The Scorpene-class Submarine Option for the Philippine Navy

Recent reports provided some interesting insights regarding the increasing probability of cooperation between the French and the Filipinos, especially in terms of defense-related collaborations and agreements that may involve military technology. 

Hence, it always comes to the picture the ideas of having such assets being offered wherein its capabilities and design developments will be discussed to our knowledge here on the blog website.

This is the Scorpene-class Submarine INS Kalvari, currently in service
with the Indian Navy.
Image gathered via Wikimedia Commons.

On the reports coming beforehand, the Defense Department in a news article has expressed interest in buying brand new military hardware that is made in France, as the French themselves are also open to having a nice relationship with the Philippines especially in terms of defense-related cooperation.

Based on these reports, it is interesting to see that both parties involved are opting or are interested to have a nice cooperation with one another, as it means a lot that benefits both sides especially when a deal is already in place. The benefits provided here provided the French an opportunity in gaining another country to market its military hardware or products that can be seen as useful for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and its operations, as well as for the buyer gaining new equipment which is both efficient and effective in performing its duties and responsibilities as it complies to the requirements needed in augmentation on the assessment of threats that the country faces on both domestic and foreign areas. 

Before discussing more on the procurement option based on the product made by the French company Naval Group, it is worth reading this article we wrote years ago about the prospectives made by the Philippine Navy in terms of the procurement of submarines as a whole, entitling "The Philippine Submarine Procurement Program" written way back February 10, 2017. 

While the Scorpene submarines aren't provided in the article content, the French DCNS, which is now known as the Naval Group, is also known to produce the AMX-23 Andrasta as its affordability, as per that post, may go beneficial for a fleet like those of the Philippine Navy where the deals were traced back to the previous administration wherein Presidents of both the Philippines and France at that time signed an agreement which pertains to the both nations' Defense Cooperation Agreement

As such agreements being bonded since then, it comes as no surprise to why both the French and the Philippine Defense Department are interesting in a potential defense deal, wherein just as said here, the former is open for defense cooperation that increases their defense market foothold in Asia-Pacific region while the latter is opting to keep on Modernizing the whole Armed Forces as it goes per the Republic Act 10349 or the Revised AFP Modernization Program of 2013

Hence, with these interests and previous agreements forged between both sides as well as the aspiring dreams and aspirations of the Philippine Navy in terms of having capable assets on its fleet that may provide that deterrence a country needs in terms of protecting both the territorial water and the Exclusive Economic Zone this nation obtains. 

A French FREMM Frigate is being towed as it is being built in progress.
Image Courtesy to Naval Group through the link here.

Check their website here: 

Naval Group is notably a known French Defense Industry player specialized in Naval Shipbuilding and marine engineering which specializes in renewable energy solutions. As such, it is the main provider of military naval equipment primarily on notable countries in Europe, especially in its home nation of France, its immediate NATO neighbors like Italy, and several more outside of Europe which will be discussed throughout this article.

French Naval Shipbuilding started way back 1600s when building dockyards for exploring the world (and colonize several territories outside of Europe) was a trend back then, providing those maritime power projections that will help counter England's naval superiority at that time, sufficing enough for the country's national interest at that time particularly those of the French Royal Court's desire. No doubt that such maritime power was tested during the American Revolutionary War, where France utilized its Navy to help the American militias under Gen. George Washington to fight for freedom against the British Colonists of that period.

Moving on with time, more French shipyards were built across the nation's coastlines that serve as the country's backbone on its shipbuilding industry where it includes the construction of Naval Warships of various types such as Frigates and Battleships. 

Throughout the 20th Century, the French Naval Ship maintenance and repairs were being done by the French Navy through the Directions des Constructions et Armes Navales (DCAN), which in itself is the forerunner of the DCN or the Direction des Construction Navales, wherein this company became the mainstream provider of service and materials that are needed for the French Navy to keep up its ship's operations. 

It is worth noting that this shipbuilder is the one who built the La-Fayette class Frigates for the French Navy, in which its variants can be seen in several nations such as Taiwan's Kang Ding Class Frigates and Singapore's ever-sophisticated Formidable-class Frigates which is considered the most capable combat vessel obtained by a Southeast Asian Nation. 

The DCN and its DCAN predecessor were originally a shipbuilding company that is controlled by the French Government, in the same matter that the Israeli Shipyards were once under control by the Israeli Government before being a standalone company, or the Indonesian PT PAL Persero, wherein the Indonesian Government obtains a stake over the industry. That changed where itself was transformed from a government company into a standalone commercial enterprise supervised under private law

The company eventually undertakes a partnership agreement with Thompson-CSF (Now Thales), which is currently obtaining a stake within this undertaking that paves the way on a step that recognizes such setup that is shown through its name, DCNS - the direct predecessor of the current Naval Group.

Just recently, last June 28, 2017, DCNS changed its name into what is now known as the Naval Group, wherein it reflects its current mission which is more on producing naval products that stand on their principle of helping its customer nations protect their sovereign interests. Currently, it is notable to a worth that this shipbuilder's reputation is well known that they are also the ones behind France's Mistral-class Amphibious Assault Ships, Gowind-Class Corvettes (wherein Malaysia's Maharaja-Lela class Frigates were derived), and of course, the Scorpene-class submarines wherein several countries obtain and still currently in active service.

Check more of their products here: 
Naval Group - Products [link].

This is currently the Naval Group's Diesel Submarine being offered
in the market.
Image Source.

The submarine, on its first insight, defines what a French defense shipbuilding industry may bring to its customers, wherein such a weapon may define the ways of protecting the country and its national interest, especially if its geographical setup is ideal for the deployment of such sub-surface vessels like in the Philippines with its archipelagic setup. While the supplier of such submarines is currently done by the French Naval Group, here lies more of a story wherein its development isn't limited to a single country alone.

This is where France's neighboring country of Spain comes in. Way back to the early stage of the Scorpene's development, both DCNS and what was then Spain's Bazan (which is now called Navantia), collaborated one after the other wherein they jointly develop these submarines for the Chilean Navy. From there alone, it is worthy to note that such submarines are originally intended for export purposes, given that a French company such as DCNS also produces a different type of submarine for its fleet, such as the 1983-developed Rubis-class nuclear-attack submarines, wherein it is currently replaced by a more modern Barracuda-class nuclear-attack submarines. Not to mention that the French also obtains a handful of ballistic nuclear submarines in its inventory, coming in a form of the Triomphe-class nuclear ballistic missile submarines.

Speaking of the Rubis-class nuclear-attack submarines, it will definitely go as the primary basis on the design of the Scorpene-class submarines especially the improved Rubis variant which is the more silenced Amethyste submarines. The experience that DCNS has obtained back then with the Rubis then to the improved Amethyste helps influence the improvements being incorporated to the Scorpene-class submarines which are now being in operation in four countries that such submarines were exported. Currently, it is in service in the following countries:

Details as per posting (check the reference here).
- Brazil (2 in-construction, 3 planned)
- India (1 in service, 1 in trials, 1 in-construction, 3 planned)
- Chile (2 in service)
- Malaysia (2 in service)

Following the success in the delivery of the submarines to the Chilean Navy (naming the O'Higgins SS-23 and the Carrera SS-22), the French-Spanish developed submarine was then delivered next to Malaysia, bearing with names KD Tunku Abdul Rahman and the KD Tun Abdul Razak. Currently, the country that obtains the most number of Scorpene-class submarines is the Indian Navy, with three being built with three more under construction. 

In other words, if this is being considered by the Philippine Navy for its Submarine Procurement Project, it will not be much of a concern in terms of its procurement eligibility, given that four nations are currently utilizing it, exceeding the standard requirement of at least two nations utilizing the asset, other than the country of which these platforms were made.

Now to the specifics of the submarines themselves. If this will be considered, it is worth noting that its hull design is directly aiming to attain Stealthiness while getting that enhanced detection capability, which in turn to a better offensive power. It is sophisticated enough just to carry 32 crew onboard wherein the automation of the submarine's system will make things manageable on navy personnel assigned on the submarines.

In terms of power, it obtains two diesel generation sets of two individual generators which totaled to 1,250kW of energy provided for the submarine to be operational in which this goes augmented with an additional electric motor which generates 2,900kW of power. From here, one may say that the propulsion configuration of the vessel is in a Combined Diesel or Electric or CODOE in form. 

Such propulsion is a necessity given that diesel engines themselves generate more noise which defeats the purpose of the submarine's stealthiness since that sound generated can be detected underwater through an enemy submarine's passive sonar that is designed to detect sounds from the surrounding water to determine friend, foe, an innocent vessel or a biological animal such as a whale. The electric motor provides the stealthiness a submarine such as the Scorpene needs to perform its intended design.

Here are the specifications of the Scorpene-class submarines to provide the idea about its compositions, at least the ones provided in the public domain.
Table Reference Source.

The Chilean Navy Scorpene-class submarines. Image Source.

Even since before the Revised AFP Modernization Program took place, the Philippine Navy already desires to have a submarine for its fleet, only that recently, the Defense Department starts to set sights on their desire on getting submarines from France as what Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said as reported in this linked BusinessMirror article.

It is becoming apparent that the Department of National Defense is considering these French-made submarines where the Defense Secretary is about to visit France in September this year where he can witness first hand to the functions of the French Defense Industries there as well as getting in line with the French desire of seeking for a firm defense pact or cooperation between France and the Philippines.

Aside from getting the Philippines more capable to defend itself before its potential enemies ranging from terrorist bandits to territorial grabbers like China, the French are also assuring its territorial interests in both the Indian and Pacific Oceans given that they still obtain a handful of overseas departments or overseas territories in Oceania such as French Polynesia and New Caledonia as well as RĂ©union which is situated in the Indian Ocean.

The French submarine option is being looked at by the Defense Department given its reputation in shipbuilding where SecDef Delfin Lorenzana said that the French are good at building such assets. No doubt, as discussed along with this article, the lengthy history of the French shipbuilding, as well as the experience it coincides, are a testament of their ingenuity in which the French Navy in itself obtain a handful of nuclear-powered submarines, both attack and ballistic missile in nature. 

It is worth taking note that the Philippine Navy's Sail Plan initiative calls for three submarines to be purchased as it followed the rule of thirds where the procurement may take place within the Horizon 2 which is from 2018 up to 2022. Once materialized, this may mean an additional capability of the service branch to learn and enhance so as it revolutionizes the maritime naval deterrence that the country obtains against foreign adversaries.

Here, once again is the timeline of submarine purchases, along
with training and organization as per DOTMLPF analysis.
Obtained from Submarine Group article.

The Philippine Navy, as well as the Department of National Defense, now have the greater desire of seeking and planning of procuring submarines in which itself considered as the first for the Philippine Navy in which it lags itself currently against its neighbors like Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, China, and even Taiwan who obtains such sophisticated assets.

While seeking or having them is ideal for the country's maritime deterrence, it is also worth to take consideration the procurement of surface vessels wherein at the current rate, the Philippine Navy is about to receive its delivery of both the Jose Rizal-class Frigates and the BRP Conrado Yap from South Korea, with the latter to be initiated before this year ends. Not to mention that the service organization is also opting for more Offshore Patrol Vessels (in which Austal is leading) and two new corvettes which in itself is either equally or better-sophisticated vessels than the Frigates varying on the terms of the deal. 

All of which goes to show that the Philippine Navy, just as the other branches under the Armed Forces of the Philippines together with other uniform service organizations such as the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Coast Guard are growing together in a way that they are not only accepting more aspiring applicants to man up the respective organizations and agencies but also in buying new tools and equipment that will help assigned personnel to effectively and efficiently deliver their duties and responsibilities in a way that they adhere to what the nation's law mandates them.

It remains to be seen now to whether the Defense Department will stick to the French option in supplying submarines or switch on to another supplier, or put this under bidding altogether instead of having it put under some Government-to-Government deal which is an ideal approach of going French and considering the Scorpene as a submarine for Philippine Navy use. 

All that it takes now is to keep tabs on the progress of this project and see whether these organizational hopes and dreams will be getting closer to materialization which equates to the reality of having it purchased.

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