In January of last year Damen Shipyards Group and Swedish defence and security company Saab announced their cooperation in exploring future opportunities in the international submarine market. The companies have signed an exclusive agreement to work together in pursuit of the potential Walrus-class submarine replacement programme for the Netherlands.
What is the added value of this Dutch-Swedish alliance?
“Saab Kockums and Sweden are looking for a limited number of strategic partners in the submarine area”, explains Gunnar Wieslander, President of Saab Kockums. “The Netherlands has an excellent submarine service and Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding is the preeminent naval shipbuilder in the Netherlands. Saab Kockums and Damen have complementary capabilities and we are looking forward to a long-lasting partnership.”
“Our aim is the return of Damen to the submarine market”, adds Hein van Ameijden, managing director of Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding (DSNS). “Although, even today, a surprisingly big submarine industrial base is present in Holland, it was clear to us we need a strong international partner in order to do the complete engineering package for a new submarine within a reasonable timeframe. From day one, Saab Kockums was our partner of choice. The synergies between the two of us were so obvious that it took us little time to come to an agreement on our partnership. Our near-term goal is to win the Walrus-class replacement programme, but the ultimate objective is to become partners in the global submarine market. What Damen brings to the table, apart from our specifically Dutch submarine knowhow, is a worldwide presence and an unsurpassed experience in shipbuilding at third-party shipyards.”
Does this mean no other Dutch partners will be involved in the development of the new submarines?
Van Ameijden: “Certainly not. On the contrary! The big success of the current Walrus-class submarines is largely due to the involvement of the Dutch ‘triple helix’ (Royal Netherlands Navy, industry and maritime knowledge institutes) during the design and building process. This knowledge base is still very active and, for example, nowadays delivers cutting edge solutions in the current midlife modernisation and refit programme of the Walrusclass. This is conducted by an array of mainly Dutch companies. In the Walrus replacement programme, we want to maximise involvement of Dutch industry in order to strengthen our national maritime sector, which can only lead to more joint successes in the future ahead. Moreover it will increase employment of highly skilled people in the Netherlands, solidify the development of strategic know-how and, last but not least, will be a big boost for the Dutch economy.”
Can you already describe the characteristics of the perfect diesel-electric submarine, that’s due to set sail for the Royal Netherlands Navy in 2025?
“First of all, these are very early days”, states Van Ameijden. “We will have to await the official first set of requirements by the Ministry of Defence.” Wieslander: “In general, the perfect submarine is designed to covertly collect intelligence and if required fight and win. It is undetectable and future proof, while affordable. We will combine modular and flexible design with our Stirling air independent propulsion systems, the unique Flexible Payload Lock, and our skills in signature management and life cycle management. This will make the new submarines state-of-the art and easily adaptable to changing technologies and military requirements. Our two navies could benefit from this cooperation in many aspects, not only during the building of the boats, but also during the whole life cycle.” “I expect platform automation, endurance, overall performance and cost to be aspects that will set it apart from all other conventional submarines on the market”, concludes Van Ameijden.
A Swedish tradition
Sweden has built and operated submarines for over 100 years. The Kingdom has a sovereign submarine capability where Saab Kockums is the prime contractor, responsible for design, integration, production and maintenance. During the last 50 years, six classes of cost-effective submarines have been developed to fulfil unique customer requirements.