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RNLN to pare down submarine force as replacement plan slips

The RNLN plans to halve its submarine force from four to two Walrus-class boats, and does not expect the first two new submarines to be in service until the period from 2034 to 2037. (Dutch MoD)

The Royal Netherlands Navy (RNLN) will halve its submarine force from four to two Walrus-class boats in an effort to sustain a viable force ahead of the introduction of planned replacements.

Informing the parliament on 1 April, State Secretary for Defence Christophe van der Maat also revealed that the Dutch government is overhauling the management of the Walrus-class replacement programme to try and accelerate the acquisition process. Even so, a first new boat is not expected to enter service before 2034 at the earliest.

The Netherlands government in 2013 reaffirmed its intention to maintain its submarine force as a strategically important niche capability for both NATO and the EU. Three European submarine builders – Naval Group, Saab Kockums, and Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems – were shortlisted in December 2019 to enter into a competitive dialogue for the supply of four new submarines to replace the RNLN's existing Walrus-class diesel-electric boats one-for-one.

All three bidders have been encouraged to maximise the through-life participation of Dutch industry and technology institutes in line with the objectives of the national Defence Industrial Strategy released in November 2018. Naval Group has partnered with Royal IHC to offer a design derived from its conventionally powered Barracuda family; Saab Kockums has teamed with Dutch shipbuilder Damen to build an expeditionary variant of its A26 design; while Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems is offering a version of the Type 212CD design already in development for Germany and Norway alongside the establishment of a centre for submarine service and innovation at the naval base in Den Helder.

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