Singapore buys 4 customised submarines from Germany

The Invincible is specially designed for Singapore’s shallow and busy tropical waters

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Photo: YouTube screengrab

The Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) purchased four new submarines from Germany, with the first one already fully functional.

The wife of Defence Minister Dr. Ng Eng Hen, Ivy Ng, launched The Invincible-class or Type 218SG submarine at the thyssenKrupp Marine Systems shipyard in Kiel, Germany, on February 18 (Monday).

While it is still in Germany, Invincible will be undergoing a series of sea trials before being delivered to Singapore in 2021.

Dr. Ng emphasised how Singapore needs to protect its sea lines of communication and these new submarines will boost the Navy’s capabilities to do so.

He said, “Most people would see this development by RSN as an assurance that the RSN is able to do its part in keeping our sea lines of communication open because it’s crucial for maritime trade.”

Geographically, Singapore is located across the South China Sea and the Straits of Malacca, which are two of the busiest sea lines of communication.

The three other submarines will also be boasting powerful names and will be called Impeccable, Illustrious and Inimitable. ­

Although they are still under construction, four submarines will replace the Navy’s current and refurbished submarines, two Challenger-class and two Archer-class. These four submarines that were obtained by Sweden have served the country for over two decades.

The upgrade

Invincible has the capacity to live up to its name as it was designed to be more lethal. This class of submarine can stay underwater about 50% longer and can carry a wider variety of mission payloads.

As for the crew, the new submarines will retain the same 28-member crew setup like what is being already being done with the existing submarines although it will have three instead of two shifts due to the advanced automation and sense-making systems the boat is equipped with.

Colonel (COL) Teo Chin Leong, Commanding Officer of 171 Squadron from the submarine unit of the Navy stated that the increase in technological advancements will “actually give us higher human endurance” because it will help the submarines to act quicker.

Now, the data will be calculated by computers which will allow the crew to concentrate on data checks and analyses.

The analytics and decision support systems were developed by the Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA).

In addition to data analytics, the sensors will allow for the submarines to be maneuvered more effectively across the shallow yet busy Singapore waters.

“We have better sensors that help us ‘see’ further or rather ‘hear’ further, (to) make sense of our environment better,” COL Teo added.

Speaking of design, it was mentioned earlier that the submarines were customised. This means that they have been built to ergonomically-fit Asian bodies.

The valves and button are placed within the reach of the RSN crew.

The living quarters will also be slightly larger with more showers and toilet cubicles. More storage spaces for food ingredients was also included which will allow the chef to prepare a more diverse menu.

To create an efficient and streamlined workflow inside the submarine, the watchkeepers (for engineering, combat functions, and weapons) will be located in one place, a big improvement compared to the current submarines with its watchkeepers deployed at three different areas.

Crew training

The pioneer crew for Invincible has already been selected, comprised of senior and junior submariners, who have been flying in and out of Germany for training sessions on operating various submarine systems.

They will be based in Germany for more intensive training until the submarine’s delivery to Singapore. They will, however, be starting their operational onboard training before the delivery and after the submarine’s sea trials.

With new submarines come higher expectations. The pioneer crew carries a lot of pressure because they will be the first to touch base with the new submarines.

Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) and Commanding Officer of Invincible Jonathan Lim is looking forward to the challenge and is setting a high standard for the crew.

LTC Lim was awarded the Command Star, (an award usually presented to high-performing German Navy officers) for commanding a German submarine in 2016.

He had practically no experience with the particular submarine he was in nor did he understand German. The crew held discussions in their native language before reporting to him in English. He rose to the challenge and performed extremely well, earning him the  the award.

He added, “With that, there is an acknowledgment that I am as good as one of their own, able to perform up to their standards, even though I come from Singapore, and have  never stepped into their submarine before the first day of the course.”