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* Future opportunities for new submarine export sales in the MENA region look most promising in North African countries.
* Iran’s continuing investment in submarine capability and the potential deployment of submarines of other navies in the Gulf region continue to influence acquisition of anti-submarine warfare capability on surface ships and aircraft.
* Many MENA navies in the Gulf Region are adding or plan to add advanced corvettes and frigates to their forces over the next decade. Prospects for new sales of submarines to these navies are expected to remain more limited over the same period.
The new construction and refit market for submarines in the MENA region is currently concentrated in North Africa, where countries such as Algeria and Libya look to modernize or replace aging Russian-Soviet platforms with newer capabilities. In the Mid-East/Gulf region, Iran remains the largest spender on submarine capabilities—both domestically built hulls and potential foreign orders.
The chart below shows AMI’s forecast for future spending on submarines and ASW-capable ships in the MENA market. As noted, Iran is building up its submarine capability in the Gulf region, while Algeria and Libya are upgrading their submarine forces in the North Africa region. Egypt retains a force of updated Soviet/Russian diesel boats, and is making some current investments to improve its swimmer delivery vehicles for special forces use. So far, Gulf countries that have invested to modernize their surface forces in recent years—Oman, Qatar, UAE, and Saudi Arabia—have not looked to add a submarine dimension to their naval surface and air capabilities
This is not surprising in that the submarine represents a significant investment not just in hulls but in crew training, shore infrastructure, associated rescue and salvage capabilities. Moreover, the current operational environment in the Gulf region has influenced many nations to focus their naval investments on moving from coastal/inshore to a more well-rounded structure centered on larger surface ships. As noted in previous analysis of the MENA market, the fastest growing naval market segments are frigates, corvettes and OPVs.
Still, the MENA region’s economies rely on critical shipping lanes and choke points that ensure resource flows in the global economy. The vulnerability of this trade to closure or interdiction by submarines will ensure ASW remains an investment priority in the region’s naval market.
The submarine challenge will continue to influence the region’s naval spending on more capable frigates, corvettes and OPVs. AMI forecasts that continued improvement in surface ship capabilities, new helicopters and fixed wing patrol aircraft, upgrades of existing submarine forces, and perhaps eventual acquisition of submarines by navies that do not currently operate them, will continue in the MENA naval market.
Highlights of Current Submarine Programs in the MENA Market:
ALGERIA: On 18 December 2009, the first of two Kilo class submarines built at Russia’s Admiralty Shipyards, was handed over to the Algerian Navy. The second unit will be handed over by the end of 2010.
LIBYA: Libya’s Foxtrot (Project 641) class submarines were commissioned in the 1970s and are at the end of their effective service lives. At least four of the six hulls are in the reserve status and none been modernized since commissioning. Libya now has the option to look to a wide variety of possible suppliers for the modernization and procurement effort since European Union (EU) and the US lifted economic and military sanctions in 2004. Russia just concluded a major (USD 1.8B agreement for new equipment sales to Libya—that may include submarines. European candidates to supply new submarines include Italy, France, Spain and Germany. Turkey and South Korea may also see Libya as an opportunity for export of products from their domestic submarine industry.
IRAN: Iran has been developing a domestic sub building industry since at least 2002, when construction commenced on small submarines displacing about 120 tons. In 2007, Iran started to build a larger submarine—the Qaeem class--with launch of the first unit expected in 2010. The Qaeem is a coastal submarine displacing 500-1000T and will be capable of launching torpedoes, mines, and possibly missiles. The Qaeem class will augment Iran’s force of larger KILO class submarines, acquired in the 1990s and expected to reach the end of their service life by 2020. Iran may also be considering the procurement of additional submarines from Russia, including the latest Kilo (636 variant) or the Amur design. The timeline for delivery is seen as 2015-2016, suggesting that an order for new subs would need to be placed to enable building to start in Russia by 2012.