Norway’s ageing submarine fleet is not sufficiently stealth-capable, according to a former top naval officer.
“The oldest [one] is 25 years old”, Rear Admiral Jan Gerhard Jæger (ret.) tells Aftenposten, “they undergo upgrades, but the ‘signature’ (identity) they leave behind in the sea remains unchanged.”
Norway’s six Ula-class submarines, all based at Bergen’s Haakonsvern Naval Base, western Norway, were ordered in the ‘70s during the Cold War. These replace the then ageing Kobben-class ones.
The Ula-class submarines were a multinational cooperation on behalf of the Royal Norwegian Navy. The hull sections were produced in Norway, and German company Thyssen Nordseewerke in Emden assembled them.
Norway’s Kongsberg Group built their combat systems, Germany the attack sonar, and the flank sonars are French-made. The vessels were delivered between 1989 and 1992.
Upgrades have been performed on the periscope as part of modernisation work to keep them in service until 2020. These are also currently being carried out on the hull, propulsion, and integrated ships systems.
Installation of new electronic warfare support measures and communication equipment (TADIL-A/Link 11) is part of the programme too, with ongoing work on the weapons control, sonar, and decision support systems, among other things.
TADIL-A/Link 11, a NATO-employed secure half-duplex radio link, can be used on High Frequency (HF) or Ultra High Frequency (UHF).
It is mainly for exchanging digital information such as radar tracking among shipboard, airborne, or land-based tactical data systems.
According to Norwegian Royal Navy information, the Ula-class submarines “makes it possible to operate in the entire maritime domain, including under water.”
“The vessels can operate undisclosed over longer periods of time. They are hard to detect and has the ability tie up significant hostile resources.”
“Norway currently has equipment that can be used to trace these submarines. Consequently, we must reckon with the fact that others also possess this,” says Rear Admiral Jan Gerhard Jæger (ret.) to Aftenposten.
49-year-old Commander Solveig Krey has just assumed leadership of the Norwegian Royal Navy’s submarine service.
According to her, the retired Rear Admiral “is making claims on his own behalf.”
“The vessels are currently being upgraded to ensure they are relevant to the tasks they will be solving until 2020”, she stated, “[...] We’re world class when it comes to conventional submarines.”
“They can operate hidden and surface vessels cannot discover them easily. Nevertheless, technology for surface vessels and submarines has developed, meaning these need updating.”
Commander Krey tells The Foreigner Norway upgrading the submarines “is not different to what other countries do.”
The Ula-class submarines are 59 metres long, 5.4 metres wide, and 4.5 metres deep (about 193.5 by 17.7 by 15 feet).
Speeds are 11 knots surfaced and 23 knots submerged, with capacity for a crew of 21+.
“It’s a potent conventional submarine,” Navy press spokesperson Commander Nils Kristian Haugen says.
No decision regarding new submarine purchase has been made, the military’s Colonel Dag Rist Aamoth explains, “But there is an ongoing project looking at possible Ula-class end-of-life replacement or a further upgrade and life extension of the submarine.”
Norway's Ministry of Defence has published this statement after the above article on The Foreigner.