Thursday, May 26, 2011

New Submarine Design From France Has Some Interesting Possibilities

French defense firm DCNS had a very interesting submarine design at last year's Euronaval show as Ares reports. This innovative submarine design is meant for anti-ship warfare rather than the more conventional mission of anti-submarine warfare (ASW) which is what most submarines are designed for.
     The SMX-25 is very large design for a diesel-electric submarine with a length of 360 and, a displacement of around 3200 tons on the surface with a displacement of around 6100 tons submerged (for more detailed specifications here is a link to DNCS's website for the SMX-25). The SMX-25 also has a range of about 8000 nautical miles at a speed of 14 to 20 knots, with a top speed of 38 knots which rivals many surface warships.
    However, what makes the SMX-25 extremly interesting is the fact that the SMX-25 has 16 vertical launch tubes just aft of the front of the sail. DCNS's website states that the vertical launch tubes can be used for anti-ship missiles, land strike missiles and surface-to- missiles. The last type of missiles, surface to-air missiles (SAMs) is what raises a multitude of possibilites. Most submarines carry several MANPADS (Man Portable Air Defense Systems) like the FIM-92 Stinger or the SA-N-8 Gremlin. If you could put a real surface-to-air missile like a RIM-174 Standard ERAM missile, which is the U.S. Navy's medium range surface-to-air missile, it would be a literal bolt from the blue.
      The problem with that idea is that generally submarines don't carry the type of radar used in surface-to-air missile systems thus, it would be necessary to either setup a data link with a ground based radar system or install a new radar system in the submarine. The first option is probably the better of the two as installing a new longer range radar system brings a higher risk of anti-radiation missiles (ARMs). However, if the submarine is operating far out at sea, depending on the range of the ground based radar being used it would better either to set a datalink with a warship or simply take the risk of ARMs and install a new radar system. The radar sytem used in the submarine would have to relatively compact as submarines are not known for their spacious compartments, possible radars would be the AWG-9 used on the F-14 Tomcat or a modified version of the AN/SPY-3 which will be used on Gerald R. Ford-class aircraft carriers, and Zumwalt-class destroyers.
     This concept explained is just an idea, the possibility of operating SAMs from a submarine is an very interesting idea, however submarines in use today do not anywhere near the capability to launch SAMs and would need extensive modifications to do so. This concept has enormous potential and needs to be seriously looked at by the U.S. Navy and Navies around the world.

Photo Credit: DCNS

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