The Netherlands’ defense minister, Henk Kamp, has informed the Dutch Parliament that a major defense project to replace the Royal Netherlands Navy (RNLN) fleet of Walrus class submarines will miss its target date of 2022 for downselecting a preferred bidder.
The Dutch government has announced its intention to maintain a submarine component as a crucial niche strategic capability. The Walrus replacement project is also considered crucial to local industry, with the government calling for the new vessels to be “as Dutch as possible.”
The bid to replace the current diesel-electric submarine fleet involves France’s Naval Group, Germany’s ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS), and Sweden’s Saab Kockums. Spain’s Navantia was eliminated from the competition by the Dutch Ministry of Defense on December 13, 2019.
Of these bidders, Saab has teamed up with Damen Shipyards and is offering up a variant of its A26 submarine, while Naval Group has partnered with Dutch systems integrator Royal IHC and submitted a design based on its Barracuda. TKMS, meanwhile, is linked to Dutch technology institutes TNO, Marin, and NLR and is putting forth its U212CD design in development for joint German-Norwegian naval requirements.
De vervanging van de 4 Walrusklasse-onderzeeboten duurt hoogstwaarschijnlijk langer. De gesprekken met kandidaat-werven gaan minder snel dan gehoopt en leveren nog niet de gewenste informatie op. Dat schreef minister Henk Kamp gisteren aan de Tweede Kamer. https://t.co/8JeYHAbTSL pic.twitter.com/56r3GXtUy3
— Ministerie van Defensie (@Defensie) October 28, 2021
Defense Minister Kamp noted that less information and depth had emerged during ongoing talks with the bidders than had been foreseen, thus pushing back the anticipated timeline for the project. As bidders’ designs were not yet optimized based on the technical level of requirement by the Dutch MoD, an elongated analysis process is required. The result is that a second round of dialogue – originally expected to begin in September – will now launch in December, thereby pushing a final contract signing beyond 2022.
The original target dates for the Walrus replacement called for the lead submarine of the new class to enter service in 2028, with the entire new class fully operational by year-end 2031.