New Swedish submarines could change the balance of power in the Baltic

Home of the deadly boats

Sebastien Roblin of The National Interest believes that Sweden today is home to the most efficient diesel-electric submarines. These boats are quiet, equipped with modern powerful engines, cheap and deadly.

This is a bold statement, but it has a pretty solid platform underneath. What are the arguments of Roblin (by the way, a very objective author) and why can you listen to them?

Perhaps an excursion into history is needed. Traditionally, over the past decades, submarines have been of two types: diesel-electric, which had to surface every few days to recharge their batteries using diesel engines; and atomic ones, which could quietly hum under water for several months without surfacing, thanks to their nuclear reactors.

The downside to the atomic variety, of course, is that they cost many times more than similar diesel submarines and require a nuclear power plant, which may not be worth the hassle for a country interested only in protecting its coastal waters. Yes, a nuclear sub is not for second world countries. Few in the world can afford these ships. And, perhaps, this is true.

A diesel submarine can also run quietly. Even possibly quieter than a nuclear one (shutting off its engines and running on batteries). It’s only a matter of time. But for countries that do not have huge military budgets, the issue of building a nuclear submarine or 5-6 diesel submarines, as it were, is not worth it at all.

Multi-valued neutrality

So Sweden. A neutral country, as it were, but it has quite a decent fleet. And submarines, which looks pretty normal, especially if you read Roblin.

“One such country was Sweden, which found itself in a busy area opposite Russian naval bases on the Baltic Sea. Although Sweden is not a NATO member, Moscow has made it clear that it can take action to “remove the threat,” as Putin put it, if Stockholm decides to join or support the alliance. “

Well, what can you expect? The Swedes seem to be neutral. This is true. That in the last war did not stop them from supplying Germany with iron ore and forging the sword of the Wehrmacht and the Kriegsmarine in the truest sense of the word.

It is quite understandable that Putin’s understanding of such “neutrality” may differ somewhat from Roblinsky’s. And this is normal, if only because it is absolutely clear and understandable which side Sweden will be on in case of something.

Hordes of Russian boats

Move on.

“After a Soviet Whiskey class submarine (Project 613 boats) ran aground just six miles from the Swedish naval base in 1981, Swedish ships opened fire on alleged Soviet submarines several times during the rest of 1980. -x years “.

Yes, the incident on October 27, 1981 off the coast of Sweden with the Soviet diesel-electric submarine C-363 caused a stir. The submarine of project 613 turned out to be lying on stones a few kilometers from the Swedish naval base Karlskrona.

It is clear that if you missed it once, then the second – it can end very sadly. And the Russians who have lost their course may find themselves not on the rocks, but in the side of some ship. Therefore, they fired at them in any shadow. Just in case.

The question is, who looks funnier – ours, stranded almost at a Swedish naval base, or the Swedes, who shuddered for thirty years from each splash?

We continue to study Roblin.

“More recently, Russia conducted a simulated nuclear attack on Sweden, and it is likely that at least one submarine entered Swedish territorial waters in 2014.”

That’s what I understand! This is the scope. “Exercises simulating a nuclear attack on Sweden” – it sounds like a song. Moreover, such a funeral Valhallian. For in this case, the one who will not have a “tomorrow” is the Swedes. Just because everything is so crowded with them …

Well, about the penetration of “at least one submarine in 2014” – Zadornov and Zhvanetsky applaud from there. If you carefully study the composition of the Baltic Fleet, you can understand a very unpleasant thing: we (since 2012) have one submarine in its composition.

And the crew certainly has something to do other than “entering Swedish territorial waters.” Simply because the materiel must be protected so that there is something to train the crews for those boats that are finally being built for the Baltic.

This is the policy and the historical background. In general, it turns out that we left the Swedes no other choice but to build their own submarines to defend themselves against the hordes of Soviet and Russian boats.

Swedish answer

Back in the 1960s, Sweden began development of an upgraded version of the Stirling engine, with a closed-loop heat conversion, first developed in 1818.

Generally, it was first used to power a car in the 1970s. And then the Swedish shipbuilding firm Kockums successfully adapted the Stirling engine for use on the Swedish Navy submarine A14 “Nacken” in 1988.

Since this unit burns diesel fuel using liquid oxygen stored in cryogenic tanks (without external air intake), a boat with such an engine can safely cruise underwater at low speeds for several weeks without the need to float to the surface.

In the late 1990s, Kockums built three Gotland-class submarines, the first combat submarines designed with air-independent propulsion systems.

The Gotland became famous for sinking the American aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan during the 2005 military exercise. The US Navy leased the boat to serve as an adversary for the US Navy’s surface ships. It turned out more than …

I liked the idea of ​​a new type of boats, and others followed the Swedes. Stirling’s technology was adopted by the Japanese and Chinese. And the Germans and the French have developed the VNEU AIP based on fuel cells and steam turbines. More expensive, but more exhaust.

Sweden, meanwhile, converted its four vintage diesel-electric Västergötland submarines from the late 1980s to use Stirling engines.

AIP re-equipment included cutting the submarines in two and increasing the hull length from forty-eight to sixty meters

Two of these submarines were renamed Södermanland and the other two were sold to Singapore.

The last boats of the Östergötland class, modernized according to the Södermanland project, have undergone an interesting modification in the cooling systems. Now these boats can work effectively not only in the cold waters of the Baltic or the North Sea, but also in the warmer waters of the southern seas.

But the life of any submarine, alas, is not so durable. Sweden intends to retire its Södermanland boats as soon as possible. Beginning in the 1990s, the Kockums danced around the concept for the next generation AIP submarine, designated the A26, to replace the Gotland class, but faced numerous setbacks.

The fjords are teeming with Russians

Stockholm canceled the purchase of the A-26 in 2014, and the matter was finally settled. And Russian submarines continued to appear in the fjords and skerries, and something had to be done about this. The Swedes tried to get the drawings from the German company Thyssen-Krupp, and not in a very pretty way. But where are the Swedes, and where are the raider seizures and abductions? Did not work out.

And time went on. Kockums was acquired by the Swedish company Saab. Work resumed. And in June 2015, Swedish Defense Minister Stan Tolgfors announced that Stockholm would buy two A26 submarines at a price of $ 959 million each.

By the way, inexpensive. Less than 20% of the cost of one American Virginia class nuclear submarine.

A26 also tried to find buyers overseas. At various times, the project was interested in Australia, India, the Netherlands, Norway and Poland, but so far unsuccessfully (due to competition from French and German submarine manufacturers AIP).

Kockums claims the A26 is the next generation of submarines in terms of acoustic stealth (thanks to new “ghost” technology, which includes sound-absorbing damping plates, flexible rubber mounts and equipment pads, a less reflective hull with a lower magnetic signature of the submarine) … Presumably, the A26 hull will also be unusually resistant to underwater explosions.

Chin sail

The Swedish firm has presented a concept art depicting a submarine with a “chin” sail, X-shaped tail “fins” for greater maneuverability in the Baltic waters teeming with rocks.

The four Stirling engines are likely to allow for a higher sustained submarine cruising speed of 6 to 10 knots.

Kockums highlighted the modularity of the new designs, which should reduce the cost of developing specialized options, such as one configuration accommodating up to eighteen Tomahawk land-based cruise missiles in a vertical launch system. This feature may be to the taste of Poland, which would like to have submarines equipped with cruise missiles. Just in case (for defense against hordes of Russian submarines).

Another important feature is a special multifunctional portal for the deployment of underwater vehicles and swimmers, which is in great demand for modern submarines. Located between the torpedo tubes in the bow, the portal can also be used to launch the AUV-6 underwater drone. True, the AUV-6 can be launched from a 533 mm torpedo tube.

Kockums is currently offering orders for three different versions of the A-26. Submarines of the A-26 class may become the best non-nuclear submarines of our time.

Swedish Ocean Patrol

While designing the A-26, the Swedes created three different vehicles as part of the project.

Small A-26 should operate in the coastal waters of the Baltic and the North Sea (where the chances of survival of the nuclear submarine are not so high).

Large A-26 is intended for operations in the oceanic zone of the same North Atlantic.

The third version of the submarine is an export version of the ocean submarine.

The large model, intended for the Swedish service, will have a length of 63 meters and a displacement of about 2,000 tons. The range of the submarine at a speed of 10 knots will be 6,500 nautical miles, the duration of the patrol is 30 days. The submarine’s crew should be 17-35 sailors.

Such a range unambiguously brings the boat to the ocean, which was previously inaccessible for the same “Gotlands”, which could not participate in patrols of the Atlantic due to insufficient autonomy.

Another question – what, in general, have the Swedes forgotten under the surface of the Atlantic Ocean?

Small (or “pelagic”) version – 51 meters long, surface displacement is in the region of 1000 tons. At a speed of 10 knots, the cruising range of a small submarine is 4000 nautical miles, the duration of the patrol is 20 days. The crew of the small A-26 consists of 17-26 people.

The boat is really interesting for the very difficult terrain of the Baltic.

It’s time to start thinking

The armament (more precisely, its composition) has not yet been revealed. But even so it is clear that it will be a combination of 533-mm and 400-mm torpedo tubes. Perhaps, like on the Gotlands, 4 x 533-mm and 2 x 400-mm, because from one 400-mm device, you can launch two anti-submarine torpedoes at once at two different targets with cable control.

The first two A26 are due to be completed between 2022 and 2024. And then it will be possible to assess whether they will be able to meet their operational parameters. Overall, advances in AIP submarines allow countries around the world to acquire capable short- and medium-range submarines at an affordable cost.

If the Swedes manage to realize their plans and get at the exit exactly the boats that Kockums are talking about, then this can greatly change the state of affairs in the Baltic.

A submarine capable of carrying cruise missiles is being watched with interest in Poland. The Netherlands are interested in boats of this level. Perhaps Norway.

And even if the Swedish A-26 does not become the best non-nuclear submarine today, it will be a good new generation submarine. With VNEU, which Russia has never been able to create.

The appearance of such boats in the NATO camp (the Netherlands, Norway, Poland) in the very near future will create a very unpleasant set of problems for the Russian fleet in the Baltic. From detection problems to countermeasures.

Let me remind you that today the Baltic Fleet has one diesel-electric submarine, and the second is in the future.

It’s time to start thinking, because the Swedes can get something very decent. After all, it worked before?

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