Updates on the Philippine Navy's Submarine Acquisition Project

Here is a detailed and quick update about the Philippine Navy’s Submarine Acquisition Program as there are multiple events that occurred since the last information between the two primary candidates for this project, namely Naval Group’s Scorpene-class Submarines and DSME/Hanwha Ocean’s DSME-1400 PN submarine offer.

Philippine Navy Submarine Acquisition Project, Hanwha Ocean, Navantia, Naval Group, Scorpene, DSME-1400PN, S-80 Plus.
Competition is tough between participating shipbuilders, especially between France's Naval Group and South Korea's Hanwha Ocean.
Image Sources - One and Two.

Since its inception, the Philippine Navy aspires to have its own submarine fleet that the leadership has opted to form a new submarine unit and eventually having it organized with personnel assigned, as these people undertook training in other countries like with France's DCI Group. This comes alongside the offers coming from different interesting shipbuilders that have come to a point that their representative governments came in to show support.

Currently, the Submarine Acquisition Project comes with the delivery of at least two (2) units of submarines, alongside training support, basing facilities support, and even financial support that came through soft loan or credit line financing that are enticing for the decision makers within the Philippine Navy to consider. The number of submarines needed under this project gets reduced from the previous three (3) units planned under an earlier iteration of the Philippine Navy Sail Plan.

Competition is stiff under this Acquisition Project, as there are at least two primary shipbuilders that are actively pursuing this project, with a third one being a new entrant who also attempts to bag this project by offering their own submarine design and additional subsystems features, hoping that they entice the decision makers within the Philippine Navy through this offer. The design they offer is relatively new compared to the proven design of the two primary bidders of the project.

The Philippine Navy, along with other service branches of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, are now actively pursuing a full modernization path as the Philippine government now gears the entire organization that shifts from a Counterinsurgency oriented one into the one that aims and reaffirms the country’s territorial defense, as the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity are currently being put under test by foreign powers as they claim parts of sea west of the country as theirs to have.

In this detailed update, the information about the recent developments on the Submarine Acquisition Project gets discussed further, especially with the recent packages and add-ons that the different shipbuilders have marketed under this project, along with the brief information about the submarine design offer made by the new entrant in this project.

Naval Group, Subic Bay, Philippine Navy, Agila Shipyard, Submarine Base
The French Shipbuilder Naval Group's Submarine offer also comes with a construction of a submarine base within the Philippine Navy's facility within Agila Shipyard in Subic Bay.
(c) Naval Group, via Image Source.

The French shipbuilding firm has become aggressive in their marketing strategy lately, as they opened a representative office in the country as part of their push for getting the contract under the submarine acquisition project. They have also provided multiple packages and add-ons to this project that are actually providing benefits in an essence that with French government support; they helped the Philippine Navy get its submarine force other than just securing the contract for the submarines.

Naval Group’s support plans should they be the one who gets the Submarine Acquisition Project comes with basing support for both submarines and surface fleets, whereby they may help the Philippine Navy improve its leased area within the Agila Shipyard complex in Subic Bay. The added facilities offered to the Philippine Navy submarine base comes with piers, maintenance yard, logistics depot, submarine force command-and-control facilities, and a submarine force training center.

The submarine basing comes alongside their offer of at least two (2) Scorpene-class submarines that are currently in-use by countries like Chile, Malaysia, Brazil, and India. In the Philippines’ case, the design configuration of its Scorpene may go more likely patterned to Brazilian Navy’s Riachuelo-class submarine, as it comes as the modernized reiteration of the French-designed submarine fitted with far modern subsystems as compared to other users like Chile and Malaysia.

Adding to the overall deal provided by Naval Group is the French support in terms of access to financial capital, as the credit line comes from the French Government through their Financing Ministry with a 100%, 20-year financing plan. This comes as a way not only for improving defense-related bilateral relations between the Philippines and France, but also a sign of an ever-increasing partnership between both countries that a similar set of opportunities for the Philippine Armed Forces may likely arise in the future.

Naval Group’s offer, overall, comes with sweeteners that may provide the decision makers within the Philippine Navy another chance to check and weigh the things that the French shipbuilder provide, as it can simply gets summarize as that the French are willing not only to provide the Philippine naval fleet a pair of submarines but also to provide the said naval service branch a foundation it needs to form a credible submarine force patterned after France, making it simpler to get additional Scorpene submarines for the fleet shall they take this path down the road.

Hanwha Ocean also provides a package that comes with their submarines.
Image from a Hanwha Ocean/DSME production.

Pitz Defense Analysis Update: Their offer got upgraded recently to Jangbogo-III PN submarine design. More details on the link highlighted on this portion right here.

While the offer made by France’s Naval Group is an enticing one, this does not mean that planners within the Philippine Navy will not check and consider the offer and sweeteners that have come with its competitor, whereby it actually comes with its own set of packages that are also worth considering, especially if the naval service branch opted this direction instead of the submarine force package provided by the said French shipbuilder.

The South Korean shipbuilding company’s offer also comes with a pair of submarines, although it comes with their own DSME-1400 PN submarine design that derives itself from South Korea’s own Chang Bogo (Jang Bogo)-class submarines. The latter comes as a mainstay submarine within the Republic of Korea (South Korean) Navy, as these vessels’ design also derives itself from the Type 109/1200 submarines of Germany’s ThyssenKrupp subsidiary Howaldtswerke-Deutsche Werft or HDW.

Like France’s Naval Group and their Scorpene Submarine offer, the one coming from Hanwha Ocean also comes with technical and logistics support, along with maintenance support and training. Also, their offer comes with a soft loan that comes from the Korean Export-Import Bank, a financial institution and credit agency that provides export loan and guarantees that enable the South Korean submarine deal to provide this financing, in a manner that it can compete with the 100% financing plan offered by the French Finance Ministry for this acquisition project.

Another country that operates the South Korean-made submarine is the neighboring country of Indonesia and their Nagapasa-class submarines, whereby the Indonesian Navy (TNI-Angkatan Laut) supposedly gets at least three submarines through a 2019 bid that predecessor DSME won, although the contract isn’t being implemented recently. To put it further, the Indonesians come dissatisfied with the submarines’ performance, while their defense ministry’s budget allocation has shrunk reportedly for the years to come.

With the problems involving the Indonesian submarine deal, there is a likely possibility that the pending submarines that Hanwha Ocean (DSME) have for the supposed delivery of the Nagapasa-class submarines may find its way to the Philippine Navy, should the South Korean shipbuilder won the acquisition project and secured the contract to deliver the submarines aside from the sweetened offers they made. 

Doing so will help Hanwha Ocean cement its foothold within the Philippine Defense market, aside from providing Integrated Combat Management System that its sister company Hanwha Systems provide to the Philippine Navy ships made by a fellow South Korean shipbuilder HD Hyundai Heavy Industries.

S-80 Plus, Isaac Peral-class, Philippine Navy, Submarine Acquisition Project.
Spanish shipbuilder Navantia presented the S-80 Isaac Peral-class submarine as its primary offer to the Philippine Navy.
Diagram courtesy of H.I. Sutton.

This update is not complete without discussing a new competitor on the Submarine Acquisition Project, especially the shipbuilder concerned is another European country that attempts to provide their submarines as an attempt to bag the contract on the pair of submarines with an integration of a submarine technology which they hoped that the Philippine Navy leadership may consider.

The said third competitor for the Submarine Acquisition Project of the Philippine Navy is the Spanish shipbuilder Navantia, and their S-80 Plus submarine service. This type of submarine is now slowly getting introduced into the Spanish Navy with the lead submarine named as the S-81 “Isaac Peral”, which itself defines the new fleet of submarines as the Isaac Peral-class submarines that the Spanish shipbuilder recently developed and improved.

With the vessel’s specifications being at 81.05 meters long, 11.68 meters in beam, a draught of 7.3 meters, and a displacement of 3,200 tons, the S-80 Plus Isaac Peral-class submarines count as one of the largest non-nuclear submarines ever made in the world, and its development isn’t always smooth sailing as Navantia encountered problems with its design during the period. One of those design-related concerns is the fact that a minor decimal difference renders the submarine being far more overweight that it originally designs for, pushing back timelines on its introduction and the Spanish shipbuilder needing to rehash its design with the help of General Dynamics that the redesign comes with a larger hull, longer submarine design, and a pressure ring for strengthened hull during diving periods.

It took the shipbuilder several years of delay in getting the design rehashed and improved until the first diving test took place in the first half of 2023, a decade after the first article about the critical design flaws and shipbuilder delays first mentioned. As expected, the delays and the redesigns made by Navantia may render the submarines far more expensive than the proven designs of both Hanwha Ocean from South Korea and Naval Group from France, as their only marketing point in this acquisition project is the fact that its submarine offer comes with an AIP or an Air Independent Propulsion system, something that both the DSME-1400 PN and Scorpene submarines offer does not have.

Like Naval Group and Hanwha Ocean, Navantia also offered a package that involves support from the Spanish Government in terms of financial support, along with its own set of packages such as having Philippine Navy personnel undertake submarine training with the Spanish Navy. This includes a submarine base that is apparently set in Ormoc, Leyte which is far from the planned submarine yard by Naval Group in Subic Bay's Agila Shipyard. 

Scorpene-class submarines, Philippine Navy, Naval Group, France
Here is an image that provides detailed specifications of a Scorpene-class submarine in a diagram.
Image Source.

The Philippine Navy Submarine Acquisition Project has shown signs of intensified competition, especially between France’s Naval Group and South Korea’s Hanwha Ocean (DSME), as the increased budgetary requirements allotted for the project enables the said two shipbuilders to present their respective packages hoping that the leadership within the naval service branch will choose their offer and seal the deal once winning the bid.

Both aforementioned shipbuilders presented their proven designs that several navies across the world currently use, in a manner that the Philippine Navy has presented with multiple options for the future of the fleet with regards not only to its naval capabilities but also to the composition and structure of the submarine force it choose to get that defines the success or failure of this project.

This project also comes with a late entrant to the competition, as Spain’s primary shipbuilder Navantia attempts to secure a market in Southeast Asia through the Philippines by presenting the S-80 Plus submarine, known in the Spanish Navy as the Isaac Peral-class. After years of delay and critical design revisions that almost risked the status of their submarine program, recent progress took place regarding their design, and it now comes to their present marketing, hoping that the Philippine Navy will get and have it as the first export customer of its submarines.

In the end, the decision and the outcome on the direction of the Philippine Navy’s Submarine Acquisition Project lies to the ones who oversee the bidding, and also to the leaderships’ preferences for the specifications and packages that each shipbuilder that took part on this project has provided. So far, at the time this article gets published, the primary preferred shipbuilder as reported is with France’s Naval Group and with their Scorpene-class submarines plus the submarine facilities it provided under their presented package.

To surmise this up, the Philippine Navy Submarine Acquisition Project is getting more competitive than ever, as every shipbuilder that takes part in the biddings are doing their best in securing not only the contract for this project with the Philippine Navy but also getting a foothold with the country’s market for naval assets, as the support that a winning shipbuilder provides may help them get another opportunity in having another acquisition project presented to them. This comes as the Philippine military gets all the capability it needs in this time that up-arming the organization for external defense is much needed than ever.


Pitz Defense Analysis Note: We edited and updated the portion that involves the packages provided by the Spanish shipbuilder Navantia for the Philippine Navy, plus the financial support from the Spanish government. We originally published this article in a scheduled posting that comes with prior information that Navantia does not come with the packages and government support as mentioned.

(c) 2023 PDA.


Anonymous said...

You are doing an excellent job here on your blog. I hope you keep it up. Thanks a lot.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, great news. I would prefer PH to be part of Australia's program to acquire US and British nuclear powered submarines. Let's acquire the best.

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