POST Online Media Lite Edition


State of the fat submarine

Staff writer |
U.S. company Electric Boat will try to find a solution to a very unusual problem: How to fix a Spanish submarine which is so heavy that it can't resurface if submerged.

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When Spanish military forces ordered a new submarine from the Navantia they expected state of the art submarine, not state of the fat vessel for which it is not sure it can float. Isaac Peral, a S-80 class of submarine, was almost completed with only one section left to be completed when engineers discovered that somebody made a calculation mistake and shipyard made a vessel 70 tons heavier then she should be.

American experts said in a preliminary report that submarine's air-independent propulsion (AIP) system is under-performing because it should allow Isaac Peral to stay underway for four weeks but it can only hold for one week.

The S-80 submarines are meant to carry out naval power projection operations and surveillance activities. Their construction began in 2005 and the cost of construction of the four submarines, 71 meters long and 7.3 meters in diameter, was expected to be $2.9 billion. However, that will change now.

The cost for bringing Isaac Peral in shape will be around $9.6 million per extra meter: engineers will have to lengthened the vessel to compensate for the extra weight of 2,200-ton submarine.

Electric Boat, a company owned by General Dynamics, has been chosen to find a solution because it is the lead design shipyard for U.S. submarines and it is familiar with the Spanish S-80 program. The whole program is on hold until the problem of the fat submarine is solved.

And the whole problem was caused by a simple mistake: Somebody wrote one zero, and there should have been three zeros. Later in the production nobody noticed the problem until the very finish. Quality control... well, the shipbuilder will have to work on that.

This one zero will cost Spain a lot. The Ministry of Defense asked the parliament for $38 million to extend the life for two to three years of the old submarine in service, the key S-80 program - a key element in Spain's defense system - is on hold, and other ships are being decommissioned due to lack of funds.

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