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Series 80 S-80 Submarine

Navantia, the shipbuilder contracted to create and build the S-80 submarines in the late 1990s. The new subs were far behind schedule, though originally expected to be delivered by 2015. A primary concern for the project was its bioethanol-based air-independent propulsion system, which will allow the sub to stealthily operate for weeks while submerged. In 2017, the media reported that the system would not be ready in time for the first sub's delivery in 2022.

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.

    In 2013, the project ran aground after it was revealed that the sub was too heavy to surface correctly. A Spanish official told the media at the time that "apparently somebody made a mistake in the calculations in the very beginning and nobody paid attention to review" them after an engineer put a decimal point in the wrong place. The mistake cost 14 million euros to fix, with engineers improving buoyancy by making the vessel longer.

    The new S-80 Plus-class submarine, a 4 billion euro ($4.6 billion) program expected to supply Madrid with a new generation of diesel-electric subs, has hit a major snag. Once calculated to be too heavy to float, the submarine is now said to be too long for the country's existing submarine pens. Spain's El Pais newspaper reported 19 July 2018 that while the navy's dockyards at Cartagena, southeastern Spain, can accommodate vessels up to about 256 feet in length, the S-80 Plus design is over 265 feet long – nine feet too long to fit in its submarine pens.

    According to El Pais, modifying the docks by dredging out the pens and upgrading the facilities will cost over 17 million euros, adding another expense to the estimated 1 billion euro apiece vessels expected to be delivered into the Spanish Navy by 2022. Newly appointed Defense Minister Margarita Robles admitted in an interview with Spanish radio that there were "deficiencies in the project," but added that these were "already corrected" and that "the project is absolutely viable."

    Independent Spanish journalist Matthew Bennett got ahold of a Defense Ministry spokesman, who told him that there was "nothing new" in the Spanish media's reporting on the S-80 Plus's excessive length and said that Madrid had plans to extend the width (but not the length) of its sub pens at Cartagena since "before 2009." The spokesman denied that the pens would be lengthened and said that the subs aren't actually required to completely fit into their pens lengthwise.

    Isaac Peral, a Spanish inventor, came up with the designs for what some call the first u-boat. Isaac Peral y Caballero was born on 1 June 1851 in Cartegena. With the encouragement and financial input of the naval minister Manuel de la Pezuela, Peral was able to build a full sized model of his design and which was launched in 1888. El Peral measured 22 metres in length, with a cigar-like shape, and was powered by two electrical 30 horse power engines. During the testing process, the submarine simulated both day and night time attacks, along with firing three Whitehead torpedos. Unfortunately, despite promising results, in 1890, further investigation of underwater vessels for military use was brought to an end.

    On December 18 2019 Navantia finalized, in the Cartagena facilities, the closure of the resistant hull of the S-81 ‘Isaac Peral’ submarine for the Spanish Navy, after the union of the last section of the ship. The event was attended by the General Director of Programs from the MoD, General Salvador Álvarez Pascual; the Chief of the Cartagena Arsenal, Vice Admiral Aniceto Rosique Nieto; the Director of Engineering and Construction, Vice Admiral Manuel Martínez Ruiz; the Chief of the Logistics Division, Admiral Gonzalo Sanz Alisedo; the Head of the Naval Systems Department of the DGAM, Nicolás Lapique Martín, and the Head of the S-80 Program, Javier del Corral. On behalf of NAVANTIA, the Director of Operations and Business, Gonzalo Mateo Guerrero-Alcázar; the Director of the Shipyard and S-80 submarines Program, Agustín Álvarez Blanco; the Director of Navantia Sistemas, Vicente Santamaría Calvario, and the head of the S-80 Program Office, Ignacio Núñez.

    The closure of the resistant hull is a crucial milestone in the construction of a submarine, as it appears as a complete vessel. Previously, the loading of all the main modules has been carried out, as well as a very high level of completion of the sections. The next step is the completion of the fitting works and the beginning of the testing stage. This step represents a change of phase. The work in the submarine is now focused on its launching, following a formal and regulated process, based on overcoming safety milestones. This process begins with the tensioning, when the submarine begins to receive electric current; then the battery boarding, to gain autonomy in power generation, and finally the floating and the sea trials. The scheduled date for floating is October 2020.

    The S-80s are expected to enter the fleet at a relatively fast clip of a submarine a year.

    On 01 June 2020 Abengoa, the international company that applies innovative technology solutions for sustainability in the infrastructures, energy and water sectors, has signed a contract as a technologist and main supplier of the AIP System of the S80 submarines with the Spanish public company, leader in the design and construction of high-tech ships, Navantia. The new propulsion system will allow the submarines to extend the mission duration thanks to the new function of recharging batteries during immersion. Until now, non-nuclear submarines used batteries in their propulsion systems that only allowed them to operate in immersion for a day or two. Now, with the new AIP system, this period is extended up to three weeks.

    The AIP System consists of several main equipment: Bioethanol Processor System (BPS), Fuel Cell Power Module (FCPM), Power Conditioning System (PCS), CO2 Disposal System (SECO2) and AIP Control System (AIPCS). Abengoa is in charge of the design, manufacture and validation of several of these main equipment (BPS, PCS and AIPCS), as well as the integration of the FCPM and SECO2 to guarantee the required performance, functionality and operability.

    In order to meet the stringent demands that this program requires, a multitude of challenges have been overcome, taking technology to a new level. An example of this is the complex design of BPS, which not only meets the efficiency, performance, robustness and safety requirements, but also complies with the demanding requirements regarding size and maintainability inside the submarine. This technological challenge has been possible thanks to the intense collaboration between the Ministry of Defense, Navantia and Abengoa.

    This project represents a new milestone in Abengoa's Defense activity and, in particular, for its Hydrogen business strategy, in which Abengoa has been working for more than 15 years with several developments in various technologies to produce, store and use hydrogen in different sectors.




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