February 5, 2008:
Brazil is upgrading
its four German designed Type 209 submarines with American control, combat
management, sonar and fire control and weapons launch systems. This will cost
about $9 million per sub. Brazil is also negotiating with France to build
French designed Scorpene subs in Brazil. Meanwhile, Brazil is spending half a
billion dollars to develop a nuclear power plant for submarines. This is
supposed to be ready in seven years. Before then, Brazil would be looking for a
partner to provide a nuclear submarine design, one that could be built in
Brazil, and equipped with the Brazilian nuclear reactor. There are at least two
likely candidates. France is currently building a new class of nuclear subs.
The six new Barracuda class SSN's (nuclear attack submarines), will cost about $1.6 billion each. The 4,100 ton boats
are smaller than America's new 8,000 ton Virginia class subs (which cost about
$1.8 billion each). The Barracudas have a different mission than the Virginias,
one that is closer to what Brazil is looking for.
A new class of Russian SSNs will
displace 6,000 tons. The older American Los Angeles class boats were about
7,000 tons. Size does matter, as it indicates how much space you have available
for sensors and weapons. Larger boats are better equipped and more heavily
armed. But smaller boats are more useful for coastal work, have smaller crews
and are cheaper to operate.
The first Barracuda won't be launched
until 2012, at the earliest. The new Russian SSN will arrive after that. The
U.S. already has two Virginia's in service, with a third arriving soon. By
2010, two Virginia's a year will enter service, for an eventual total of about
30 subs. The Barracuda's will rely on a lot of automation, and have a crew of
only about sixty. Russian boats are designed along similar lines. The
Barracuda's will have four torpedo tubes, which can also be used to launch
The Barracuda's will enter service just
in time for Brazil to get a good look at the design, and make a deal with the
French. If that fails, there's always the Russians, who are helping India with
nuclear submarine development.