Unmasking the Potential Victor of the Dutch Naval Power Overhaul

In 2014, the Dutch Ministry voiced its objective to replenish its naval fleet with four new submarines by 2025, signifying a significant overhaul of Dutch naval power. This venture, officially labeled the “Walrus Replacement Program” (WRES), is underpinned by a generous budget of 2.5 billion euros, demonstrating a serious commitment to modernizing Dutch maritime strength.

Initial Contenders and Setbacks

The bidding process initially involved four prominent shipbuilders, but one candidate was prematurely ruled out. Navantia, a major player from Spain, was unable to secure partnerships with Dutch industry, a requisite for consideration. This demand for local collaboration reflects a need to resurrect the Dutch submarine expertise lost when the RDM shipyard was dissolved in 1996. Hence, the project also prioritizes the rejuvenation of the local naval industry.

The Final Three

Consequently, the contract now stands contested between the French , the German ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (TKMS), and the Swedish Saab Kockums. Each company has proposed a strategic partnership with a local heavyweight and a corresponding submarine model.

  • TKMS has paired up with TNO and the Royal NLR technology institutes, proposing the U212CD submarine.
  • Saab Kockums has joined forces with Damen, a Dutch naval builder, offering a C718 submarine based on the Swedish navy's A-26.
  • The Naval Group has established a partnership with Royal IHC, proposing the “Black Sword Barracuda”, a design modeled after the nuclear attack submarine Barracuda.
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Unexpected Delay

Originally, the victor of the contract was to be revealed in 2021. However, unforeseen issues in negotiations with the three remaining candidates have postponed the decision.

Rumored Winner

Bloomberg's recent reports suggest that the Naval Group's “Black Sword Barracuda” might be the front-runner. While the Dutch cabinet is yet to give official confirmation, the ambassadors of , , and have allegedly been informed of this development.

The Dutch authorities' evaluation marked the Naval Group's offer as superior, providing the best value for money and swiftest delivery. This selection would be timely, as Russian “research” ships' frequent activities near vital infrastructures in the exclusive economic zone have necessitated the extension of the operational lifespan of an old submarine, salvaging parts from a decommissioned one.

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