14 September 2009

Undersea Warfare and The RMN (1)

14 September 2009

KD Tunku Abdul Rahman (photo : fickr Wazari)

Later this month, the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN), which ordered two Scorpene CM-2000s on June 5, 2002 under a €1.04 billion (about RM4.78 billion) contract, will welcome its first diesel-electric submarines (SSK) to its operational fleet, thus becoming the third ASEAN country (after Indonesia and Singapore) to have an effective undersea warfighting capability. The Scorpene family of SSKs has been jointly developed by Armaris and Spanish shipbuilder Navantia (formerly Bazan, then Izar) of Spain.

The SSKs will be accompanied by an armaments package that includes Whitehead Alenia Sistemi Subacquei-built Black Shark heavyweight wire-guided torpedoes and up to 16 MBDA-built SM-39 Exocet submarine-launched anti-ship cruise missiles. The combat management system that will equip the Scorpenes has been developed by an Armaris subsidiary, UDS International, in partnership with THALES and DCNI.

Based on SUBTICS (Submarine Tactical Integrated Combat System), the system will be installed on board the first Scorpene in 2007. In April 2004, Armaris was awarded a contract for supplying the RMN with a shore-based, Scorpene-specific diving and platform management-cum-combat systems management simulator worth €25 million.

A ceremony to begin construction of the hull of one of the first Scorpene was held in Cherbourg in December 2003. On June 10, 2005 Prime Minister (who was then the Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister) Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Tun Razak had visited Armaris’ facilities in Brest and Cherbourg and Défense Conseil International’s (DCI) training unit, NAVFCO, in Brest to assess the progress of the Scorpene programme.

Scorpene cutaway (image : Naval)

On April 27, 2005, an official ceremony had marked the arrival of the first contingent of trainees from the RMN to DCI’s submarine training unit, the NAVFCO branch in Brest, where they began intensive submarine training.

It may be recalled that on June 1, 2006, the RMN’s then Chief of Navy, Admiral Tan Sri Ilyas Din, went to Brest, France, as part of a week-long tour of the facilities where the RMN’s submarine crews were undergoing training to operate the two single-hulled 1,450-tonne Scorpene-class SSKs on order. While in Brest, Admiral Tan Sri Ilyas presented the Dolphin Insignia and submarine course certificates to 60 RMN personnel undergoing training there to operate the Scorpenes.

The 37 RMN officers and 23 other ranks had just completed their basic course at the Centre De’Instruction Navale in Brest. While in France, Admiral Tan Sri Illyas also visited the French shipbuilder DCN International’s (DCNI) naval yard in Cherbourg where the two Scorpenes were being built fabricated. Disclosing that the RMN’s long-term plan was to raise its own submarine and naval base maintenance crew, the then RMN Chief had said: “We have to remember that the development of submarines cannot be seen merely as an operational requirement. To ensure that we are contributing towards our country’s development via the submarine platforms, we need skilled workers and excellent infrastructure to support it”.

This may mean that the RMN might sign agreements with other shipbuilders or dockyards—both local and foreign—to help out with SSK fleet maintenance at the depot-level, Admiral Tan Sri Illyas explained. “As with the other warships we own, we need to spend the first three to 10 years to learn from the shipbuilders. After that, we will do it ourselves,” he added.

Scorpene on construction (photo : Soerenkern)

Admiral Tan Sri Illyas also had then said that the RMN would decide whether or not it would bring back the Agosta 70B-class SSK—the Ouessasnt—that it acquired for sea training of the RMN’s first submariners in Brest. He had added that the RMN was conducting studies on the feasibility of bringing back the Oiessant, which was decommissioned in 2003 and was subsequently overhauled to serve as a training vessel.

“We may bring it back but perhaps not for operational use as this SSK has a lifespan of only another five years after an overhaul and that is just enough to train our men. Even if we decide to operate it upon bringing it home, it will be too costly. It would also be expensive to bring it back as a historical piece as it would be too complicated to de-assemble for transportation, re-assemble in Malaysia and maintain it,” Admiral Tan Sri Illyas had added.

Elsewhere in Asia, Armaris had on October 6, 2005 bagged the lucrative contract valued at Rs187.98 billion (US$4.2 billion) to supply the Indian Navy (IN) with six Scorpene SSKs. The IN’s longstanding plans to acquire the initial six Scorpene SSKs worth €2.2 billion underwent a makeover, both technically and financially, by early 2005 in order to realise their projected delivery schedules in the 2009-2015 period.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) now reworked the offer first made in mid-2002 by Armaris (formerly DCN International) of France under which the first two SSKs will be built in Armaris’ Cherbourg-based shipyard and delivered by 2009, while the remaining four vessels will be licence-built by the MoD’s Mumbai-based Mazagon Docks Ltd (MDL) from 2010 through to 2015. The MoD will also have the option of procuring another four MDL-built Scorpenes between 2015 and 2020.

Malaysia's Scorpene during construction (photo : Militaryphotos)

Armaris’ Chairman Peter Legros had on July 10, 2005 confirmed that the revised package was being finalised under which an adjustable price mechanism to offset the cost escalation caused by delays in finalisation of the deal would be arrived at by the MoD’s Price Negotiations Committee in the near future. Of the first six Scorpene SSKs, the first three vessels will be the CM-2000 variant and will have a conventional diesel-electric 12 PA4 V 200 SMDS propulsion system built by S.E.M.T. Pielstick, while the last three, known as the AM-2000 variant, will incorporate the diesel-engines as well as the MESMA (Module d’Energie Sous-Marine Autonome) air-independent propulsion (AIP) system. If the MoD decides to exercise the option to acquire another four Scorpenes, these will be AM-2000s.

The performance parameters of both variants will remain the same, except that the length of the AM-2000 model will increase to 70 metres and its submerged displacement will be 1,870 tonnes, against the 61.7 metres and the 1,565 tonnes of the CM2000. Both SSK variants will have a crew complement of 31 (with a standard watch team of nine) and endurance of 50 days. The hull will be built with HLES-80 high-yield stress-specific steel, which will allow the SSK to reach diving depths of up to 300 metres (1,150 feet) and achieve an average of 240 days at sea per year per submarine. The Indian Scorpenes will also feature a connection point for allowing a Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicle (that the Navy will procure from either the US or Sweden) to dock during collective crew rescue operations.

All six Scorpene SSKs will be equipped with Underwater Defense Systems’ SUBTICS (SUBmarine Tactical Integrated Combat Systems) combat management system (CMS), S-Cube integrated long-range sonar suite (comprising bow, cylindrical, conformal arrays, towed-arrays, flank/distributed arrays, and a high-resolution sonar for mine and obstacle avoidance) and CMO-10 non-hull-penetrating optronic mast (containing a thermal imager, high-definition colour TV sensor and wide-band RF sensors); Glasgow-based THALES Optronic Systems’ combined CKO-48/CHO-98 search-attack periscopes; and Elbit Systems-built combined SATCOM/VLS communications system and an electronic warfare/direction-finding suite; all of which will be acquired off-the-shelf. The IN will also acquire a shore-based integrated simulation facility called SUBTRAC that will contain separate modules replicating the Scorpene’s tactical command-and-control station housing the CMS, integrated platform management system, communications suite, weapons loading/fire-control suite, EW Suite, and propulsion system. SUBTRAC will provide Combat System Operator or Team Training, plus Combat System or Submarine Tactical Training.

Malaysia's Scorpene specification (image : The New Strait Times)

The primary armaments package for each Indian Scorpene SSK will now comprise up to four MBDA-built Exocet SM-40 Block 3 subsonic anti-ship cruise missiles and up to 16 533mm heavyweight electric torpedoes that can be launched from the six bow-located 21-inch torpedo tubes. The SM-40 Block 3 will have a range in excess of 180km and be equipped with a jam-resistant J-band active radar seeker with adaptive search patterns, plus GPS-based targeting avionics for engaging both warships and land-based targets.

The wire-guided heavyweight torpedoes to be acquired are Whitehead Alenia Sistemi Subacqua’s (WASS) BlackShark/IF21 (already ordered by Pakistan and Malaysia for their Agosta 90B and Scorpene SSKs). The open-architecture SUBTICS CMS, using TMS 320 C30 processors on a speed-ring network) dual redundant Ethernet databus, will include six multi-function consoles each equipped with two high-definition 19-inch colour AMLCD monitors. The S-Cube sonar suite will handle simultaneous surface/submerged target classification, identification and track management (among a set of 100 recorded tracks) using broadband, narrowband, demon and pulse (passive interception and ranging) processing channels.

Mounted on the SSK’s pressure hull will be launchers for the WASS-built C303/S anti-torpedo countermeasures system. The Scorpene’s MESMA AIP system has been designed to increase the SSK’s submerged endurance from 3 or 4 days to 2 or 3 weeks. Developed jointly by a consortium comprising Bertin, Armaris, Framatome-Thermodyn, Technicatome and Air Liquide of France and Izar, it will comprise a conventional steam turbine receiving high-pressure steam from a combustion chamber burning a gaseous mixture of ethanol and oxygen. Heat energy will be converted into electrical energy using a conventional Rankine cycle comprising a steam generator, turbo-alternators and a condenser. After inking the contract with Armaris, India became the Scorpene SSK’s third export customer. The Chilean Navy has already taken delivery of its two Scorpene CM-2000s, the ‘Carrera’ and ‘O Higgins’.


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