Less than two weeks. Specifically, 13 days. This is how long it took to consider a challenge – even a dream – in 2003 to become a reality: the delivery to the Navy of the first of four submarines of the S-80 class, the S-81 “Isaac” . Pear wood”. More than 20 years after the Government of José María Aznar authorized its construction, which ended at the beginning of 2021, the ship is now ready to serve the Armed Forces after successfully passing many and demanding tests in the sea where it was conquered. The end, this morning, in the bay of Cartagena (Murcia)
“It’s exciting because it’s the end of a road that we’ve traveled for many years,” said Ignacio Núñez, director of production at the Navantia shipyard, without losing his smile at any time, knowing what’s after the first. Spanish production submarine, something that gives our country strategic autonomy by assuming the role of technical design authority.
But the road to here, with Navantia presenting the S-81 to the media on the day of its final test phase, was not easy. Many problems, delays and doubts remain, many, about a program that has become a challenge for the national industry.
That’s what Núñez also wants to emphasize, who remembers all the milestones they have surpassed all this time: “It’s great to be able to say: “Here is the submarine, it’s perfect.”» And they achieved this perfection thanks to thousands of workers involved in this ambitious project, with up to 7,000 people working at the same time and, on average, about 2,000 a day, as detailed.
And now, after these last tests in the open sea, which consisted of several dives and a towing test, where the rescue and rescue ship of the Navy “Neptuno” worked together, all that was left was to paint it and leave everything which is ready for the delivery ceremony. which, except for a last minute failure, will take place on the 30th in Cartagena, with the presence of his mother, Princess Leonor.
But Navantia also has views on its sales and confirmed that there are “interested clients”, such as Canada, India, Turkey or the Philippines, among others. “Many interested ministries are coming,” Núñez pointed out.
20 long years
The S-80 program officially began on September 5, 2003, when the Council of Ministers authorized the Ministry of Defense to initiate the necessary actions for the acquisition of four submarines (the S-81 ” Isaac Peral”, the S-82 “Narciso”. Monturiol”, the S-83 “Cosme García” and the S-84 “Mateo García de los Reyes”). This was the beginning of one of the most ambitious weapons programs of the Armed Forces, because it is the first time that Spain has faced the design of a submarine alone. The initial plans mentioned the cost of 1.8 billion and its delivery to the Navy in 2013. Even yet, the many failures encountered along the way delayed this date and, with it, the cost of the program, which eventually rose to 3.9 billion.
And one of the problems arose in 2013, when Navantia discovered that the submarine was overweight between 75 and 100 tons, which affected its ability to return to the surface. So the solution is to extend its length from the initial 71 meters to 81 to balance it. And this is the reason, for example, the expansion of the ports of the base of Cartagena and even the change of its name, from S-80 to S-80 “Plus.”
Once all the setbacks and delays were overcome, the program began to progress and in the final stage it did not stop, except for specific and unrelated delays, such as those obtained from the coronavirus pandemic.
Therefore, when its construction was completed, it was sponsored by Princess Leonor in April 2021 and just one month later came the first contact with the water to launch it. And from there, the tests in the port, in the open sea, the first dive … until the navigation reached the highest level of operation in the middle of last October. In fact, the acting Minister of Defense, Margarita Robles, visited the Navantia shipyard on the 3rd, making sure that she left “satisfied with the visit and the sensations” transmitted by the crew, confirming November 30 as the date of Navy dispatch.
Unique propulsion system
However, this S-81 lacks the basic system that would make it one of the most advanced submarines in the world: the Anaerobic Propulsion System (AIP), which would give it almost all discretion. , because it will allow you to charge the batteries while submerged and you can navigate underwater for weeks without having to come out. A system, Navantia explained at the time, that would give the Navy tactical and discretionary capabilities “that don’t exist today.” The technology created by Abengoa has no other power in the world at the moment. It will be included as standard in the S-83 and S-84, while the S-81 and S-82 will receive it in their first major immobilization (careening).
Once the first unit is delivered, the next ones are planned for December 2024, October 2026 and February 2028. In fact, the S-82 is close to the closure phase of the resistant hull.
And from now on, the Navy, with Lieutenant Commander Manuel Corral Iranzo as commander of the S-81, will subject the “Isaac Peral” to more tests before it enters service, above all, so that its crew knows the all the details and secrets of one of the newest submarines in the world and which many compare to a spaceship.