Saab and Damen Shipyards have agreed to export the advanced Expeditionary C-71 submarine, which has been developed for the Royal Netherlands Navy to replace the current Walrus class. However, just over a week ago, rumours surfaced that the multi-billion contract was in fact headed for French Naval Group.

CEO of Damen Shipyards Arnout Damen and CEO of Saab Micael Johansson decided to export the submarine just this week. The agreement doubles the long-term prospect of employment and income for the Netherlands Naval Cluster with the replacement of the Walrus submarines by Saab-Damen.

Saab and Damen have been working together since 2015 to build, modernise, and maintain the new expeditionary submarine for the Royal Netherlands Navy. The two companies have now also agreed to offer their advanced Expeditionary submarines to Canada. A country in the initial phase of a similar process to replace their diesel-electric submarines.

Also read: Dutch Parliament to debate submarine replacement contract

Submarine contract for Naval Group?

A little over a week ago, insiders revealed to Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf that the order is headed for French Naval Group, not the Damen-Saab consortium or German Thyssenkrupp. According to the sources, the French yard, as a partially state-owned company, could offer a much lower price due to its being able to take greater risks.

However, it is feared that despite the French yard’s connection with Dutch Royal IHC, it will mean Dutch maritime industry will play only a minor role in the submarine project. It has led to criticism from the market, provinces and a debate in Dutch Parliament, which is yet to take place ahead of the contract award (scheduled for 15 March).

Also read: Damen may miss out on Dutch submarine order

Important for strategic autonomy

Now, Damen seems to make another effort to sway the Dutch government in their direction. The shipbuilder stresses that ‘this project is so much more than delivering four submarines. Dutch strategic autonomy is, given the geopolitical developments at the moment, vital in strategic projects like the submarine replacement, with the Dutch Naval base being the single remaining self-sufficient defence industry cluster in the Netherlands DTIB [Defence Technology Industrial Base, Ed.].’

The shipyard adds: ‘This offers the Dutch government a strategic best choice in line with its Defence industry Strategy 2018, several Parliamentary Letters on this topic and the important National Sector Agenda for the Maritime Industry.’

Expeditionary submarine

The expeditionary submarine is based on the successful, proven, and future-proof design of the A26 submarines. It incorporates the latest capabilities and technologies, while the modular design allows room for customisability as well as new technologies as they develop, ensuring relevance for decades to come.

Through Saab’s business area Kockums, Sweden has a long tradition of producing world-class submarines. For this new expeditionary design, Saab is working closely with Damen Shipyards and a range of Dutch suppliers and is supported by the United Kingdom. Four countries currently operate submarines and submarine technology designed by Saab: Sweden, Australia, Japan, and Singapore.

Picture: From left to right: Micael Johansson, CEO Saab AB and Arnout Damen, CEO Damen Shipyards Group (by Damen Shipyards).

Also read: Damen en Saab submit submarine proposal to Dutch government