Singapore’s Type-218SG – Forerunner of a new Submarine Class?

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Type 216 'Concept Submarine' is likely to be the basis for Singapore's new Type 218SG class submarine. Photo: TKMS
Type 216 ‘Concept Submarine’ is likely to be the basis for Singapore’s new Type 218SG class submarine. Photo: TKMS

Singapore is likely to expand the missions and operational capabilities of its submarine force in the next decade, fielding large ocean going submarines with mission endurance of weeks, even months in the next decade. Sofar the island state operated much smaller subs, designed for operations in shallow waters and littorals closer to home. The Defense ministry of Singapore announced this week it has ordered two new ‘Type 218SG’ submarines from the German-based ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS).

The 218SG is a customized design from ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems. TKMS did not provide much detail about the specification of the ‘Type 218’ submarine, hitherto an unknown designation, although the company mentioned the submarines would be fitted out with ‘air independent propulsion’ (AIP) from the baseline (unlike the Archers, that had to be cut apart to ‘plug in’ the AIP). The new submarine will be customized to address specific requirements of the Singapore Navy. Among those systems will be a comprehensive combat system provided by Atlas Elektronik GmbH, to be co-developed and adapted to the customer requirements by Singapore based ST Electronics.

RSS Chiftain is one of four Swedish built submarines currently operated by the Singapore navy. Photo: BQ-T via Flickr.
RSS Chiftain is one of four Swedish built submarines currently operated by the Singapore navy. Photo: BQ-T via Flickr.

German industry experts commenting about the deal said the project would cost about one billion Euros and is expected to take six years to complete. The first submarine will be delivered to the Singapore Navy in 2020.

Singapore is already operating two Archer Class submarines modified by the Swedish Kockums shipyard to meet the requirements of the Singapore Navy. Kockums, now a subsidiary of TKMS, built both Archer and Challenger, both designed for littoral, shallow sea operations.

The two Archer class submarines were bought from Swedish navy surplus in 2009. They were thoroughly modernized, fitted with Stirling Air Independent Propulsion engine and entered service with the Singapore navy this year. The diesel-electric powered Challenger Class vessels were built in 1967-8, and entered service with the Singapore Navy in 2001. With the introduction of new models they will be progressively retired from service. Singapore planned to buy four Archer Class submarines; it is yet unclear whether Singapore will exercise this option parallel to the acquisition of the new Type-218SGs.

What is Type 218SG?

At the recent IMDEX naval expo in Singapore TKMS submarine branch Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft (HDW) displayed models of its newly released Type 216 ‘concept submarine’. It is likely that the Singaporean Type 218SG will be a derivative based on this new class. In the past HDW extended the capacity of former models – for example, the Type 209 grew over the years from the basic 1000 tons submerged displacement to 1500, 1700, 1900 and even 2,300 tons (submerged displacement of the Type 800 Dolphin class).

Building upon a baseline platform of 4,000 ton displacement, HDW’s Type 216 is designed to be scaled up or down, thus better matching the requirements of navies seeking large, ocean going AIP-augmented diesel-electric powered submarines – as reflected in current Australian, Canadian and Indian acquisition programs.

RSS Archer is the lead submarine of the Archer Class commissioned with the the Singapore Navy this year. Photo BQ-T via Flickr
RSS Archer is the lead submarine of the Archer Class commissioned with the the Singapore Navy this year. Photo BQ-T via Flickr

HDW’s Type 216 ‘Concept Submarine’

[nonmember]
A cutaway showing the internal architecture of the Type 216 submarine. Drawing: HDW
A cutaway showing the internal architecture of the Type 216 submarine. Drawing: HDW

To learn more about the concept submarine developed by TKMS that could provide the baseline for Singapore’s future submarine, please SUBSCRIBE.[/nonmember][ismember]The Type 216 concept submarine is proposed as a long-range multi-mission submarine, designed with two-deck structure, separating machinery, accommodations, command and control and weaponry compartments allocated in two pressure-tight compartments. The pressure hull, eight meter in diameter is manufactured from ferromagnetic steel, with spacious design enables improved comfort for the 33 hands on board and flexible payload accommodation for weapons and mission-orientated exchangeable equipment. The submarine can also carry 21 additional passengers, supporting special operation missions. The length is about 89 meters, the height from bottom to sail is 15 meters. The unmanned low profile sail can be configured with up to nine hoistable, modular multi-purpose masts, providing optimal support for advanced sensors.

A cutaway showing the internal architecture of the Type 216 submarine. Drawing: HDW
A cutaway showing the internal architecture of the Type 216 submarine. Drawing: HDW

The submarine is fitted with Vertical Multi-Purpose Lock (VMPL) supporting various modules including up to seven vertically launched missiles. Mines and Unmanned Submersible Vehicles (UUVs) or diver support vehicles can also be launched from these 2.5 m’ wide locks. The submarine would also be fitted with HDW’s HABETaS rescue system. HABETaS provides a personal rescue system for the crew of a disabled submarine, enabling them to leave their boat from depths up to 300 meters, in the unlikely event that it cannot be surfaced.

The submarine is equipped with fuel cell propulsion driving Siemens Permasyn motor supported by Lithium-ion battery bank enabling exceptionally long endurance of up to 80 days. The fuel cell combines hydrogen and oxygen using methanol reformer to produce water while giving off electricity fed directly into the submarine’s main switchboard. The fuel cell is a silent energy converter, generating no exhaust gas and extremely low dissipated heat. It is configured as an extension of the conventional propulsion system. HDW claims its fuel cell is the only AIP system that can be performed in a closed boat, irrespective of diving pressure and with no deteriorating influence on the submarine’s signature.

The Permasyn design developed by Siemens uses a drive system employing permanent magnets, allowing it to work without additional electrical excitation. Although it is smaller and more lightweight than conventional propulsion solutions, Permasyn achieves much better efficiency at extremely low signatures, operating efficiently with very low signatures, an essential capability for long dives that makes the boat harder to detect. The propulsion system employs a new composite propeller, enabling high efficiency and low noise. The submarine is fitted with six 533mm launch tubes with discharge system for torpedoes, mines and missiles. The storage capacity allows for 18 reserve weapons, plus additional weapons ready for launch from the VMPL.

More Opportunities for TKMS

TKMS is also promoting a multi-billion US$ deal offering up to 16 submarines to Saudi Arabia. This deal may initially include five subs, with options for additional 20 vessels.

Another potential customer for the German subs is Poland, expected to decide on leasing two U-212A submarines from the German Navy. The Poles are likely to set their eyes on completely new design, but given the current budgetary constraints are likely to opt for the German lease, with the two submarines remaining in operation at least until 2030.

The recent win in Singapore is expected to strengthen TKMS stand in Australia, where it was determined as one of four finalists to be selected as prime contractor for the SEA 1000 project, delivering of 12 new submarines that will replace the current Collins Class sub.

Kockums, the Swedish submarine manufacturer that is owned by TKMS, designed the Collins, like the Singaporean Archer. Despite Kockums’ strong position in Singapore and Australia, industry sources claim TKMS has been keeping its Swedish subsidiary out of the competition, positioning the German-built subs instead. Sources at the Swedish defense ministry expressed concern over the German move to exclude the Swedish company from competing on export programs. Kockums is the prime contractor and designer of the A-26 – the Swedish Navy future submarine. While funding has been allocated for the program, formal acquisition of the program by the Swedish Defense Materiel administration has been delayed, allegedly over Swedish concern about the German intentions.[/ismember]