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Series 80 S-80 Submarine

The Strategic Defence Review issued in February 2003, considered the S-80 Submarine a priority program. This document takes into account the need to procure submarine units to maintain the freedom of action and mobility of the Force with two submarines operating simultaneously in two theaters: one in a far away scenario and another close by. The units will have an air independent propulsion system with land-attack missile capability and important elements for intelligence gathering.

In the 1980s the Navy began considering the submarine that would have to replace the "Daphne" type, during the mid-1990's. The basic features that it must have were totally determined by 1988, and there were two options. First, to purchase the plan from another country and build it in Spain, or to design it in Spain with foreign technical collaboration, and build it later (which would take from 10 to 12 years of work). Both options depended on the budgetary provisions, and the administration's decision on what was most feasible from a political, economic, and technological standpoint. The Series 80 vessels must be more silent, inconspicuous, and speedy than those belonging to the "Galerna" class. Their weapon system would have to be in keeping with the technological advances of the time.

The adoption of nuclear propulsion was not just a policy decision per se, but depended on third countries. Spain lacked sufficient technology over the short and medium term, as well as potential for manufacturing the fuel. Moreover, there was the problem of training the personnel on all levels, and of the necessary infrastructure on land for the maintenance and management of the reactors. And, in view of all these problems, it it virtually impossible for nuclear propulsion to be applied to the future Series 80 submarines (unless they were purchased directly, and had been maintained in the selling country for some time).

The mission of the Combat System is to acquire, assess and provide all necessary information for the fulfilment of the mission, as well as controlling the weapons and their launching systems. From the design point of view, the Combat System is completely integrated. It operates from multi-function console tables with an open, modular and distributed architecture and an extensive use of COTS. From the multi-function console tables the following systems can be controlled: all ship sensors including the information gathered; command and control functions like track management and decision making aids; and weapons launching systems including wire-guided torpedoes. The S-80 Combat System includes:

  • Launching capability of long range land-attack missiles.
  • Satellite communication systems and Data Link.
  • Short, medium and long range acoustic sensors capable of detecting, classifying, selecting and attacking surface and underwater units and shipping and mine detection.
  • Visual, optronic (all-weather) and electromagnetic detection assets which allow the submarine to quietly and stealthily approach, attack and escape, and take part in intelligence gathering operations.
  • Navigational aids to carry out specific and precise operations.
  • Double purpose long range heavy torpedoes, mines and anti-ship missiles.
In agreement with the Strategic Defence Review, the Naval Forces, apart from maintaining the control of sovereign maritime spaces and areas of national interest, must be directed towards far away theatres, with a special emphasis in naval power projection. Therefore, naval power projection operations and the protection of army and naval forces in littoral waters are more probable situations than the traditional naval combat. The submarine, as part of the naval force, with both, her traditional and state-of-the-art weapons and communication systems, must significantly contribute to those operations. To this end, the submarine must be capable of integrating into the Force. Consequently, the ship mounts a real-time reliable and secure communications and information exchange system.

S-80 missions include the following tasks:

  • Projection of the naval power ashore.
  • Special Naval Warfare.
  • Protection of a Landed Force.
  • Surveillance (Indication & Warning).
  • Protection of a Naval Force.
  • Deterrence. S-80 submarines must face the following threats both in the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea:
    • Mine fields.
    • Surface ships with active and passive sonars.
    • ASW aircraft with radars, active and passive sonobuoys and VDS. State-of-the-art nuclear and conventional submarines.
    Preliminary studies were carried out between 1989 and 1991. In the year 1997 the program started following the PAPS method. (Phased Armaments Programing System):
    • Assessment of operational requirements resulting in the document “Preliminary Concept of Staff Objectives” published in November 1997.
    • Pre-feasibility stage resulting in the document “Staff Objectives” published in April 1998.
    • Feasibility stage resulting in the document “Staff Requirements”.
    • Project Definition (First Stage): On November 2nd 1999 a contract was signed between IZAR Shipyards in Cartagena and DAM for the definition of a submarine prototype.
    Changes in the world strategic situation recommended a review of operational requirements to adapt the submarine to new scenarios and demands. New “Staff Requirements” were approved by the Spanish Chief of Naval Staff in July 2002. The main changes included the air independent propulsion system (AIP) and land-attack capability. Project Definition (Second Stage): In order to implement the new requirements a new contract was signed with IZAR in November 2002. In March 2004 the Shipbuilding Order was signed between the Ministry of Defence/Spanish Navy and IZAR to build four S-80 Submarines. The main milestones were:
    • January 2005: Shipbuilding starts.
    • October 2011: Delivery of the first submarine.
    • 2012/2014: The whole series is completed.
    These were later modified to:
    • Jan 2005 start of construction.
    • October 2013 delivery first submarine of the class S-80.
    • 2014 / 2016 Delivery of the rest of the series.

    By November 2011 Spain faced delays to the delivery of the S-80A submarines due to Ministry of Defense budget cuts that pushed back the delivery date by up to two years beyond the original date of 2013. Shipbuilder Navantia said the Spanish navy had requested the delay and would see one boat enter service every year after the first of the four boats was delivered.

    By early 2013, the Navy hoped that the first of the new submarines, which was already at an advanced stage of construction at the shipyard of Navantia Cartagena, would be operating by 2016. That same year would see the retirement of one of the two submarines from the current fleet, the 'Galerna', which already had passed its last major overhaul. For this reason, the Commander of the flotilla of submarines of the Navy, Captain Carlos Martínez-Merello, warned that "if delays occur in the delivery of the S-81, the complexity of the construction, that will take it beyond 2016" the armed forces would be "with an only submarine operating". It would be the 'Mistral', which as of early 2013 was passing its last major review.

    If the submarine 'Tramuntana' is decommissioned, the greater part of the members of its crew will occupy other destinations outside the scope of the underwater weapons, thus losing a part of the core of personnel which must leave the crew of S-80 series submarines, which undoubtedly shall derogate from a better selection of the aforementioned personnel.



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