The four Walrus-class submarines.
|Builders:||Rotterdamsche Droogdok Maatschappij|
|Operators:||Royal Netherlands Navy|
|Preceded by:||Zwaardvis class|
|Cost:||ƒ500m per unit (1992 prices)|
|Type:||Diesel-electric attack submarine|
|Length:||67.73 m (222.2 ft)|
|Beam:||8.4 m (28 ft)|
|Draft:||6.6 m (22 ft)|
|Propulsion:||3 diesels, diesel-electric, 5,430 shp (4 MW), 1 shaft, 5 blades|
|Range:||18,500 km (10,000 nmi) at 9 kn (17 km/h)|
|Test depth:||>300 m (980 ft)|
|Complement:||50 to 55|
|Sensors and |
In 1974 the Royal Netherlands Navy made it known, through the defensenote 1974, that it wanted to replace the Dolfijn-class submarines. Since the 1960s the Royal Netherlands Navy was doing studies and research into what kind of submarines they wanted to build. The results were that the Netherlands should build conventional diesel-electric submarines, since nuclear submarines are costly and can only be paid by countries with major navies such as the United States, France and the United Kingdom. Nonetheless, even with the diesel-electric submarine the Dutch government also wanted to look if they could try to work together with international allies for the construction because else it would lead to more costs.
Between 1975 and 1978 the design of the Walrus-class was for the most part completed, and included many improvements which would result in the new submarines being state of the art and a significant improvement over previous submarines in use by the Royal Netherlands Navy. For example, a special kind of French steel was used to construct the hull of the Walrus-class submarines which would be more elastic, and also allowed the submarines of this class to dive deeper than previous submarines. Furthermore, there was a focus on automation, that was aimed at decreasing the manpower needed to operate the submarine and at the same time making them more effective against threats. On 19 June 1979 the Dutch Minister of Defense, Willem Scholten, signed a contract worth 425 million guilders with the Rotterdamsche Droogdok Maatschappij to build 2 submarines to replace the Dolfijn-class submarines, with the construction of the second boat to be started in the following year. Already soon RDM noticed that the new submarines could not be built the same way as the Zwaardvis-class submarines, since it had to use new technique to build the submarines. Another problem was that because the design was not completed and constantly modified to incoorporate new developments in the submarine world, which led to issues during the building process, the construction proceeded slowly. Nonetheless, the construction continued and on 11 October 1979 the HNLMS Walrus was laid down. 2 years later, on 24 September 1981, the HNLMS Zeeleeuw was also laid down.
On 19 February 1983 the parent company of RDM, the shipbuilding company Rijn-Schelde-Verolme, went to everyone's surprise bankrupt even after the Dutch government provided 2,2 billion guilders state aid. This was problematic because the construction of the Walrus-class submarines were far from being completed. To make sure the construction of the submarines was continued RDM was re-established as an independent company. Furthermore, the Royal Netherlands Navy ordered also an additional 2 submarines of the Walrus-class earlier than planned to help RDM financially. However, at this time the Walrus-class submarines was still plagued with many problems.
New problems arose on 14 August 1986, when the command center of the HNLMS Walrus caught fire, while it was still on a scaffold in the yard. The fire lasted about five hours and resulted in immense damage to the submarine, the commando central was completely burned out, including all the recently installed equipment. Some equipment could be rescued, but most had to be replaced. This delayed the construction of the submarines once again. The costs of the resulting damage were 225 million guilders, however, the damage was luckily fully covered by insurance. The exact location, origin and cause of the fire was never found out. Presumably, the fire was caused in the vicinity of the corporals and men washroom by a defect in the electrical work lighting. The damaged submarine was repaired and in 1987 it was reported that these repairs had been completed. Due to the fire, the construction of the Walrus was so delayed that the second submarine with construction number 349 was put into service as the first submarine of the Walrus-class with the name HNLMS Zeeleeuw. The HNLMS Walrus was put into service two years later. The two other boats were put into service as HNLMS Dolfijn and HNLMS Bruinvis. The delays also meant that the HNLMS Dolfijn, the HNLMS Potvis and the HNLMS Tonijn of the Dolfijn-class had to remain in service longer than planned. All the problems, delays and rising costs were eventually dubbed by the Dutch national parliament as the Walrus-affair. Nonetheless, at the time of their commissioning, the Walrus-class submarines were considered to be one of the most modern and advanced conventional submarines that were operational at the time.
The Walrus-class submarines are unusual in that instead of a cross-shaped assembly of stern diving planes and rudders, they mount four combined rudders and diving planes in an "X" configuration. This tail configuration was first tested in 1960 on the United States Navy's USS Albacore, and has since been used by the Walrus class, all Swedish Navy submarines since the Sjöormen class, the Royal Australian Navy's Collins class, the German Type 212A and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force's Sōryū class.The X configuration is a complex system and therefore not in use by a lot of navies around the world.
The submarines of the Walrus-class are invisible when submerged, silent and therefore difficult to detect by ships, planes and other submarines once they go into hiding. This makes the boats very suitable for the combatting surface vessels and submarines, the protection of own units, information gathering, and early warning, and supporting of special operations. The submarines can also be used to enforce international sanctions, as they did during the Yugoslav Wars.
The Walrus-class submarines were specifically designed for hunting Russian submarines during the Cold War. However, they only became operational after the Cold War had ended. Nonetheless, they have provided excellent services in various inter-national conflict situations in which the deployment of the Royal Netherlands Navy was requested. Since the Dutch submarines are of good quality and have internationally a good reputation they are often part of international exercises, where they take for example part in mock battles.
After the Cold War, the subs have been tasked for many highly confidential intelligence gathering operations (still classified) in the Northern Atlantic, Mediterranean Yugoslavian region, Iran, Iraq and the Caribbean often on request of Allies, including the United States.
Submarine Command Course
The Walrus-class submarines are used for the Submarine Command Course (SMCC) for both national and international candidates (including the UK, Australia, Canada) selecting and training future commanders of conventional submarines and is highly rated and has an exceptional reputation. The Royal Netherlands Navy provides this course after the British Royal Navy phased out their conventional submarines.
In 2007, the Dutch cabinet approved an upgrade of the four operational submarines and recruitment of additional crew to improve overall operational availability. The upgrades were focused on near-shore operations and integration with new weapons,and include:
- the migration from the MK 48 mod-4 torpedo to the mod-7 version
- replacing one periscope with a non-hull-penetrating optronic mast from L-3 KEO which enables the submarine to capture HD footage both day and night
- addition of a Mine & Obstacle Avoidance Sonar by ELAC Nautik
- refurbishing of the pressure hull
- introduction of a new combat management system
- modifications to support Special Operations Forces
In 2013, the contract for the "Walrus Class" (IP-W) Conservation Program was signed. The program covers the preservation of the pressure skin, the replacement of the sonar, navigation periscope and GIPSY combat system, improved communication systems and adaptations to a number of platform systems. All four boats must be modernized in 2019. With the conservation program, boats can be kept operational until mid-2025. The costs of upgrading the four submarines are estimated to be 94 million euro's. The first boat to be will be upgraded was Zeeleeuw, followed by Dolfijn, Bruinvis and finally Walrus. The upgrade of Zeeleeuw took longer than expected, initially to be done by 2015, it eventually took till 2016 before the submarine was ready for service again. Currently, Dolfijn is being upgraded at the Den Helder naval base. The Dutch navy has also begun to prepare for the replacement of the "Walrus class" submarines.
In November 2014, the Dutch Minister of Defence announced plans to replace the Walrus-class submarines in 2025. By 2017, there is still no political agreement on the amount of new submarines to be ordered; nor the type and tasks it should be able to perform. However, it seems certain that they will be replaced, since the alleged Russian threat was regarded an incentive to invest in a new class. The Minister of Defence, however, delayed the replacement with two years until 2027. Roughly, there are two groups in the Dutch parliament – one in favor of replacing the Walrus-class by an equally capable class of large, expeditionary, diesel-electric sub, and the other in favor of choosing a cheaper solution of smaller diesel-electrics, more to the likes of Swedish and German submarines. It is yet unknown where the new boats will most likely be built; since the Dutch RDM yard (the only Dutch yard capable of building subs) that constructed the Walrus-class closed its doors years ago. The Defensenote (Defense policy for the coming years) of March 2018 revealed that the Dutch government is still planning to replace the Walrus-class submarines in the future. The budget allocated at this time for the new submarines is more than 2.5 billion euros. Additional information on how to proceed with the replacement will come at the end of 2018, when the Dutch Minister of Defence, Ank Bijleveld, will send a so-called B-letter to the Dutch parliament. Minister Bijleveld also underlined in an interview that the new submarines should have the same niche capabilities as the current walrus-class submarines. This means that they have to be able to operate, and gather intelligence, in both shallow water close to the coast and in deep water in the ocean.
- Damen Group and Saab Group announced that they have teamed up from 2015 to jointly develop, offer and build next-generation submarines that are able to replace the current Walrus-class submarines of the Royal Netherlands Navy. It was unveiled on 1 June 2018 that the design will be derived from the A26 submarine. The proposed submarine is currently around 73 meter long and has a diameter of 8 meter. Furthermore, the weight will be around 2900 ton and it complements 34 to 42 people. When it comes to armament the boat has 6 torpedo tubes and 1 Multi Mission Lock which can used to drop of special forces.
- Naval Group announced that it is offering its newest submarine class, the Barracuda-class submarine, as replacement for the current "Walrus-class" submarines of the Royal Netherlands Navy. A version of the "Shortfin" diesel-electric variant Barracuda-class submarines will be offered, and not the nuclear variant that the French Navy is using.
It is expected that more contenders will try to compete for the Dutch order and build the replacement of the Walrus-class submarines. For example, two other possible contenders for designing and building the new Dutch submarines are speculated to be Germany’s ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems and Spain's Navantia.
Ships in class
All boats were built by the Rotterdamsche Droogdok Maatschappij.
|Walrus||11 October 1979||28 October 1985
13 September 1989 (re-launched)
|25 March 1992||In service|
|Zeeleeuw||24 September 1981||20 June 1987||25 April 1990||In service|
|Dolfijn||12 June 1986||25 April 1990||29 January 1993||In service|
|Bruinvis||14 April 1988||25 April 1992||5 July 1994||In service|
- Displacement: 2,350 t surfaced, 2,650 t submerged, 1,900 t standard
- Dimensions: 67.73 x 8.4 x 6.6 m
- Propulsion: 3 SEMT Pielstick 12PA4V200SM diesels, 1 Holec mainmotor, 1 shaft, 6 blades
- Speed: 13 knots surfaced, 20 knots submerged
- Range >10,000 nmi at 9 kn
- Complement: 50 to 55
- Surface Search Radar: DECCA 1229
- Sonar Systems: Thomson Sintra TSM 2272 Eledone Octopus, GEC Avionics Type 2026 towed array, Thomson Sintra DUUX 5B passive ranging and intercept
- Fire Control: HSA SEWACO VIII action data automation, GTHW integrated Harpoon and torpedo FCS
- Armament: 4 x 21 inch (533mm) torpedo tubes (20 Honeywell Mk 48 or Honeywell NT 37 torpedoes, mines, SubHarpoon SSM)
HNLMS Dolfijn and escort approaching Portsmouth Naval Base, UK, 19 Nov 2009 in poor weather.
HNLMS Dolfijn departing Portsmouth Naval Base, UK, 1 Feb 2010.
HNLMS Dolfijn heading to sea from Portsmouth Naval Base, UK, 1 Feb 2010.
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