Navantia announce delays in the S-80 submarine programme
A weight imbalance issue will lead to delays of between 12 and 24 months
Navantia have announced this week that the S-80 submarine programme will be delayed by approximately 2 years following the discovery of a design deficiency during the final construction stages of the S-81 prototype.
Four of the new S-80 submarines, destined for the Spanish Navy, are in various phases of construction and the news is a serious blow for not only the company itself, but also the subcontractors and employees who work in the Cartagena dockyards where construction of the 4 vessels is currently underway.
The problem became apparent when equipment was being fitted inside the vessel, and engineers working on the project realised that there was a weight imbalance which could compromise the ability of the S-80 to submerge and re-surface.
Engineers calculated that the vessel was overweight by between 75 and 100 tons, a small percentage of the 2,200 ton dry weight of the vessel, but enough to render weight distribution calculations unviable.
An outside specialist is being brought in by Navantia to help resolve the problem, although initial suggestions are that the length of the vessel be extended from 71 metres to 80, to correct the imbalance.
Directives of Navantia met with Navy engineers on Monday to discuss the options, but the inevitable cost of not only extending the length of the vessel, but also all the readjustments which will be necessary as part of a project to resolve the issue will push the existing budget way beyond the current projections.
At the moment 2.3 billion euros is committed to the construction of 4 vessels, and each is currently in production, in various phases in Cartagena, Murcia
The decision on how to proceed will rest with the Secretary of State for Defense, who faces the task of deciding how to deal with the inevitable budgetary problems this will now cause, as well as the other issue which now arises for the Spanish navy, following the time delays which will now ensue: lack of submarines.
Originally the S-81 was scheduled for 2015 delivery, but these technical difficulties will now mean a delay of between 12 and 24 months, depending on the recommendations made.
This will delay the delivery of the other three vessels which had originally been scheduled as : S-82, November 2016; S-83, March 2017; and S-84, in May of 2018 .
The Spanish navy is currently operating the predecessors to the S-80, the S-70.
Four S-70 series vessels were constructed, one of which, the Sirocco, has now retired and is no longer in service. Of these, the Mistral is currently out of service as it is undergoing its latest “gran carena” or refit. This will be concluded soon as the Mistral has just been refloated after the major dry-dock work was completed and the Mistral will be back in service in the Autumn of this year.
The remaining 2 vessels, the Tramontana( S-74, 1985) and the Galerna both require maintenance. The Galerna (S-71) was completed in 1983, and had been scheduled to retire in 2015, to be replaced by the new S-80 and the Tramontana is also due maintenance works as she completes her cycle in June following the last gran carena. After its previous gran carena the vessel suffered a serious accident and required major repairs, and will now need to undergo a full gran carena if it is to continue in service whilst the issues with the S-80 are resolved.
It takes 18 months for one of these full refits to be undertaken, so the vessel will need to go into dry dock this year if it is to be ready to replace the Galerna in 2015.
Failing that, the Navy will be left with just one operational submarine, which will not enable it to fulfil its commitments to Spain’s NATO partners , so the Navy now has to decide if it is going to commit to the 35 million euros which it will cost to put this seriously aging submarines through a gran carena refit and ensure that 2 vessels are available once the Galerna retires.
Money which is currently not in this year’s budgets, and comes at a time of military cutbacks: the military have even cancelled this year’s Madrid parade as part of an austerity drive and scrapped their only flagship aircraft carrier, rather than keep it afloat and costing money.
Navantia have said in a press statement that, “delays are common in this type of project worldwide and are completely normal. The S-80 is a next generation submarine which is confronting previously unheard of technological solutions, for which reason technical difficulties during its construction and testing phase are inevitable. “
The statement continued, “The S-80 submarine is a fundamental element of the national defense , conceived and designed in order to confront the latest threats, and for this reason, is a sophisticated, innovative and technologically complex unit. This is a national design which overcomes major challenges to give us industrial independence in a strategic sector, and at the same time position us in a competitive export market. “
“Navantia believes in its capacity to conclude the programme successfully. As in all programmes which integrate critical technologies, the most important thing is not the problems which appear, but the capacity of the business to resolve them, mobilising the necessary resources. “
Australia and India have both been amongst those assessing the possibility of purchasing S-80’s, so Navantia will be keen to resolve the issue as rapidly as possible, not only to meet the demands of the Spanish Navy, but also to guarantee jobs for the future of its own workforce with export sales.
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