Keeping Up with The Joneses…Fifth Invincible?

A model of the Type 218SG displayed at IMDEX 2017.

SHAH ALAM: Keeping up with the Joneses. It appears that the Singapore has ordered another Invincible class (Type 218SG) submarine from Germany. German news magazine Der Spiegel revealed this week that the German government of ex-chancellor Angela Merkel approved a number of arms deals before she left office.

Among the deal reported was the sale of a Type 218G submarine to Singapore from Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems. Thyssenkrup was also approved to sell three MEKO A-200 EN frigates to Egypt, along with 16 air defense systems from Diehl Defense. The Egyptian deal was said to be controversial as the Middle East country, according to German politicians has a poor human rights record and was involved in the Yemen war.

RSS Conqueror, one of the two Challenger class submarine of RSN. Picture taken by Malaysian Defence in 2017

Singapore has not announced a deal for the fifth submarine from Thyssenkrupp and it is unlikely to confirm it as it was leaked by the German newspaper. The Type 218SG is known as the Invincible class by the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) after the first of class, Invincible which was launched in 2019. The first two Invincible class was ordered in 2013 while the contract for the other pair was announced in 2017. Invincible was expected to be delivered to RSN this year though it is likely this will take place next year.
Two of RSN Archer and Challenger submarines as seen from the fleet command building at the Changi naval base in 2017.

RSN currently operates four boats, two Challenger and two Archer class submarines purchased second hand from Sweden. It was expected that the Challenger will be retired once the first two Invincible class submarines are inducted into RSN service. The Archers too is expected to be retired once the two Invincibles ordered in 2017 are inducted into service later this decade.
Launching ceremony the first of 218SG submarine Invincible at Kiel, Germany, on 18 February 2019. Singapore MINDEF

It is also likely that Singapore will order another Invincible class submarine in the near future, ensuring that it will have six boats in the fleet. This will allow for two submarines in operations with the rest in training or refit. It may however also see five submarines was enough to meet its needs.

— Malaysian Defence

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Shah Alam


  1. We are definitely getting left behind. There are no detailed plans on when we are getting our additional 2 Scorpenes while SG and Indonesia is ramping up their submarine fleets with Indonesia intending to buy 4 Scorpenes. By the time we got our next 2 submarines delivered, the current ones might already almost reaching 30 years old and need replacements in 10 years time. Plus if we intend to get LCS batch 2, Scorpene and MRCA during 2030’s, that is a a lot of spending, a lot more than what we are spending right now.

    What RMN can do in 2030s are
    RMK14(2031-2035, usd1.32 billion)
    – 1x LCS without CAPTAS2 (usd0.34 billion)
    – 1x LCS with CAPTAS2 (usd0.4 billion)
    – 1x Scorpene with AIP (usd0.5 billion)
    – 1x ASW helo (usd0.08 billion)
    – retire 2x Kasturis

    RMK15(2036-2040, usd1.24 billion)
    – 1x LCS without CAPTAS2 (usd0.34 billion)
    – 1x LCS with CAPTAS2 (usd0.4 billion)
    – 1x Scorpene with AIP (usd0.5 billion)
    – retire 2x Lekius

    Alternatively, 1 LCS can be substituted with either 2 Kedahs or 3-4 LMS

  2. To me it’s only matter of time when Singapore acquires ASW configured MPAs to replace the Fokkers.

    Like everything else subs don’t in a vacuum, the availability of ASW airborne assets, USVs, surface ships and other assets, all fully networked, provides the key capability.

  3. what they did is common sense really. To keep one submarine (as with any other naval vessels and even aircraft like MPA or AEW) operational at any and all time, 3 subs are required; one on duty, one on maintenance and one on standby. We could have the same(ish) capability but the navy decided not to upgrade the Agosta 90 even though as Pakistan had shown, the agosta could be upgraded to become, in some respect, an even more potent than scorpene in indian service

    looking forward, we need at least another scorpene for short to mid term before getting a new submarine, either and upgraded scorpene or an entirely new submarine class.

  4. “see five submarines was enough”
    It really depends if Indonesia & Vietnam will continue to augment their sub fleet, also Thailand and Malaysia to some extent but the ones looking into sub operations seriously are the former 2 nations. Not surprising as SG will want to maintain its numerical & technological edge against regional nations.

    Based on operational requirements, we’d only needed 1 more to ensure continuous operation. The 4th sub was just to bodek a certain exPM who was fanatical at keeping his name & legacy intact in the annals of history. Rather than keeping up with the Joneses, I ‘d prefer we look towards filling up capability gaps which we lack; offshore bases at EEZ, MPAs, more choppers(utility & ASW), maritime MALEs, more LMS to recapitalise corvette & FAC fleets, then only later more LCS(or rather Formidable class instead) to recapitalise frigate fleet. The 3rd sub can be bought when good times are back.

  5. From a finance guy perspective, we can only afford to operate snd maintain 4 missile guided durface combatants, 3 submarines and a dozen long range patrol boats in the future

  6. The fifth submarine order has anything to do with fire in April on their first Invincible class submarine? Like most of their assets and a shortage of manpower, perhaps, the Invincible is also semi-autonomous.

  7. dundun – ”3 subs are required; one on duty, one on maintenance and one on standby. ”

    Incorrect. Conventional wisdom calls for 4. Even then there’s no certainty 1 be will always be ready to put to sea …

    dunndun – ” navy decided not to upgrade the Agosta 90 ”

    First of all she was a Agosta 70 not a Agosta 90…. Secondly, the circumstances which led to the PN upgrading it Agosta was different ….Thirdly, We simply dis not have the crews, shore support infrastructure or money to run 3 boats at that period -0 we still don’t. Also; the decision from Day One was that the former Ouessant would serve as a training boat for a limited time – nothing more ….

    You needd to also bar in mind that the Scorpenes were intended to provide us with an initial capability which could be expanded on later.

    dundun – ”the agosta could be upgraded to become, in some respect, an even more potent than scorpene in indian service”

    Do you actually know this for a fact? The former Ouessant was launched in 1978 and is generations behind Scorpene. Even a full upgrade would not have done away with its inherent shortcomings. It’s like saying a upgraded Mirage 111 can ber as potent as Rafale;

  8. It’s simple. indian Scorpene didn’t have AIM whilst pakistan’s upgraded Agosta 90 (which is upgraded by Turkey btw) has. Hence why I said I specifically said “indian” after Scorpene as well as “in some respect”.

    A lot is being reworked and I dare say the scope of modernization of Pakistan’s Agosta 90B submarine is more extensive than say, what indonesia did with its older 209s.

    A much more modernized Agosta 90B with AIP would give Pakistan an edge compared to india’s AIP-less Scorpene unless we’re talking about pure sub vs sub action and even then Agosta could simply outlast Scorpene in the depth with their AIP

  9. Dundun – “It’s simple”

    It’s not that “simple”. A Agosta 70 is a 1970’s boat which you’re comparing to a late 1990’s boat – both generations apart. Agosta 70’s hull ensures it can’t go as deep as Scorpene and it does not have the same noise reduction features, amongst various many things. Again,a full upgrade does not do away with key inherent issues.

    Ultimately fully upgrading the Agosta 70 would have been silly given its age, its condition, the scope of the upgrade needed and the fact we were not in a position to operate and maintain 3 boats – that is why the RMN did not even consider upgrading the Ouessant.

  10. Off topic but we still had 42 units of AV8 not delivered as of the middle of this year and expected delivery has slipped to the end of next year. It was last expected for the end of this year, which was itself a later date than original as the government wanted to postpone funding.

  11. For the sake of accuracy, the OEM has developed MESMA based AIP for the Agosta 90. At one time the OEM could also fit MESMA to a Scorpene if the customer wanted it, but has since phased it out in favour of fuel cell based AIP for the Scorpene.

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