submarine builders will begin work with an offer from November

On November 16, the Defense Materiel Organization (DMO) sends a request for proposals to the three shipyards that are still in the race for the replacement of the Hvalros class. On the basis of that request, the shipyards send their offers, after which a winner can be chosen. To do this, the budget has been increased. Secretary of State Van der Maat announced this in a letter to the House of Representatives today.

Archive image. (Photo: Defense)

the request for quotation, Request for quotation (RFQ), is an important milestone in the project. At the beginning of this year, it was announced that it would be sent in the fourth quarter of 2022, and now that the RFP is ready, it looks like it will work. In addition to a request for tenders, DMO has now also prepared an assessment framework and an award model. After all, as soon as the offers are received, the DMO has to evaluate them, and not just on price.

More expensive
These prices are higher than expected. Formally, the Walrus Class Replacement project falls into the ‘more than 2.5 billion’ category, but that doesn’t say much about the real size of the budget. The DMO keeps it secret so as not to disturb the negotiations. Previously, it was an amount of 3.5 billion euros for four boats. Now it would be higher; according to De Telegraaf it would be 4.5 billion, but that amount has not been confirmed.

The progress report published earlier this year already stated that the budget was too tight. There was not enough space to absorb setbacks and “the development of the defense market was not taken into account”, writes Van der Maat. The extra costs are covered by the defense budget, Van der Maat adds, adding that “extra money was already reserved for the program in the defense memorandum”. This was not known before.

Despite the fact that the submarines are (again) more expensive than expected, it is striking that Van der Maat emphasizes that the submarines are a lot of money. It is true that it is a major project for the Armed Forces. But for the Dutch government, which will spend 395 billion euros next year, a project to replace submarines that will take more than ten years to procure and build does not weigh so heavily on the budget.

In order to try to keep costs down, the possibility of soliciting offers for three submarines instead of four was considered. A smaller boat proved to save relatively little money, but to have a big impact on deployability, writes Van der Maat. Furthermore, such a change would lead to a delay of a year or more.

Requirements: no 2076 sonar
The Ministry of Defense has not only reached an important milestone with the tender request. Where previously there was criticism from the shipyards about a lack of prioritization requirements, as a result of the shipyards not knowing exactly what the boat had to fulfill. Now there is an assessment framework with validity requirements; requirements that the site must meet in any case. And there are secondary requirements on which a choice is based.

Not all requirements have remained in place without change. Years ago, an insider told about a “long list of requirements” that existed from an early stage of the project. A number of concept requirements turned out to be too expensive. Therefore, writes the state secretary, a number of requirements have been adjusted in consultation with the Norwegian Navy Command and the Submarine Service.

An example of a request that has not been made a requirement is the Thales UK 2076 sonar which the DMO and the Navy have long wanted on these boats. This sonar is also used on the British nuclear submarines of the Intelligence class and the future Dreadnoughts. Several sources have informed that this sonar will not be required for the new submarines. The reason would be that the cost and risks of putting this sonar into the design would be too great for the added performance. Integrating a sonar into an existing design has a big impact on the design.

The fact that the Norwegian Armed Forces themselves choose the systems to be on board a new ship or submarine is nothing new. The choice of radars, weapons and CMS (Command Center Software) has been determined by the Navy (and later DMO) since time immemorial. For my countermeasures vessels, this choice is left to the yard and only the performance of a system to be selected by the yard is fixed. If the DMO itself chooses a system that may differ from the systems the yard chooses as standard, there are costs and risks involved. Because the DMO has no recent experience with and less knowledge about submarines, people are reluctant to do so, as DMO director VADM De Waard explained earlier in an interview.

Clever class
HMS Ambush, a clever class submarine. (Photo: British Navy)

Nevertheless, there is also talk of GFx in this project (Publicly furnished equipment, information, software). “It concerns rearmament, secure communication and information networks. The information on this is classified,” writes Van der Maat. Van der Maat therefore does not provide more information. It is clear that sensors such as sonar are missing from the list. Armament of submarines includes torpedoes and cruise guns. The cruise missiles for frigates and submarines will, the letter says, fall under another project. As far as we know, the DMO wants to stick with the US Mk48 torpedoes that are currently being modernized and it is likely that they have been classified as GFx. Neither fleet offers the Mk48 as standard, but such a torpedo will not be a stumbling block for the shipyards. (The integration of the American torpedo tubes into the design of the Walrus has taken some time, but that is a story in itself.)

It is very uncertain whether the Guardion CMS from Maritime IT, which now also runs on the Walrus class and other surface vessels, will return in the new boats. Such a program also has a large impact on the design, because numerous sensors and weapon systems are attached to it.

Dutch contribution
In recent years, the Dutch contribution to the new submarines seemed to be more and more out of sight, despite various proposals in the House of Representatives. The participation of Dutch industry in this project is and remains uncertain. The shipyards will not be obliged to involve the Dutch business community in the submarine project. But the shipyards can score points in the tender if the “companies” [betrekken] for (further) development, engineering, production, assembly and/or maintenance of critical systems. In this way, Defense encourages Dutch companies to be included in the supply chain of the candidate yards for the benefit of the essential national security interest.”

However, it is a requirement that maintenance and modernization be carried out as far as possible under the direction of the Material Maintenance Department (DMI).

IPW sea lion
De Zeeleeuw in 2015 after modernization. The four boats in the Walrus class are old, and two will therefore be taken out of service over time. In order to prevent the last two from being able to sail due to old age, there is a need to hurry. (Photo: John van Helvert/ Defence)

Ten years’ time
The first two new submarines must be declared fully operational in the period 2034-2037. The defense is now tightening that requirement. Together with their offer, the shipyards must submit a schedule showing when the boats will be built and delivered. After the contract is signed, the yards will have a maximum of ten years to build the first two boats and carry out the sea trials.

Earlier delivery of the boats is not rewarded in the price model, because yards can then spend less time on e.g. designed and it will encourage unrealistic planning.

Before the contract is signed, the shipyards must first submit their offers. They can really get started on that from 16 November. The defense expects the shipyards to submit their offers in the summer of 2023. At the end of 2023, a shipyard will then be declared the winner.

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