Skip to comments.'Submarines like BMWs': A closer look at the Navy’s newest, custom-made German submarine
Posted on 07/02/2018 7:24:32 AM PDT by sukhoi-30mki
Type 218SG submarines. (Photo: MINDEF/Facebook)
SINGAPORE: More than 30m under the waters around Singapore, where light hardly penetrates the murky depths, noise is perhaps the last thing you would expect.
But the Republic of Singapore Navys (RSN) latest submarine, the Type 218SG, hears and senses a cacophony of chatter. Not of people, but of the 2,000 ships that sail through the Singapore Strait every day.
Many of the boats in the world are not designed for such environments: Warm, shallow, noisy, crowded, RSNs head of naval operations Cheong Kwok Chien told Channel NewsAsia in an exclusive interview on Saturday (Jun 30).
The operating environment makes a lot of difference to a submariner, and if you design a boat meant for this type of environment, you can make a lot of difference to whoever youre up against.
And so the RSN searched all over the world for a submarine that could replace its ageing Archer-class and Challenger-class predecessors. A submarine that could truly be made for Singapore from scratch.
Weve operated second-hands for 20 years, Rear-Admiral (RADM) Cheong said of the retrofitted Swedish submarines. Over 20 years, weve built up knowledge of what a submarine would be thats designed for local waters.
In the end the Germans, masters of the submarine craft, offered the best deal in terms of technology, logistics, training and knowledge exchange. It has been reported that the contract for the first two Type 218SGs is worth more than 1 billion euros (S$1.6 billion).
RSS Swordsman, the Navy's second Archer-class submarine. (Photo: Facebook/Danny Clh)
The deal clincher? The Germans were also very willing to listen to our requirements and change a lot of the original design to suit what we need in our waters, RADM Cheong said.
The manufacturer, ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS), also prepared high-resolution, virtual reality goggles for Singapore officials to put on and walk through the submarine, allowing them to tweak even the smallest details.
We can actually know the ergonomics, RADM Cheong said. For a Singaporeans height, can I reach the top? We could also make the pathways smaller and put more equipment because we are smaller in size.
The Defence Ministry said Singapore will get four Type 218SGs, with delivery from 2021. The programme is progressing well, with the first two and remaining two submarines having commenced construction and steel-cutting, respectively.
LIGHTING UP THE UNDERWATER WORLD
But perhaps the most crucial customisations are in the Type 218SGs combat system. Its improved sonar, which listens to sounds like propeller noises and water flow, locates enemies faster and identifies them more accurately.
Thats when digital audio recognition comes in. We will hear frequency, sound wave profiles, and compare to known sounds that we have, RADM Cheong said. That basically helps us light up the underwater world.
With the waters around Singapore so shallow and congested, the Type 218SG can tell whether its facing a merchant ship, cruise liner or warship better than RSNs current submarines.
Its like going into a disco and picking up the sweetest voice, RADM Cheong added. You need to be quite capable. If not you will be blasted, and in our environment everybody gets blasted.
Once the target is locked on, then come the torpedoes. A Type 218SG model that TKMS had displayed at an exhibition last year indicated that the submarine will be fitted with eight forward-firing torpedo tubes for heavyweight torpedoes.
The "big improvement", however, lies in the submarines electronics and computers that enable fewer crew members to do more with the weapons.
If you watch the old war movies, its a whole bunch of people trying to hear (the enemy) then get the torpedo ready; theres a whole lot of activity on the boat, RADM Cheong said. No, what we are going for now is one guy pressing a button to release the torpedo.
Another improvement is the Type 218SGs air-independent propulsion (AIP) system, which RADM Cheong said is more efficient than the one in the Archer-class submarine.
The AIP allows submarines to stay underwater longer before surfacing to recharge the battery that powers its systems. The battery is charged by a diesel engine that needs air to operate.
As such, the Type 218SG can last underwater two times longer than RSNs current submarines. That makes the submarine even more stealthy and mysterious because it can be all over the place without coming up, RADM Cheong said.
This stealth is what makes the Type 218SG so lethal, as RADM Cheong spoke in broad terms about how the submarines fit into RSNs overall strategy.
All over the world, submarines are what we call strategic capabilities, he said. Because they are stealthy, can go to a lot of places and deliver a very impactful strike. So, most navies will use the submarine to deliver these effects.
Technical specifications of the Type 218SG submarine.
Besides hunting ships, submarines can do surveillance, deliver special forces, unmanned underwater vehicles and high-end weapons like nuclear missiles.
Sometimes, you have to strike at the Achilles heel of the adversary, somewhere he thinks hes quite safe and doesnt expect anybody to come, RADM Cheong said, highlighting the psychological threat a submarine poses.
When RSNs submariners go for exercises, they typically train in some of these skills.
It makes all the seagoers, especially people on ships, quite fearful because you dont know where it is, RADM Cheong added. Surface ships dislike submarines a lot, because most egos are broken by submariners.
In a one-on-one situation with conventional warships, RADM Cheong stated that submarines always win. When the submarine hears you, with the range that it shoots, theres not much you can do about it.
INVISIBLE, NOT INVINCIBLE
However, submarines are not invincible. RADM Cheong pointed out that they lack speed and are prone to being spotted when they surface.
"So, these are inherent vulnerabilities, he added. Fast things and aircraft hunt submarines. To hunt a submarine, you must operate out of its element. If you operate in water, you must be something that it cannot or doesnt want to kill."
One example of a low-value target is an unmanned underwater vessel.
A cross-section illustration of the Type 218SG. (Graphic: Mindef)
Nevertheless, RADM Cheong said a good submariner can remain undetected if he knows where to position the vessel in relation to how sound waves travel underwater.
If he exploits all these black holes underwater, nobody can hear him and he can hear everybody else, he added. He can be quite silent and maybe even invisible.
For the Type 218SG, RSNs submariners will train in simulators and abroad with their German counterparts, who RADM Cheong described as some of the best in the world. They like to have a worthy partner to spar with, he said. We also take this opportunity to learn from them.
BMW FOR SINGAPORE ROADS
RADM Cheong said the Germans were also grateful that the RSN wanted to fully customise its submarine, pointing out that they gained a lot of interesting insights. They said not many customers are so forthcoming in saying that this doesnt work.
To that end, RADM Cheong said the Type 218SG answers a lot of challenges.
German submarines are like BMWs, so we are very glad we decided on this class of submarine, he added. This new build is designed for Singapore roads, tailored to our ergonomics, size and driving range. Even the horn sounds better.
The RSN also ensured that the internal systems, like the engine and electronics, were cost-efficient and maximised the crews capabilities.
On board, every submariner you bring is a huge investment, RADM Cheong said. So in terms of combat fighting, you want the submarine to be able to do a lot but not by putting in a lot of people.
RADM Cheong said this is crucial to tackle the ever-present threat of terrorism at sea with an increasingly constrained manpower base. The saying is that one US aircraft carrier carries more people than the number of active personnel the RSN has.
Almost everything that we wear, eat and the energy that we consume every day comes through the sea, he added. So, what the Navy has done is to look at this environment and recognise that we need to defend our lifelines."
So they have electrical problems?
Possibly, but I can guarantee they will be driven by a******s.
So they have electrical problems?
Dont know but they may include software to manipulate their emissions readouts.
They took one to the dealer, and it needed a new computerized navigation system: parts, $800 million, labor $1.2 billion.
I'm a former owner of an 82 320i, 89 325i and 98 528i. That was my first reaction when I saw the headline. If the connections corrode on dryland, they'll turn to green goo at sea.
I used to admire German engineering until I read about the problems they had with their tanks in WWII. OTOH, Shermans were reliable machines.
I drove my sister’s 10 year old C class a few months ago. I still admire their engineering. But I own Japanese autos that will last through any trade war.
In an ocean filled with nuclear submarines. this one’s no better than a prius on the Autobahn.
Most interesting. Lots of details here ... all that’s seems to be missing is the launch codes.
Like a BMW? Spending gigantic amounts of money getting fixed at the dock instead of running out in the sea?
So, just wondering. Have any of you folks even ever owned a BMW automobile?
lol,,, thats my favorite corvette joke
I did. I loved that car. And it beat me up for it.
Delicate little flower, made like a fine wrist watch. A little something happens to it and the failures cascade.
If you own a BMW and plan on keeping it up, you will always have a $300/month payment. For the rest of your life.
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