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Massimo Annati

Asian Submarine Forces Taking Shape

Is an Underwater Arms Race Taking Place in Asia?

Four refurbished and "tropicalised" ex-Swedish Navy SJORMEN-class boats form the Republic of Singapore Navy Squadron 171 (CHALLENGER class). (Photo: Singapore MINDEF)

Despite the seriousness of the global financial crisis, the Asian defence markets are in better condition than most of the rest of the world. The procurement of submarines makes no exception, as a growing number of programmes are being pursued all over the continent.

Current procurement trends in Asia as regards submarines do show a number ot significant differences with the European market, once the most important for this as well as many other defence segments. First of all, in Europe there is a generalised feeling that armaments are nowadays needed mostly, if not only, for peacekeeping and crisis management, rather than for warfighting. Additionally, in the case of submarines, there is no perception of an evident threat. The Asian overall security situation is much more fluid than it is the case in Europe, being marked by emerging superpowers, nuclear tensions, and countless border disputes. Even neighbouring countries with some ongoing cooperation in the maritime security field, like Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia, are still eyeing each other's naval building programmes with some hints of
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suspect, and it is not going unnoticed that two of these countries have just recently raised a valuable submarine arm from scratch. In this framework, procurement of new strategically relevant equipment such as submarines could start sort of an arms race, and indeed some observers would maintain that this is already the case. Further, new technologies are making boats, as available on the export market much more performing than in the past, which increases the impact of their procurement on the regional military balance. Air-Independent Propulsion (AIP) is becoming a common requirement for many navies and, in more general terms, the range and undenAiater operational capabilities of the new boats far exceed those cf the previous generation, thus potentially altering the strategic balance. Also, the capability to operate submarine-launched anti-ship missiles is becoming more and more common, though not ail the naval services consider this an important requisite. Submarine-launched land attack is another booming new role, as many navies are going to expand their operational roles to include a capability which until now was effectively reserved to super-powers. No wonder therefore that the demand for submarines in Asia is high as never before. German and French shipyards are feasting in this rich market, yet other contenders (such as the Swedish and Russian) also scored some

important successes. Additionally some Asian countries (Japan, China, and to a much different level, India and South Korea) are also designing or at least building their own boats, though an export of these domestic models is rather unlikely for the near foreseeable future. The following sections provide a succinct review of the current and planned programmes for the construction or purchase of submarines across the continent.

China's warships building capability is growing at an impressive pace, and the submarine sector is no exception. The 13 boats of the SONG class (Type 039-039G) were commissioned between 1999 and 2006, being built to a domestic design. It is worth to note that in the very same years (1995-2006) the PLA(N) also took delivery of twelve KILO-class boats sourced from Russia (at first two Project-877s originally ordered for a former Warsaw Pact country and never delivered, then two Project636s, followed by eight Proiect-636Ms). Quite evidently there was not a sufficient ievel of confidence in the domestic capability to design and produce a modem submarine, and/or the dual procurement track was intended as a shortcut to quickly commission a consistent number of state-of-the-arf diesel/electric boats exceeding the building capability of the two



The KILO type, shown here in Chinese PLA(N) service is numerically the most successful export submarine design in Asia. (All photos: via Author unless otherwise stated)

The YUAN's overall design seems a combination of Chinese (Type 039G MING-class) and Russian (Project 836 KILO-class) features. Its main characteristics are a large sail, a teardrop hull with a marked hump, four aft diving planes and two hydroplanes on the sail. Two different models have been identified (Type 039A and B), with detail differences (perhaps as a result of the operationa trials with the first boat) in the design of the sail and the water holes arrangement. The YUANs are also the first Chinese boats to be built with an AIP module (most likely a lOOkW Stirling-cycle engine). Other aspects remain much similar to the KILO class, including the arrangement of the six 533mm torpedo tubes. The other Chinese newcomers are the SHANG'Class {Type 093) SSNs and the JINclass (Type 094) SSBNs. The attack submarine was designed with Russian support, though, contrary to earlier reports, it bears no resemblance with the VICTOR-III boats. The development programme required a significant amount of time, as the first components for the lead boat began to be built back in 1994, and she was launched at the end of 2002 and commissioned in 2006. By 2010 there will be four Type 093 units in service. The SHANGs have an estimated dived displacement close to 6,500 tons. Their design features a water-drop shape hull, with a pair of fin-mounted hydroplanes and four diving planes. Armament and performance are still quite uncertain. Pictures reveal a flank-mounted sonar, in addition to a main bow mounted sonar. The noise level is estimated to be comparable to later units of the US LOS ANGELES class, therefore marking a sensible improvement over previous Chinese designs. Two new SSBNs are already in service, with a further pair being built- Apparently the JIN class is based on the design of the SHANG class, with a large plug-in section of some 30m for the twelve missile tubes. Once completed this new class will allow China to start deterrence patrols as soon as the JL-2 SLBM become operational. Such patrols were of course not conceivable with the single XIAclass SSBN in service, and, again, this is going to greatly alter the strategic balance.

The SHANG-class (Type 093) SSNs are progressively being built for the PLA(N), with four boats expected to be commissioned by 2010.

Chinese submarine shipyards (initially only Wuhan, then also Jiangnan-Shanghai). The four older KILOs were originaiiy expected to be refitted in Russia to include the capability to use the 3M54E KLUB depth-to-surface anti-ship missile (this capability is already present in the later Project 636M boats). Instead they went to Chinese shipyards and were modified to operate Chinese weapons (YU6 torpedoes and YJ83 anti-ship missiles) completing their refit in July 2007. Besides the desire to increase logistic compatibility with the SONGclass boats, the change makes sense also in that integration of KLUB missiles within earlier models of the KILO series is plagued by many problems, as the troubled Indian experience will show {see below).

The latest member of the Chinese diesel/ electric submarines family is the YUAN class (Type 039A. or Type 041A, according to other sources). The origins and intended scope of the programme are not very clear. The first boat was initially noted in mid-2004, just after being launched, and was commissioned in 2006, but no further activity was apparent for the following couple of years. It now seems that a building programme is progressing, with ttiree boats already commissioned and other units under construction. Based on the current pace, ten boats are expected to be in service by the end of 2010.

The new JIN-class SSBNs will for the first time enable the PLA(N) to conduct regular nuclear deterrent patrols.

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The YUAN class is the latest Chinese diesel/ electric submarine design, showing considerable improvement over previous types.

The Indian Navy is completing the programme for the refit and modernisation of its ten SINDHUGHOSH-class boats {KILO type) in Russian yards. (Photo: Indian Navy)

Submarines are also high in the shopping list of the Indian Navy, with a stated goal for a new force of no less than 24 modern diesel/electric boats fo be met (hopefully) by 2017. DCNS of France signed a contract in October 2005 for six SCORPNE-type submarines to be built at Mazagon Dock in Mumbai as the first step in Project 075 (Project 075A), with an additional nine boats as an (unlikely) opfion. These boats will be fitted with the SUBTICS combat system, and will be able to operate SM39 EXOCET anti-ship missiles. It was initially expected fhat these boats would be fiffed wifh some kind of AIP, buf it now seems that this has been postponed to a possible future refit requiring the insertion of an 8m plug for the MESMA system. This is not very likely, however, mostly in fhat fhe very same AIP solution was also selected by Pakistan for its KHALID class (AGOSTA 90B type). The original schedule called for the firsf boat to be delivered in 2012 and fhe entire class to be in service by 2017, but fhe programme appears having been delayed by difficuifies wifh the technology fransfer package. Additionally, Mazagon Docks has nof worked on submarines for the past 15 years (the last SHISHUMAR-class boat was commissioned in May 1994). and the resulting loss of know-how and expertise has a negative influence. Project 075 calls for an evenfual fofal of 18 submarines in fhree bafches of six boafs each, which however could be of a different design. The RfP for the second batch (Project 075B), to be commissioned in 2015-2020 is expecfed to be circulafed fhis Summer fo Rosoboronexport (AMUR), DCNS (SCORPNE or MARLIN), and TKMS/HDW (Type 214). Specificafions are widely expected to include an AIP auxiliary plant, with hydrogen fuel cells as fhe preferred solution. If confirmed, this would seem to place TKMS/HDW in a very favourable position, as the only shipyard in the world able to offer boats with a reliable and mature fuel cell AIP technology. On the other hand, Pakistan is reported to be negotiating an order for fhe Type 214 design, which would make if a rafher unlikely choice for the Indian Navy. Be this as it may, the Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) hopes fo develop an indigenous AIP solution in four fo five years, and works are ongoing at the DRDO Naval Material Research Laborafory in Mumbai. Another specific requiremenf of fhe Project 075B is the capability to fire land-atfack misMilitary Technology WILTECH 5/2009

siles. As many as 28 unifs of fhe 3M14E land attack variant of fhe KLUB missile family were ordered in June 2006, supplemenfing the existing inventory of 3M54E anti-ship variants. Studies are also underway for a submarinelaunched varianf of fhe BRAHMOS cruise missile which features both anti-ship and land attack capabilities, but at 670mm-dia. it is too large to be fired from sfandard 533mm torpedo tubes or even the larger Russian 650mm tubes fitted to other classes. While adding a plug-in section with vertical tubes to existing boats could represent a solution, it is most likely that only future submarines (either diesel and/or nuclear powered boats) will have fhis capability. While, in principle, a different set of torpedo tubes could be arranged for many types of submarines, the Russian AMUR is currently the one and only diesel/elecfric boaf design to be equipped with vertical missile launchers. The Indian Navy is also working to upgrade its fen SINDHUGHOSH-class (KILO type) submarines, commissioned in the 1986-2000 period. The decision to expand the class beyond the original six boats was taken in consideration of the slow progress of the SHISHUMAR class (Type 209-1500) programme, locally built under German supervision, which, af fhe same

time, was terminated after four boats compared to six as originally planned. The KILOs are progressively undergoing a refit cycle in Russia, replacing the original batteries with a German model, upgrading the battery cooling plant, changing the diesel engine, and receiving the capability to launch 3M54E KLUB anti-ship missiles, which initially belonged only to the last boat of the class (INS SINDHUSHASTRA, the only Project 877E). The latter measure found initially some difficulties as a number of missiles went astray during launch tests. These integration problems were eventually solved, however, and later tests were successful. Both the KILOs and Type 209s are also being fitted with Italian-made C303 torpedo decoys. India has been also studying a nuclear powered submarine since the '80s. The programme, known as ATV (Advanced Technology Vessel) is reported to be aimed at a SSN/SSGN design armed with torpedoes as well as antiship and land-attack missiles. In addition, the ATV will also fake sort of a tactical SSBN task with nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles. The K-15 SAGARIKA missile for underwater launch was tested m February 2008 with an unusual solution - a submerged platform positioned at 50m



The Russian-built Project 971 (AKULA II class) SSN, the NERPA was to be transferred to the Indian Navy as INS CHAKRA in early 2009 under a 10-year lease contract. In early 2009, however, Russia postponed the programme indefinitely due to the need to carry out new sea trials following a disastrous accident in early November 2008 (accidental release of firesuppression gases) which killed 20 people onboard.

Proect-636 KILOs or one AMUR 950 and one KILO} plus options for up to eight additional units was announced in mid-2007, but this appears having since collapsed due to Russia having withdrawn its previous offer for a US$1 billion credit line. There was also a reported interest for Chinese and South Korean designs (i.e., licencebuilt Type 209s), yet to materialise in any formal request. Another possibility being raised of late is the purchase of second-hand South Korean Navy Type 209s, as these are progressively replaced by the new Type 214s (see below).

The eleven OYASHlO-cIass boats (picture shows the NARUSHIO) make up the strongest submarine nucleus in service with the Japanese MSDF. replicated through the 10-year lease of a Project 971 (AKULA II class) SSN, the NERPA that was to be transferred in early 2009 being renamed INS CHAKRA. She however suffered a severe accident during pre-delivery sea trials in November 2008, killing 20 members of the test team, and the programme has been postponed indefinitely. The Japanese MSOF submarine force is second only to the Chinese PLA(N) and operates a force of 19 advanced diesel/eiecthc boats. The fleet cun'ently includes seven 3200 tons (dived) HARUSHIO-class, built in 1990-97 (one of these boats, ASAHIO was modified in 2001 with the addition of a Stirling AIP module and has since been transferred to training duties) and eleven OYASHIO class (3500 tons dived, 82m length), the last of which was commissioned in March 2008. Their sonar system includes a bow unit and a ZQO 5B--6 mediumlow frequency fiank array system, plus a ZRQ1 very-low frequency passive towed array (derived from the US BQR-15). The armament includes UGM-84 Sub-HARPOON missiles as well as Type 89 (anti-ship) and Type 80 (ASW) torpedoes. The speartiead of the future JMSDF underwater force will however be represented by the four units of the SORYU class (originally refer-

depth in the Bay of Bengal. There were three successful tests and SAGARIKA is expected to become operational in 2010. The missile's range effectively depends ... on Ihe source, as reported figures can be as different as 300km. 750km, 1000km. 1300km and up to 2500km, ATV could be fitted with twelve SAGARIKAs, achieving a retaliatory strike capability, or, in perspective, wifh four longer-range AGNI-III SLs. The ATV is being built by a consortium formed by Larsen & Toubro. Mazagon Dock, and Bharat Electronics. It will have a displacement of some 6.000 tons, and will feature a nev\/ domestically designed USHUS sonar suite. The first elements of the ATV hull were laid down in 1998, and in 2007 the PWR nuclear reacfor was fitted onboard. Sea trials are expected to start in late 2009 or early 2010, with the longer-term goal to field a nuclear-povt/ered squadron of five-six submarines by 2025. Within the earliest stages of the ATV programme back in 1987 India leased a CHARLIEI SSN from the then Soviet Union for three years (the first and still only case of a nuclearpovifered warship being transferred to a third country) for the purpose of establishing requirements and doctrines. This was expected to be

The requirement for a much larger submarine force of up to twelve boats by 2024 to supplement and eventually replaced the two ageing Type 209s currently in service has been formally express a number of times, but the available financial resources are very unlikely to support such an ambitious expansion. An order for two Russian boats (variously reported as two

The new SORYUs for the Japanese MSDF (picture shows the lead ship) are easily the largest and arguably most sophisticated and capable diesel-electric submarines currently under construction anywhere in the world.


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By the end of 2009, the Royal Malaysian Navy will have commissioned a new submarine force with two SCORPNE-type boats. Picture shows the lead ship TD TUNKU ABDUL RAHMAN.

red to as Improved OYASHIO or 16SS). The first boat was launched in December 2007 and commissioned in March 2009, and the remaining three units should enter service in 20102012. with a possible fifth unit as an option. Compared to the OYASHIO the new design is larger (4200 tons submerged, 84m length), and the most evident difference are the X-shaped tail planes. Yet the most significant change is the presence of an AIP module with four Stirling engines. Considering the level of the Japanese designs and equipments, if Japanese shipyards were allowed to export their products these would certainly become strong competitors on the global defence market.

South Korea
The KSS-2 programme was launched in November 2000 with an order for a first batch of three TKMS/HDW Type 214 submarines, fitted with fuel cells AIP, to be built by Hyundai Heavy Industries in Ulsan. The first two boats, SOHN WON-IL and JEONGJI, have already been commissioned, and the third unit is fitting out, A second batch of six identical submarines were then ordered in January 2009, under the form of HDW-delivered packages to be assembled by a yard, that will be selected by the MoD, boat per boat in a competition between Hyundai and Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering, which already successfully built the nine Type-209 boats. Daewoo has won the contract for the first submarine of the second batch, while the follow-in orders are still pending. The six boats of the second batch are expected to be all in service by 2020, Korea was the second customer for the Type 214, just after Greece, yet the Korean programme is clearly to be regarded as a full success, while the Greek project is still limping along amid bitter complaints and disagreements with no boats in commission yet. It is also significant to note that thanks to its intelligent use of technoiogy transfer. South Korea is now one of the very few countries in the world boasting two national yards able to build modern submarines.
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The KSS-2 programme is to be followed by the KSS-3 project, which entered the definition phase in 2007. Three submarines of some 3.500 tons are planned, with the first unit commissioned by 2020. and a total series of up to nine units could be envisaged. These will be the first indigenous submarines to be built in Korea, after the first modest experience gathered with two KSS-1 midgets built in 1983, With this programme Korea would join the very exclusive club of nations with an autonomous submarine design and building capability. Rumours of a possible interest for building nuclear-powered submarines were firmly dismissed as inconsistent. In the framework of its submarine programme. South Korea has ordered three EHCLS control consoles and 16 UGM-84L HARPOON Block-ll missiles, i,e. the variant capable to attack ships in port as weil as costal targets. "Hie possibility also exists (at least in principle) for ROK Navy submarines to be eventually equipped with land-attack missiles; the CHEON RYONG cruise missile, first tested in October 2006 and offering a 500km range, has a diameter that would make it compatible with launch from standard 533mm torpedo tubes,

ommissioned in the French Navy in 2005 after a refit, but is on loan to Malaysia for training purposes operating from Brest and at the end of this year could as well be transferred to Malaysia. The Malaysian SCORPNEs are not fitted with an AIP solution, though this could be retrofitted later, if required,

When Pakistan inked the contract for three AGOSTA-90B submarines (to become the KHALID class) in September 1994. there were a lot of comments from the naval community worldwide. This was the very first time that an AlP-equipped submarine design was exported, as well as the first export order for SM39 EXOCET missiles. The programme ran through a gradual transfer of technology, with the first boat built in France, the second assembled at Karachi shipyard with sections supplied by France, and the third built directly in Karachi, The latter boat, PNS HAMZA commissioned in May 2008, is also the first to be fitted with the 200kW MESMA AIP system, with a hull extension of 8.6m, The first and second boats of the class will have the MESMA section retrofitted during their next major overhaul, likely from 2012 onwards. The KHALIDs are the only users of this AIP solution. In 2006 Pakistan began evaluating a further procurement programme to enlarge its underwater ami, as the two earlier AGOSTA-70 boats (HASHMAT class) are quickly approaching the end of their useful service life. The contenders were the DCNS MARLIN (an improved and "allFrench" SCORPNE) and the TKMS Type 214, The latter was eventually selected, and a contract is currently being negotiated. Three boats will be built in Pakistan, with the first delivery expected by 2014. The Pakistan Navy will thus have the dubious distinction of being the only service worldwide to operate two different types of AIP (MESMA and fuel cells), as well as two different depthto-surface anti-ship missiles (SM39 and SubHARPOON UGM-84L), different torpedoes (French F-17 and German DM2A4}. and so on.

On 26 January 2009 TD TUNKU ABDUL RAHMAN, the first of two SCORPNE-type submarines ordered by the Royal Malaysian Navy in 2002, was delivered on schedule by DCNS in Toulon. The formal delivery ceremony came after almost one year of operational tests and sea trials, which included the successful firing of SM39 EXOCET missiles and BU\CK SHARK torpedoes, integrated in the SUBTICS combat system. The second unit, TD TUN RAZAK built in Spain by Navantia, began sea trials on 11 February, and is scheduled for commissioning in October 2009. These are the first submarines ever of the Royal Malaysian Navy. In the meantime some 150 Malaysian sailors unden^vent submarine training onboard the AGOSTA-class submarine. OUESSANT. This training package was an important part of the SCORPNE deal, as Malaysia had no previous experience of submarine operations. The OUESSANT was rec-



The Republic of Singapore Navy takes a very detenmined approach to the safety of its submarine crew. Picture shows Col. Aw Eng Lim, Commander RSN Squadron 171, explaining the structure and organisation of the RSN submarine rescue programme to the visiting Rear Adm. Michael Connor (US Navy), Commander Submarine Group 7, during a submarine staff oonference in October 2008. (Photo; Submarine Group 7)

The relatively small but very advanced Republic of Singapore Navy opted to achieve a submahne arm in the mid-nineties. This was a major effort, requiring as It did the building of both technical and operational skills in a totally new field. Accordingly, the programme has been implemented through a coherent series cf carefully planned subsquent steps. The decision was thus announced in September 1995 to acquire four SJORMEN-class second-hand submarines from Sweden, including a first boat to be transferred immediately for training purposes, another three units lo be recommissioned after a major overhaul also including modifications for use in tropical waters (e.g. air conditioning and battery cool-

ing), and a fifth one to be used as source for spares. The four boats became the CHALLENGER class, and joined the RSN between July 2000 and June 2004. This was just a first step, however, as a further agreement was reached in 2005 covering the transfer of two upgraded VSTERGTLAND-class boats from Swedish Navy surplus.

The upgrade included the addition of a 12m hull section with two 75kW Stirling Mk3 AIP modules, thus upgrading these boats to a configuration similar to the later SDERMANLAND class. Other major improvements included the Thaes SUBAC combat system and sonar suite, BLACK SHARK torpedoes, C303 torpedo decoys, a new optronic periscope, and a lock-out chamber for combat divers. The two upgraded submarines are to be re-commissioned in Singaporean service next year, probably replacing two of the CHALLENGER-class boats. Cooperation between Singapore and Sweden on these two programmes is regarded as very satisfactory, and it might conceivably be continued through the participation by Singapore to the development of the next-generation Swedish A26 submarine design. The Singaporean submarine service is also getting a new submarine support and rescue ship, the only unit of this type in South East Asia. In November 2008 SWFIT RESCUE was launched by ST Marine, Measuring 85m by 18m, it is designed to house a Submarine Rescue Vessel (SRV) and its handling systems on board, in addition to decompression chambers and a helicopter deck. The SRV, which is still being built in Great Britain by James Fisher Defence, can be lowered to a depth of 500m to reach a distressed submarine.

PNS HAMZA, the third and last KHALID-class boat (AGOSTA-90B design) for the Pakistan Navy, was commissioned in May 2008.

The ROK Navy is the first Asian customer for the Type 214 design, having ordered a first batch of three boats in November 2009 and another six in January 2009, Picture shows the lead ship, SOHN WON-IL. (Photo: Viggen's Blog)


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Two ex-Swedish Navy VASTE RGTLANDclass submarines are to join the Republic of Singapore Navy in 2010 after a refurbishment and upgrade programme. Depth-to-surface anti-ship missiles are rather popular amongst Asian navies, with the YJ83 (China), the SM39 EXOCET (Malaysia, Pakistan and India) and the UGM-84L Sub-HARPOON (Japan, South Korea, Pakistan, Taiwan) (shovm).

Though the last in alphabetic order, ahd thus far away from China, the fate of the ROC Navy's submarine arm is closely related to the extreme political pressure exerted by the Peopie Republic of China against any possible supply of submarines to what they regards as the rebel island. For many years now Taiwan has been vainly trying to procure modern submarines, to replace the two Dutch-made HAI LUNG-class boats commissioned in 1987-88 and the two obsolete GUPPY-II class boats. In 2001 the US Administration announced the intention to support the acquisition of eight diesel submarines, but despite this bold declaration no further step

was taken. Countries such as Germany, the Netherlands, France and Australia, refused any proposal of getting involved in the programme. The only design available in the US was said to be based on the 50-year od BARBEL, with no US shipyard having recent experience in designing or building a diesei/electric submarine - a situation that continues to be strongly supported by the US Navy's "submarine mafia", for fear of "contaminations" between diesel/electric and nuclear-powered submarines. In 2005 Taiwan announced the intention to fit Sub-HARPOON missiles into the HAI LUNGs, and in mid-2008 the US Administration finally authorised the sale, together with other weapon systems. The contract, which has not yet

been signed as these lines are being written in March 2009, includes 32 UGM-84L Block-II missiles and two control consoles. This would also provide a limited land-attack capability, although, from a strategic point of view, it would certainly not change the outcome in case of a conflict with the giant neighbour.

The lack of suitable replacements is forcing the ROC Navy to maintain in service (although only for training) the two venerable HAI SHIH-class boats (GUPPY II type).

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MILTECH 5/2009