Navy planning submarine spares acquisition


The SA Navy (SAN) looks to be planning ahead when cognisance is taken of an Armscor issued request for information (RfI) for the 2023/24 financial year.

The maritime service of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) wants information on 151 items listed in the Armscor RfI. As background, the RfI document has it “the requirement exists within the SAN for the procurement planning of SAN submarine spares to effectively maintain operational capabilities”. The intention is to utilise information obtained via the RfI as “guidance” for future “dated procurement planning” of submarine spares.

None of the items listed pertain to the Type 209 Heroine Class submarines’ weapons and other combat related systems, with propulsion and ancillaries the thrust of the RfI.

This sees items such as casket and seal sets, various valves, wire rope assemblies, pressure sensors, retaining and O rings, impeller pumps, various sealing compounds, packing material, solenoids, circuit cards, pressure regulators, preheaters, indicating “gage pressure dails (sic)”, valve seat bushes, helical compression springs, bolts and a lone computer sub-system listed. Quantities vary from one to a hundred but are generally in the 20 to 30 range number-wise.

A retired SAN submariner, speaking on condition of anonymity, told defenceWeb it was “good” the SAN is planning ahead, adding his old service should be looking to stockpile the type of parts named in the RfI for at least five years. “This will eliminate panic buying and save money as many of the spares named are of foreign origin and in all probability will have to be paid for in US dollars,” he said.

Budget cuts mean there is no funding for mid-life upgrades/refits of the SA Navy’s three submarines and four frigates. These vessels will have to wait until at least 2033/35 before sufficient funding becomes available for this.

Due to limited funding, only one of four frigates SAS Amatola (F145) was partially refitted in 2014/15 and one of three submarines SAS Manthatisi (S101)was refitted in 2013/14. Funding for refitment of the remaining three frigates – SAS Isandlwana (F146) , SAS Spioenkop (F147) and SAS Mendi (F148) –  and for submarine SAS Queen Modjadji I (S103) has not been available since this work became due, according to the Department of Defence (DoD).

Queen Modjadji I is overdue for a refit. Manthathisi is operational and scheduled to undergo maintenance and repairs in the second half of last year. Additional funding to complete the refit of SAS Charlotte Maxeke (S102) by the end of 2023 has been made available by the SAN.

According to the DoD, the average cost estimate for a frigate refit is R687 million with a submarine refit costing R660 million.

Pending the conduct of the outstanding refits, the SAN is currently focused on prioritising essential maintenance and repair of frigates Spioenkop and Mendi, the combat support vessel SAS Drakensberg (A301) and Manthatisi to ensure operational availability.