Norway opts for French, German submarine solutions

Norwegian Navy's Ula-class submarine. Photo: Norwegian Navy

Seeking to avoid risks and costs of developing its own submarines, the Norwegian Ministry of Defense has identified French DCNS and German TKMS as the main candidates for the construction of Norwegian future submarines.

The Ministry of Defense said it made this conclusion after considering economic, industrial and military assessments, and that it would now focus its efforts towards these two companies.

“France and Germany are amongst the largest nations in Europe. A submarine cooperation with one of these nations will secure that Norway acquires the submarines we need, whilst contributing to Smart Defence and a more effective cooperation on defense materiel in NATO”, said the Minister of Defence Ine Eriksen Søreide.

Since DCNS and TKMS are the largest manufacturers of submarines in western Europe, the ministry reckons submarine designs offered by these two companies will be a good starting point for Norway’s future submarines.

“Norway’s approach is to base an potential acquisition on an existing submarine design. We want to avoid a large development project with the risk, uncertainty and cost such a project entails. Our criteria is therefore that Norway’s future submarines shall be built by a shipyard that has a long and continuous experience in building submarines,” the Minister of Defence continued.

The Norwegian government decided in 2014 to investigate options for new submarines. This process is near its conclusion, and a recommendation is planned to be presented to the Norwegian government during 2016. Pending governmental decision, a formal procurement program will be presented to the Norwegian Parliament for approval.

The ministry added that it spent several years trying to achieve cooperation with other nations with the aim of reducing the acquisition costs and in-service costs for future submarines. The Scandinavian country is seeking to establish cooperation with non-submarine building nations planning a submarine acquisition, the efforts are aimed primarily towards the Netherlands and Poland.

This cooperation however depends on several factors for such a cooperation to succeed. This includes having a common set of requirements and synchronised timelines for acquisition. The cooperating nations will also have to seek common solutions in the areas of logistics and in-service support.

Norway’s six Ula-class submarines were commissioned between 1989-1992. The submarines were designed to last for 30 years, and will reach the end of their life in the mid-2020s.

The current plans are to operate the Ula-class until the mid-2020s. A procurement program for new submarines is expected to take more than ten years with first delivery approximately seven years after signing a contract, with subsequent delivery of one submarine per year.

The two prime contenders for Norwegian submarines are also competing for submarine contracts on another continent.

Namely, Australia is offering AU$50 billion for the construction of a new submarine fleet. The European companies are competing for the contract together with Japanese Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.

Due to the magnitude of the contract and geo-political implications the selection process has been extensively covered in both Australian and international media.

Recent reports from Australian media indicate that the decision might come before the next Australian federal election.

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