Fincantieri launches the construction of the first-of-class U212 Near Future Submarine
The ceremony was held in compliance with strict anti-pandemic rules, at the presence of the OCCAR-EA Director Matteo Bisceglia, Vice Admiral Massimo Guma as Chairman of the programme committee representative and head of Italian MoD’s Naval Armament Directorate, Dr. Giuseppe Giordo, General Manager of Fincantieri’s naval vessels division, and the shipyard workers.
According to OCCAR statement, “the start of the production phase concretely marks the beginning of the first U212 NFS submarine construction completely integrated within the programme multi-year development”. The U212 NFS programme is on schedule and budget, having already completed the system design review (SDR) phase with all the platform and combat subsystems selected and contracted. The critical design review (CDR) milestone is planned to be achieved by the middle of this year, pandemic permitting. The first-of-class U212 NFS submarine launch is planned in 2026 with delivery scheduled for December 2027. The second platform is scheduled to follow in January 2029.
“The challenging programme is the result of the Fincantieri know-how in the submarines domain combined with cutting-edge competencies owned by a cluster of national and international underwater industries, including the presence of several Italian small and medium-sized enterprises”, underlines the same statement.
“In accordance to OCCAR management framework, which provides effective management processes and a certain degree of flexibility, the U212 NFS programme could integrate additional Participating Nations who wish to cooperate in the underwater domain, including those who are not currently OCCAR Member States”
“Stealthness, long-range effectiveness and supremacy in the underwater environment will be its peculiarities to grant deterrence, security and protection of national interests in the Wider Mediterranean. Overall, NFS won’t be a traditional submarine but it is designed as a “system of systems” and will be able to communicate and act in synergy with networks of acoustic sensors and underwater drones”
Rear Admiral Vito Lacerenza, Commander of the Italian Submarine Forces
In addition to the first tranche of two boats, the € 1.35 billion contract awarded by OCCAR to Fincantieri in February 2021, also includes a training centre plus initial support under, and an option for the second pair of submarines, which funding will substantiate the programme completion. If contracted according to defined schedule, these two platforms are planned to be delivered in May 2030 and June 2031.
Capitalizing on the U212A operational experience and industrial cooperation with TKMS, the NFS design is driven by the requirements to improve endurance, operational flexibility and capabilities. Thanks to the new combat system, sensors and planned weapon systems, namely the long-range deep strike cruise missiles, the U212NFS will play a key role from beneath the surface, in the multi-domain and joint-multinational operational scenarios. Based on an evolved U212A design by Fincantieri with unprecedented level of national industry content, the U212 NFS is characterized by a 1.2 meters longer pressure hull and a hydrodynamically enhanced and further quieter platform with an overall length of approximately 59 meters and a surface displacement of approximately 1,600 tons. The new platform features a new design sail capable to accommodate up to seven electric masts (with space for an additional optional mast), allowing for future development in the direction of a full electric submarine. Moreover, human factor studies are on-going to provide more comfortable accommodations for new generation crew members. The first two new boats maintains the same diesel/electric and AIP propulsion system of the U212A design but introduce a new energy storage and management system based on Lithium-iron-phosphate batteries, a game changer technology in underwater domain, according to OCCAR. Fincantieri assigned the related development, prototyping and certification programme to the FIB Italian company together with Power for Future joint ventures between Fincantieri SI and Faist Electronics, TUV Rheinland and Cetena companies. Fincantieri is also working with other industries to provide a new AIP system to be introduced from the third boat.
Capable to operate in seawaters with tropical temperatures, the U212 NFS will feature newly designed integrated platform control system (IPCS) and new generation combat system with command management system and weapon control and sensors suite, that allow reducing the crew to only about 29 complements. All systems according to OCCAR will be compliant with the most challenging cyber security requirements, making the U212 NFS the second cyber secure by design approach platform to be provided by Fincantieri to the Italian Navy after the Thaon di Revel-class PPA (Pattugliatori Polivalenti d’Altura) platforms. The new IPCS is provided by Fincantieri Seastema, Avio Aero providing steering and diving control system, the combat management system (CMS) being provided by Leonardo, which derives from the fourth generation of the so-called SADOC CMS for the new surface combatant platforms under delivery to the Italian Navy. Based on an open and modular architecture which ensures easy integration of third-party software application (i.e. bistatic sonar detection), remote computing, extensive acoustic processing know-how and submarine mission specific application (i.e. enhanced real time periscope video processing), the CMS will be installed in a state-of-the-art more spacious combat information centre (CIC) designed by Fincantieri in synergy with major suppliers and featuring nine dual-screen and fully interchangeable multi-function consoles (for CMS, sonar and EW) plus the commander station with augmented reality and sensor/data fusion, sided by few IPCS and platform control consoles.
The over-positioned longer sail accommodates a suite of six non-penetrating electrically hoisted masts and the new generation optical penetrating attack periscope all provided by L3Harris, which, together with GEM Elettronica, also supplies the low probability of intercept radar. The U212 NFS will be equipped with the latest generation of L3Harris optical penetrating periscope and low profile optronic mast with high-resolution electronic imaging including VIS, SWIR, MWIR and low light sensors. The new CMS will manage state-of-the-art communications and sensors suites including naval software defined radios, SATCOM (UHF and SHF-band) and Link 11/16 (fitted for Link 22) datalinks from Leonardo, the newly designed integrated RESM/CESM suite by Elettronica, combining high performances, compact dimensions and stealth design, with a new integrated and dedicated antenna mast providing latest tactical-strategic ISR capabilities in addition to mast/periscope-mounted antennas. Being integrated by Leonardo, the open architecture digital sonar suite is provided by ELAC Sonar (a Cohort group company) based on a contract announced in July 2021, with a wet-end including cylindrical array, extended flank array (with PRS capabilities) providing improved detection and tracking functionalities due to the ‘vertical aperture array’, alongside acoustic intercept array and own noise hydrophone.
The U212NFS CMS is capable to manage a larger panoply of weapons and payloads, namely the Leonardo Black Shark Advanced (BSA) heavyweight torpedo version developed for the Italian Navy, while the new boats are fitted for the deployment of long-range deep strike cruise missiles, which capability opens new operational scenarios and deterrence to the Italian MoD. The U212NFS also maintain the special forces support capabilities already offered and planned for the U212A, in addition to the special operators/escape trunk and mating station for the distressed submarine rescue system, and has been conceived for the future integration of unmanned underwater vehicles, which will allow the new boats to operate as main node of an underwater network that will extend the platform overall surveillance capability.