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Spain spent $680 million on submarine that ‘can’t resurface’

Published time: May 22, 2013 16:59
Edited time: May 24, 2013 22:27
Navantia demonstrates the main electric motor for the first S-80 class submarine (Photo: navantia.es)

Navantia demonstrates the main electric motor for the first S-80 class submarine (Photo: navantia.es)

Spanish engineers, who already spent some $680 million on designing the new generation S-80 class submarine, say it is a major “technical innovation.” There is just one problem the calculations show – if submerged into water, it may never come up again.

The Spanish media has been furiously discussing the errors made by the state-owned Navantia construction company, which has spent about a third of the huge $2.2 billion budget only to produce an ‘overweight’ submarine that is not able to float.

Spain’s Ministry of Defense has confirmed that Navantia detected “deviations” in the new submarine’s design, thus delaying its March 2015 scheduled launch for one or two years.

Navantia said an excess weight of up to 100 tons has been added to the sub during construction, and the company may have to redesign the whole craft.

The excess weight may result in significant problem in the craft’s buoyancy and severely affect its ability to submerge and resurface from depth, the local media explained.

To ensure the submarine does not sink, Navantia considers lengthening its hull in order to re-balance the weight, infodefensa.com said, citing sources.

A computer-generation image of the S-80 class submarine (Image: navantia.es)

But each extra meter of the sub will reportedly cost the austerity-stricken state more than €7.5 million ($9.7 million).

Spain’s opposition party United Left has mocked the submarine development in parliament and demanded explanations.

The Ministry of Defense downplayed the clamor, saying adjustments and delays in such complex technological projects are “within normality.” The ministry is now “studying the scope of the problem to determine its impact in terms of time and money” and is considering “various alternatives.”

A delegation from the local College of Industrial Engineers in Murcia region on Tuesday visited the Navantia facilities and spoke in support of the company’s engineers “facing unprecedented technological solutions,” La Verdad said. Navantia’s “technical innovation” is an even more challenging task, given that the plant has to build “four submarines simultaneously,” said the Dean of the College Andres Ortuno.

While the Spanish state is waiting for the four S-80 class submarines to be modified and completed, it will only have two submarines in service – and may have to spend €30 million ($38.8 million) to repair the aging S-74 Tramontana.

The unexpected costs come at a time when Spain’s Ministry of Defense has seen its budget cut by some 30 per cent as part of austerity measures.