Sunday, June 8, 2014

Swedish yard Kockums to build Littoral Mission Vessel composite superstructure

Swedish shipbuilder Kockums, renamed TKMS AB, looks set to build the composite topsides for eight Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) Littoral Mission Vessels (LMV), according to news reports from Sweden.

Kockums reported that it has been involved in the LMV project since 2013, with work share involving the design and fabrication of the superstructure of the warship and all structures above the steel hull. Singapore yard Singapore Technologies Marine (STM) is the project lead.

According to a yard statement dated 23 May 2014, the Kockums komposit superstructures are to be fabricated in Sweden and then shipped to Singapore.

Upon arrival here, the superstructures will be mated with steel hulls, which will be made in Singapore. When completed, each LMV should measure 80 metres from bow to stern, 12 metres wide and displace around 1,150 tons.

The use of composite for the LMV superstructure and enclosed sensor mast points to weight saved for each warship. It also suggests that the LMVs will have a reduced radar signature compared to warships made of conventional materials such as aluminium or steel.

Kockums Chief Executive Officer Ola Alfredsson said the yard was proud to renew its association with the Republic of Singapore Navy and STM, noting contributions from Kockums' skilled workforce, expertise in naval architecture and innovative production methods for naval systems.

The yard said composite structures for the RSweN's Visby-class corvettes were designed and fabricated by Kockums. It also performed similar work for the Indian Navy's Kamorta-class corvettes.

Trusted brand
Among Singapore's naval community, Kockums is a familiar and trusted brand name.

The ties that link Kockum with the Lion City are long, deep-seated and cherished by Singapore. Important capability leaps in the RSN's capability in areas such as submarine technology and mine countermeasures, involved close and extensive collaboration with Sweden's defence community.

Such ties led to the multi-year attachments of RSN personnel in Karlskrona and a number of Singaporean children which is not small resulted from their parents' happy time in Sweden.

The yard was responsible for reactivating and refurbishing two classes of former Royal Swedish Navy diesel-electric submarines (SSK) for the RSN. Among the engineering challenges: the Archer-class underwent extensive renovations that involved cutting and stretching the hull with an additional module for Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) machinery. This class of SSK is the first in Southeast Asia with AIP.

Kockums also gave Singapore its first purpose-designed MCMVs for operations in local waters. Four Bedok-class MCMVs regularly sweep the sea lanes leading to Singapore harbour to keep them free from underwater devices that could impede freedom of navigation. Such sweeps take place regularly even in peacetime.

In addition, Kockums supplied unmanned robotic sweeps used along with the Bedok class for hunting sea mines.

Reports about the less-than-friendly merger with German naval yard, ThyssenKrupp, have been noted in Singapore. The future of the skilled workforce who work for Kockums has come under the spotlight not just in Europe but also in Singapore. This is because any contraction of Kockums industrial capability will affect the choices from its customers for future naval purchases.

The dynamics of the relationship between Kockums and ThyssenKrupp will be closely watched by friends of Kockums in Singapore.

You may also like:
Details of Singapore's Littoral Mission Vessels as of February 2014. Click here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The controversy over ThyssenKrupp's acquisition of Kockums has been raging for some time, but only came to a real head early this year.

In my opinion, one of the key incidents that triggered the Swedish government coming down on TKMS was the Singapore Navy's selection of the Howaldswerke-Deutsche Werft (HDW) Type 218SG late last year. HDW is the German sub building subsidiary of TKMS, and there were reports at the time that TKMS simply left Kockums out of the bidding process for the RSN's two next submarines, leaving HDW to bid against the Scorpene from DCNS.

Considering the RSN's long links with Kockums and the submarine program office that the RSN had in Sweden, I reckon that many defence watchers considered the projected Kockums A26 class of submarines as the natural follow-on class to the RSN's Archer class, especially as the Type 281SG will use a different type of AIP (Fuel Cell compared to Stirling Engine) - therefore creating further logistics complexity.

The Swedes weren't happy about all the stalling that TKMS has done on the A26 program - procurement for two subs was authorised in 2010, but by Feb 2014 Kockums didn't even have a finalised design. What's happening now is that the Swedish government is basically forcing TKMS to sell what's left of Kockums to Saab, who has just been awarded a contract for the system design of the A26 as well as mid-life upgrades to the Gotland Class.

If the A26 was developed according to schedule, its more than likely the RSN would have contributed some seed money to the sub's development in order to get two boats by 2020. This ship has now sailed, and more than likely the RSN will place follow-on orders for more Type 218SG in the early 2020s.

On the other hand, that's not to say that the RSN won't benefit from the Gotland MLU, as that class has quite a few similar systems to the older Archer.

I also think its quite interesting that HDW will clear the last Israeli improved-Dolphin class from their yards just in time to start the first 218SG.