Damen and its partner Saab Kockums foresee large opportunities in the construction of new submarines for the Royal Netherlands Navy. The project is crucial for the Dutch naval industry. “Can we still build submarines in the Netherlands? Yes.”
The Defence white paper 2018 clearly states: “We will replace the submarines with manned submarine capacity. After 2027 there will be new manned submarines. From TNO research it was found that options other than manned submarines will not be able to meet the demand (and are very expensive).” Currently the Royal Netherlands Navy possesses four expeditionary submarines of the Walrus-class: Zr. Ms. Bruinvis, Dolfijn, Walrus and Zeeleeuw. The four of them are 25 years old and they are currently being upgraded, entirely by Dutch companies. Except the hull, very few components are left on board. The program is developing without many problems. However, governing is looking ahead: in 2027, the Walrus-class will have to be replaced. The project will comprise 2,5 billion euro and offers large opportunities for the Dutch industry.
In March 2018, the new Defence white paper has been presented. Finally there is some clarity. “Especially for the personnel of the armed forces”, Hein van Ameijden quotes, managing director of DSNS. “The negative trend in budget cuts of the last couple of years seems to reach its end and that is a good thing.” Already in 2015, Damen entered into a partnership with Saab foreseeing the opportunities that would arise with the replacement of the Dutch submarines. In the summer of 2014, Saab acquired submarine builder Kockums (Malmö) from its previous owner, TKMS. The specific knowledge of the Swedish partner is the foundation for the cooperation according to Van Ameijden. “An important part of Kockums’ activities is designing and building submarines for the Swedish, Australian and other Scandinavian Navy’s. The A-26 submarine of Damen’s Swedish partner is a proven concept.” Actually, the cooperation with Saab is quite straight forward, according to Van Ameijden. “With our combined knowledge, we can design the best submarine for our armed forces and also, we would like to take further steps to successfully start exporting diesel-electric submarines.
The Walrus-class submarines have been built in the Netherlands, but a part of the experience of submarine construction has been lost. “However, the Dutch naval industry still contains a lot of submarine knowledge. The recent modification of the Walrus-class was entirely executed by Dutch companies.” With comprehensive cooperation of high-end sub suppliers of the Dutch Underwater Knowledge Center (DUKC), a NIDV-platform, the submarine knowledge is excellently bundled. “Many people do not know that a company such as Nevesbu is permanently working on the design of vessels’ underwater areas including submarines. Together with the other DUKC members and knowledge institutes, Nevesbu is part of the Dutch Triple helix. So if you ask me: Can we, as the Netherlands, still build submarines, I would say yes.” If the Dutch government decides to buy its submarines at a Dutch yard, she will be a launching customer. “This does not only contribute to the image of the Dutch industry, there are only winners”, according to Van Ameijden. At first, the Royal Netherlands Navy will get the best and most future-proof submarine with which the Netherlands can make a meaningful contribution to international operational cooperation. Secondly, it offers economic advantages in the form of employment and innovation for Dutch companies funded by Dutch tax incomes. Thirdly, there will be opportunities for export. Through a launching customer project, the Dutch naval industry can compete in international competition, even without a level-playing field. Finally, with successful export, revenues will return to the Dutch government.
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