This is the second and last of two blogs I made about the Scorpene class submarines for the Philippine Navy (PN). You can access the first one here: Scorpene class Submarines for the Philippine Navy? – Part One.
To continue, based on its characteristics and features, the Scorpene 1000 (S1k) seems to be a combination of the Naval Group’s previous CA-2000, SMX-23 and Andrasta Coastal Submarine designs.1 2
As we can see from the above comparisons, the S1k is lagging behind the other submarines in performance and weapons. It has much less range, carries much less weapons and doesn’t have Land Attack Cruise Missile (LACM) capability. The only advantage it has over the Kilo class and Chang Bogo class submarines is its ability to fire the A3SM Submarine Launched Anti-air Missile (SLAM) which has a range of 20 km.
Despite this though, its smaller size also means that it has less acquisition, operating and maintenance costs, which could be ideal for a Navy like ours which will be getting its very first large submarine ever.
Another intriguing prospect is that if we get the S1k first then decide to buy the bigger Scorpene 2000 (S2k) submarines later then in theory the transition will be easier since they are in the same family of models since the familiarity will be there in terms of operation and maintenance.
So one option for us is that we could buy one or two of the smaller S1k first, operate them for a number of years then go and buy one or two more of the bigger subs later once we have familiarized ourselves on submarine operations.
The acquisition by Chile of its Scorpene submarines seem to be relatively trouble free, but the same is not true for Malaysia, India and Brazil’s acquisition of the same subs.
A number of technical problems were found with Malaysia’s Scorpenes, the most serious of which was when an unspecified problem prevented the submarine from diving.3 The problems were subsequently fixed by the manufacturer and does not seem to have reoccurred anymore.
But then some scandals came out related to the acquisition of the subs, the first of which was that around Usd 132 million in bribes was reportedly paid by the Naval Group to Abdul Baginda, a close associate of Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Najib Razak so the submarine deal will push thru.
Baginda’s mistress, a model from Mongolia who also happened to be pregnant at that time, was eventually murdered by two of Razak’s former Bodyguards after she reportedly tried to blackmail Baginda about the bribes.4
India’s P75 Scorpene submarines have been plagued by problems and delays, with the program itself now at least four years behind schedule. All the subs were supposed to have been completed by 2017 but that schedule has been pushed out to not earlier than 2021.5
The same is true with Brazil’s S-BR program, which has been facing similar delays.6 In fairness, it seems much of the problems and delays stem from the fact that the subs were being built in India and Brazil with the help of the manufacturer Naval Group rather than having them built in France.
’Data Leak’7 8
Probably the biggest issue about the Scorpene so far though is the leak of classified technical documents in 2011 but only revealed later to the Press in 2016. The documents totaled around 22,000 pages long and included Technical Manuals and models of the sub’s antennae.
Among the major details that were leaked were things like what noise the sub makes at various speeds and depths, Electromagnetic / Magnetic / Infra-Red data, speed and conditions for use of its Periscope, specifications of its Torpedo and Combat systems, etc.
However, the leaked data were specific only to India’s P75 Scorpene Submarines, and the leak happened way before any of the submarines were completed. The data released were theoretical in nature based on computer modelling and thus would be different from the actual data of the real submarine.
The design for the P75 submarines itself could’ve been slightly changed as the subs were being built to nullify the leak altogether. At any rate, the leak has not deterred any of the Scorpene’s buyers from using the sub, even India who is intent on completing the program despite the leak being specific to their model of the Scorpene.
’Final Scorpene Thoughts’
The Scorpene’s new design gives it some advantages over older designs, like the fact that it can travel further and longer underwater. It also has less crewing requirements, better sonar and has longer ranged SLAMs.
But having been introduced recently with only a few active boats right now (five subs in three navies), and based on the problems mentioned above (including the problems with the missiles in the first part), then that new design also seems to still have some developmental or “teething” problems.
I’m sure that the other subs like the Kilo and Type 209 also had their fair share of problems when they were just starting out. Remember that the Type 209 first entered service in the 1970s; The Kilos in the 1980s while the Scorpene only entered service in mid-2000.
I think that if we do get the Scorpenes, we may need to be prepared to face some problems since the design has not fully matured yet with just a few boats in actual operation. But any such problems could be just temporary and will eventually be resolved.
Assuming everything does work out for the Scorpene, we can still build a pretty strong presence for our Navy with them. An option for us could be to start out with a few of the smaller S1k models which would be a tremendous boost for our Navy already, but ultimately we may want to go with the full sized S2k models which has even better capability
For example, Scorpene 2000 submarines with weapon load outs below would be formidable assets not only to defend our territories, but also have some offensive land attack capabilities as well:
– Six Missile De Croisiere Naval (MDCN) – Naval Cruise Missile (NCM) for land attack;
– Five SM39 Exocet Anti-Ship Missiles (AShMs);
– Five Heavyweight Torpedoes for attacking enemy ships/submarines;
– Two A3SM for anti-air defense
Despite some reservations, I can’t help get excited overall at the prospects of the Philippines owning a submarine like the Scorpene. Here’s hoping for the success of the PN’s Submarine program with whatever model it ends up choosing with, hopefully it pushes thru soon.
- The Market for Submarines 2011-2020 by Forecast International ↩
- Mer et Marine, Scorpene Family ↩
- Problems with Malaysian Scorpene ↩
- The Thales Group’s long History of Corruption ↩
- Indian Navy has a Submarine problem ↩
- Brazil finally launches conventional Submarine Riachuelo ↩
- Scorpene Submarines by DCNS for Indian Navy: Major Security Data leaked; all we know so far ↩
- DCNS Scorpene leak: Upending India’s Maritime Strategy ↩