Luca Peruzzi story with additional reporting by Xavier Vavasseur
The information was published on the European public procurement platform on 9 December and released as ‘voluntary ex ante transparency notice’, explaining that ‘the contract can be awarded to Fincantieri using a negotiated procedure without prior publication of a contract notice pursuant to EC (European Commission) regulation, being the Italian shipyard the sole economic operator able to meet the programme requirements both for the technical reasons and for reasons connected with the protection of exclusive rights’, including intellectual property rights, as indicated in the notice.
According to the notice which was published yesteday, the Italian Ministry of Defense (Ministero Della Difesa — Segretariato Generale Della Difesa e Direzione Nazionale Degli Armamenti-direzione Degli Armamenti Navali) intends to purchase, via the Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation (OCCAR), 2 submarines type U212 NFS, plus 2 as option, the related in service technical — logistic support and the training centre. The contract to be awarded is valued at 1.35 billion Euros.
The notice further explains:
The U212 NFS submarines represent an evolution of U212A submarines (first and second batch) currently operated by the Italian Navy and are the sole undeniable asset that the Italian Navy needs to satisfy its operational requirements in the submarine domain for the accomplishment of the institutional tasks..
The U212 NFS is based on U212A design whose Background Information have been granted, through an Industrial Cooperation Agreement, by the German Design Authority (tKMS) to Fincantieri Spa for the construction in Italy of the NFS submarines for the Italian Navy.
In Europe only TKMS and Fincantieri have the technical know-how for the development and production of U212A submarines; there are no other European shipyards which have built such submarines.
Therefore the contract can be awarded to Fincantieri Spa using the negotiated procedure without prior publication of a contract notice pursuant to Article 28(1)(e) of Directive 2009/81/EC, being the Italian shipyard the sole economic operator able to meet the Program requirements both for technical reasons and for reasons connected with the protection of exclusive rights.
The notice confirms what already reported by Naval News that OCCAR agency will award the contract and manage the program on behalf of Italian MoD as already done with the PPA and LSS programs, as the same agency provides a wider contractual flexibility compared to national management as well as opens these projects to third-parties participation, among the main benefits, as testified by the French joining of the LSS programme. OCCAR has recently changed location and renewed its office in Rome to be able also to ‘shortly host the expected set up of the New NFS PD (Programme Division) in OCCAR, sharing common assets and providing economies of scale’, recently announced the same agency.
The Italian MoD’s directorate of naval armaments and OCCAR are currently on the verge of launching the U212 NFS development and procurement program for four new generation air-independent propulsion submarines with a large national industry’s content. “The contract is expected to be awarded to Fincantieri by year-end”, said the Italian Navy’s Chief of Staff in a Parliament hearing last October, bureaucratic and funding procedure permitting.
About Type U212 NFS — Near Future Submarine
The Italian Navy currently has four U-212A Todaro-class submarines in service: the Todaro (delivered in 2006), the Sciré (2007), the Pietro Venuti (2016) and the Romeo Romei (2017).
Conceived to maintain advanced capabilities in the underwater domain with a renewed national R&D and industrial cluster participation, and to replace four in-service updated Sauro-class boats maintaining an eight platforms submarine fleet, the NFS program will sees the procurement contract award for two boats plus option for additional two boats in addition to in-service and logistic support. The program funded by the Minister of Economic Development is subdivided into two tranche, as indicated by information provided to the Parliament in 2018 e 2019: the first tranche regards the development and procurement of the first two boats with the related technical-logistic in-service support (10 years) while the second tranche is related to new technologies development and the procurement of the second batch of two boats and the related in-service technical-logistic support. The first tranche also include the technological update of the training ad operational support systems. According to the multi-year planning document 2020-2022 released last October, the funded procurement cost of €1,35 billion indicated in the notice regards the first tranche of the program. The overall program cost, according to the same document, is today indicated in €2,68 billion. No update information on the program schedule was given, but Naval News understood that if the contract will be awarded around year-end, the first U212 NFS could be delivered in 2027 while the second could follow in 2028.
U212 NFS technical characteristics
As a national development of the U212A submarines already in service under the joint German-Italian procurement and support program, the U212 NFS AIP boats will have an hydrodynamic enhanced hull design with an central body 1,2 meters longer compared to in-service platforms, and including a propeller optimized cap combined with pre-swirled rudders, a fluoropolymer foul release hull coating to reduce fuel consumption, all contributing to reduce the acoustic signature, alongside a new emerging blowing system.
The new platforms could potentially also take advantage in the future of the on-going revolutionary Submarine UnderWater Invisible through MetaMaterials (SUWIMM) R&D program. The Italian MoD invested in a nationally-developed energy storage system centred on new-generation Lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) battery system integrated by Fincantieri and provided by Italian FiB/FAMM company and adds to the in-service AIP propulsion system on the first two new boats to further extend underwater operational endurance. The following batch could benefit from a second-generation fuel cell-based AIP R&D program. All program’s platforms will have a new longer low-profile sail design with seven electrically-actuated mast-raising systems from Calzoni/L3Harris. The new boats will also feature a new integrated combat system developed and mainly provided by Italian industry alongside a new or enhanced integrated platform management system and up-to-date Avio Aero autopilot. With a new combat information centre arrangement, it will accommodate a new combat management system provided by Leonardo, managing a sensors package centred on an enhanced sonar suite, new masts with new-generation RESM/CESM suite provided by Elettronica and communications equipment, in addition to a new weapon systems package.
U212 NFS weapons
The U212 NFS will feature six 533 mm tubes for the Leonardo Black Shark Advanced (BSA) heavy-weight torpedoes as well as, in the pipeline to be approved and funded, land attack cruise missiles and UUVs. As we previously reported, the Italian Chief of Navy highlighted the need for a credible deep strike capability to be provided by submarines (and surface platforms), which is under defense review. The DPP 2020-22 include a long-term unfunded and unspecified service-provided ‘Deep Strike New Generation’ capability.
Italy’s U212 NFS program will provide Fincantieri and Italian industry, a strong export push in the underwater platform sector as well as in support of the on-going cooperation in submarines with Germany and potentially other customers.