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The Zwaardvis (Swordfish) class boats, armed with six 21in torpedo tubes, were built after the Dolfijn class boats. The design was closely based on the US Barbel class boats, the last conventional submarine built for the US Navy. Due to better welding techniques and improved steel quality, the triple hull design of the Dolfijn class was abandoned by the builder, Rotterdamsche Droogdok Maatschappij (RDM - Rotterdam Dry-dock Company). With three major internal compartments, the sonars, torpedo tubes and handling room are forward. The control center is in the middle compartment, with the crew compartment below, and batteries below that. The aft comparment houses the propulsion machinery, on a raft for silencing.

Not every Navy equipped with submarines was in a position to acquire in some way or another nuclear propelled submarines. Moreover - and in contradiction with what was initially assumed - the conventional submarine with snorkel-facility remained a potentially dangerous opponent, demonstrated repeatedly during NATO exercises. In June 1963 the authorities of the Royal Netherlands Navy approved of a proposition concerning the construction of two new submarines. The ultimate goal was to realize nuclear propelled submarines. However, at that time it was already clear that this could not be fulfilled before the 1970s and hence the new design had to be conventionally propelled. Nevertheless it could be used as a stepping stone for a future nuclear driven boat. So a 'tear drop' body of revolution was chosen, necessitating a single propellor, for the Netherlands Navy a new phenomena. All in all, this design was heavily inspiredby the last conventional American submarines of the Barbel class.

The Dutch Navy had two Zwaardvis class boats in service (Hr.Ms. Zwaardvis, Hr.Ms. Tijgerhaai) and two boats of a slightly modified design were exported to Taiwan (Hai Lung class: Sea Dragon and Sea Tiger) in the late 1980s. The two 2,640 ton submarines, Zwaardvis and Tijgerhaai, were delivered in 1972. Both boats received a mid-life modernization in the late 1980s, mainly consisting of an upgrade of their electronic systems.

As in most Western countries, the shift in East-West relations in the early 1990s led to a major restructuring of the Dutch armed forces. The Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE)Treaty and its accompanying reduction obligations were soon followed by the realization thatfurther cutbacks were possible due to the new European security environment. In March 1991 the Dutch Ministry of Defense presented a defense white paper with plans for the following decade, with reductions in the defense budget, personnel and material. The international security situation continued to change after 1991, and a follow-up white paper in January 1993 included more extensive financial cutbacks and greater, earlier reductions in material.

The Zwaardvis class submarines were in operation from 1972 to 1995, and decommissioned by the RNLN after 22 years service. Efforts by the Dutch Government failed to sell the submarines "as is, where is" overseas, for DFL88 million ($55 million) each. The Royal Netherlands Navy decommissioned the HrMs Zwaardvis submarine in late 1994 after negotiations with Indonesia to transfer the vessel stalled. The second Zwaardvis class SSK, HrMs Tijgerhaai, was decommissioned in 1995 when no customer was found.

The boats are in good condition, and are by no means out-dated. A buyer would have to take into account that the submarines were due for a maintenance overhaul, but both could be ready for service within six months of the contract signature. Their remaining lifetime isestimated to be at least 15 years.

In October 1995, South Africa was said to be interested in replacing her old Daphne-class submarines with the two Zwaardvis-class boats. In December 1995, newspaper reports in Taiwan said that the Taiwan Navy was interested in acquiring the two boats. Taiwan operates two modified Zwaardvis submarines of the Sea Dragon class, built in the 1980s. Reacting to the Taiwanese reports, the Dutch Government issued a statement saying that there would be no sale of any submarine to Taiwan, as agreed with mainland China.

Zwaardvis (2) and its sister boat Tijgerhaai (2), both of the Zwaardvis (2) class, were acquired by RDM Submarines for re-sale in December 1995. In 1996, RDM changed owners and with it came a renewed determination to export submarines. The Dutch MoD sold its two decommissioned Zwaardvis class submarines to Rotterdam-based submarine builder RDM for an undisclosed sum. The submarines arrived at RDM on 3 and 9 January 1996. RDM would have to fully comply with defence export regulations and the requirement to provide an end user certificate.RDM's Director Submarines, Dr Carel Prins, declined to comment on the yard's plans for the boat. Industry sources suggested that RDM may be offering the boats to Thailand as part of its combined bid with GEC-owned VSEL to supply two or three new construction Moray submarines.

In 1996 the Dutch RDM shipyard was negotiating with Indonesia for the sale of the two retired Dutch Navy Zwaardvis-class submarines, and a newly built Moray 1400 submarine. The older Zwaardvis could immediately be used for training, thereby easing the introduction of the Moray at a later date. The boats would cost Indonesia about 800 million Dutch guilders. At this price, the two Zwaardvis-class submarines were almost given away for free, but RDM Submarines could finally sell the her first Moray type boat.

The two Zwaardvis-class submarines formerly operated by the Royal Netherlands Navy were moved to Malaysia in 2000. The Zwaardvis-class submarines were shipped to Malaysia's Lumut Naval Base under a private venture between PSC-Naval Dockyard and RDM, as an interim measure until new-construction Moray-class submarines could be delivered. But the Malaysian Zwaardvis/Moray deal was subsequently cancelled in January 2002, when the Malaysian navy selected the French Scorpene design.

In mid-October 2003, RDM submarines were offered to Indonesia to fulfil that nation's submarine requirement. One aspect of the Indonesian navy's modernization plan was for the acquisition of at least two submarines from South Korea by 2008. However, industry sources indicated that there may be an alternative plan on the table, with the Indonesian navy also being offered two new-construction Moray submarines by RDM, marking the second time that the Moray has been offered to Indonesia, with the first being in 1994. As an interim measure until the Moray-class could be delivered, the Indonesian Navy may take possession of the two Zwaardvis-class submarines stranded in Malaysia.

In early 2006 it was reported that Tijgerhaai and Zwaardis would end up in the scrapyard. A tender to dismantle the submarines was to be called by the Dutch government soon. The diesel-powered submarines were stranded in Lumut Malaysia for the past five years. The submarines could no longer move unless major repairs are done on the engines. We will get the tender as they are in Lumut," he told Bernama. The owner of the submarines, Rotterdamsche Droogdok Maatschappij (RDM), had accumulated debts as it had to pay PSC for the safekeeping service and the rental of the wharf for the last five years. The debt had been settled by the Dutch government. the Dutch government was concerned that the submarines could be seized by the Malaysian authorities because RDM owed a big sum to PSC. They were also worried if their technology used in the submarines were to slip into the hands of a foreign party. RDM could not do anything because of its weak financial position.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 03:09:45 ZULU