Why are boats so heavy

530 million for overweight submarines

A new Spanish submarine, which was to become the most modern in the world, is up to 100 tons too heavy and would sink to the seabed during a dive

While Germany has ordered a drone that is not allowed to fly in Europe, Spain is building a submarine that does not float. A good 530 million euros have already flowed into the project to build four submarines, which should cost 2.2 billion euros.

Navantia should have handed over the first submarine, the Isaac Peral (S-81), to the armed forces in 2012. After constant delays, it has so far been declared that the first boat will be delivered in 2015. Nothing will come of it. The company had to admit that the submarine weighs between 75 and 100 tons.

With a weight of 2,200 tons, that doesn't seem like much. But obesity makes it a one-way submarine. During the dive it would sink to the bottom of the sea. A diving test was not started, the excess weight was determined by recalculations, which is why Navantia cannot put a precise figure on it. The company wanted to build the "most modern submarine in the world" and that was already criticized as daring at the start of the project in 2004. Because Navantia had never built a submarine on its own before. Previously, the French DCN built Scorpène-class submarines. After the separation, the project was started so that Spain could get involved in the world market for submarines.

This has now also made a fool of oneself in one's own country. Gaspar Llamazares, member of the United Left (IU) in parliament, introduced a question to the government with a sentence from comedian Miguel Gila: "The submarine that was sent this week is beautifully colored, but it doesn't float." The parliamentarian asks ironically whether the submarine "could not be given to the enemy so that we could win the next war?" He wants to know who will be responsible for the debacle. The questions remain unanswered, however, because the conservative People's Party (PP), during whose reign the project was started, is not in the mood for jokes. She refused to answer the request.

It is therefore unclear what additional costs will be incurred by taxpayers. The 2.2 billion euros were already one of the most expensive armaments projects in the history of the country. Due to empty coffers and a budget deficit of 10.6 percent in 2012, additional costs have to be saved elsewhere because the deficit has to be reduced.

It has to be decided how the submarine will be slimmed down. The most likely variant is its extension. But that is also the more expensive one, because it involves a complete redesign. Spain would also have to renovate the submarine S-74 (Tramontana) for at least 30 million euros so that it is not retired in the summer. Since it is no longer expected that the new submarines will be ready before 2016, this is the time for the S-71 (Galerna). Since the S-72 (Siroco) was retired two years ago due to a lack of funds for renovation, otherwise only S-73 (Mistral) would be operational from 2016 if the old boats were not refurbished.

Whether the new submarines will be operational in 2017, however, remains to be seen. There are other problems hidden in the project. Spain has also decided to build its own air-independent propulsion system (AIP) instead of buying a system from German or Swedish manufacturers. Unlike purely diesel-electric powered submarines, which Navantia has experience with, AIP-powered submarines can remain under water for a long time (up to 44 days) like nuclear-powered submarines.

Spain relies on a complex drive based on fuel cells. They were made by Hynergreen, a subsidiary of Abengoa, Spain, which is a leader in the construction of solar thermal power plants. The fuel cells are to be fed with hydrogen via a bioethanol reformer. A large prototype worked, but the downsizing for the submarine failed. The drive burned down. Discussions are now being held with other companies about implementation. The excess weight is a godsend for the AIP designers. You have bought time. It is unclear whether the S-81's own AIP drive will be implemented. The Department of Defense is not ruling out the possibility of the first submarine in the series being delivered without an AIP drive. This would save weight, but it would save modernity. Workers at the submarine shipyard in Cartagena (Murcia), southern Spain, are also worried about their jobs, with unemployment of 27% in Spain and over 30% in Murcia. The project has already been stopped and the question arises whether it should be pursued at all. The workers demand immediate resumption. The workforce has demonstrated and blocked roads several times. The works council chairman Ignacio Briones announces further protests. He pointed out that the works council criticized as early as 2005 that the construction was not implemented properly. Many people "without experience" interfered, "who, despite their ignorance, made important decisions".

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