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Netherlands will miss 2022 goal to pick Walrus-class submarine successor

Walrus on HNLMS Dolfijn
A walrus recently visited a Walrus-class submarine at Den Helder naval base. Photo: Royal Netherlands Navy

The Royal Netherlands Navy will not be able to identify a preferred bidder for the delivery of a successor for its Walrus-class submarines by 2022, the country’s defense minister acknowledged on October 27.

He noted that talks with the three competitors in the program to replace the four Walrus boats are not proceeding as quickly as initially expected.

France’s Naval Group, Germany’s Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems and Sweden’s Saab-Kockums are currently sparring for the contract after Spain’s Navantia was removed from the competition in 2019.

“Less information and less depth emerged from the talks with the three candidate yards than the defense ministry had previously estimated,” defense minister Henk Kamp said in a letter to Parliament on Wednesday.

He elaborated that this was partly because the questions from the defense ministry went further than the yards are used to in this discussion phase. The designs could not yet be optimized and defense also needed more time to analyze the information received.

A second round of dialogue had been expected to start in September, but is now being postponed to December.

All of this means that a contract signing for the program will not take place by the end of 2022. The defense ministry did not specify the extent of the delay, saying only that “substantial adaptations” to the plans were necessary.

Royal Netherlands Navy file photo

The replacement of the submarines will be the Dutch armed forces’ largest procurement project in the coming years. The current submarines have been in use since the 1990s. Their replacement had been expected to start from 2028, with the process concluding by the end of 2031.

It remains to be seen by how much this deadline will be postponed. The defense ministry plans to provide the next update on the program early next year.

The diesel-electric Walrus-class is the only type of submarines currently in service with the Royal Netherlands Navy. They are equipped with heavyweight
torpedoes, as well as surface search radars and sonar systems. They can also serve as a base for special forces operations and as mine layers.