Submarines: Brazil Seeks SSN Suppliers

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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 missiles.

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.

 


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