 214. It is to be suitable for a wide range of applications, such as secret maritime surveillance, combatting surface ships and submarines, firing cruise missiles or deploying special units. In order to be able to be flexibly equipped with different weapon systems adapted to the mission, it is to be equipped not only with six conventional torpedo tubes of the standard 533 mm caliber and two tubes of larger caliber, but also with up to three Verical Multi-Purpose Locks (VMPL). With a diameter of 2.5 m, they are intended to allow the launch of cruise missiles as well as the deployment of special units or unmanned submarine vehicles. For the Type 218SG, a displacement of approx. 2,400 t (submerged) at a length of 70 m is assumed. To ensure good manoeuvrability, this type will probably be equipped with an X-rudder like the German Type 212. The crew of 28 men will be provided with a high level of safety and comfort by the division into two watertight compartments and the arrangement of two decks in the pressure hull. The waste water system and the waste disposal system will comply with the latest environmental standards.