Singapore has launched its first custom-built Invincible-class submarine, marking a significant milestone in advancing the RSN’s submarine capability, and the build-up of more than two decades of submarine operating experience and engineering expertise since the Challenger-class submarines were acquired.
As the programme manager, DSTA pushed boundaries in the front-end design of the Invincible-class submarines and in the integration of the combat and platform systems. Unlike the Challenger- and Archer-class submarines that were acquired from Sweden and refurbished for the RSN, the Invincible-class submarines are designed and being built specifically to meet Singapore’s operational requirements.
Right from the early phases of design, DSTA focused on optimising the operational, training and maintenance workflows of the Invincible-class submarines. In particular, workflow studies were conducted with the RSN to develop the Combat Information Centre (CIC) for greater operational effectiveness and manpower efficiency. The design, selection and layout of the equipment, crew workstations and consoles were customised to reduce maintenance efforts. Three-dimensional modelling and mock-ups of the CIC were then produced to verify the new workflows rigorously. In addition, the submarines were designed to collect data on system health and usage, which can be analysed to further reduce maintenance efforts and cost.
The team also incorporated human-factors engineering concepts to design the submarines for the average Singaporean sailor’s body size and strength. For example, factors such as the equipment’s position, strength needed to operate the equipment, and even the tilt of console screens, were specifically designed to enhance the ergonomics for the operator.
Beyond influencing design, DSTA leveraged smart technologies to allow the submarines to ‘see further’ and ‘act faster’ while still operated by a crew size that is similar to the Archer-class submarines. The team integrated advanced automation into sense-making systems that will aid the crew to quickly decide on the best course of action in their missions.
The submarines will also be built with improved mission capabilities. The team has equipped the submarines with Fuel-cell Air Independent Propulsion systems to enhance stealth and extend their submerged endurance by about 50% more than the Archer-class submarines. To prepare submariners well for their missions, DSTA and the RSN are developing a shore-based Submarine Trainer Suite to train and qualify submariners under realistic operating conditions and different mission scenarios.
In conjunction with the launch of Invincible, DSTA signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the manufacturer thyssenkrupp Marine Systems to open up new avenues for technology collaboration. Under the agreement, both organisations will explore the use of additive manufacturing as an innovative and cost-effective method for producing submarine spare parts.