On May 18, the Romanian Parliament approved implementing the “submarine against the surface and undersea threats” plan. In addition, within the next eight years, it will be essential to provide the Forțele Navale Romane, the Romanian naval force, with two submarines of the Scorpène-class.
Under the terms of the agreement with France, the Naval Group will be responsible for the building of two submersibles, the supply provision of torpedoes and countermeasures, and the provision of a variety of services. These services will include technical and military personnel training and support, including in submarine warfare. The crew will be trained in France. Even though the total amount of the contract is known to be 2 billion euros, the Romanian authorities and Naval Group have not yet released the schedule of the deal.
The Romanians believe that the acquisition of these two submarines would significantly boost the capabilities of the Romanian Navy and upset the naval balance of power in the Black Sea, which is currently dominated by the Turkish and Russian Navies, with the latter fielding six Project 636 Varshavyanka class of diesel-electric attack submarines—improved Kilos—within the Black Sea Fleet. The Scorpènes, which are efficient, stealthy, and equipped with superior combat systems, could pose a significant obstacle to Russian manoeuvrability in these waters, both above and below the surface. The Romanian submarines will also be helpful for NATO, which seeks to limit the Russian Black Sea Fleet. However, two Romanian submarines may not be a concern as the Russian Navy dominates the region, and there is no significant NATO presence in these waters to protect the subs.
Scorpene may finally enter the European service
The acquisition of these two new scorpenes by Romania is a tremendous accomplishment for the Naval Group. Not only does the French manufacturer reconnect with the European market more than 35 years after the delivery of the last Agosta to the Spanish Navy, but the Scorpene surpasses the export record for French submarines set by the Daphne, with 16 ships exported to five navies, with this order in the works. This is an extraordinary achievement given that the Scorpène was never deployed by the French Navy, which in the 1990s converted its entire submarine fleet to nuclear-powered vessels.
Until now, the French Naval Group had been unable to sell its Scorpene-class submarine to a European navy, as its German competitor ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems [TKMS] had outperformed it in the acquisition process initiated throughout the past few years. And this pattern could have been repeated in Romania, which in 2018 indicated that it was contemplating regaining submarine capability to address security concerns in the Black Sea region. The German Type 214 has been a commercial success, and as a result, four different navies have purchased 21 of these vessels for their fleets.
However, the Romanian initiative could not proceed past the declaration of intent, primarily due to budgetary constraints. However, it was relaunched in 2022 with the expectation of a substantial increase in military expenditures, which should reach 2.5% of GDP by 2023. “The Black Sea is very populated: it is full of ‘sharks'”, Vasile Dîncu, then Minister of Defence, had justified.
In June of that year, following a meeting with his French counterpart Sébastien Lecornu, Dincu announced that a letter of intent had been signed to purchase at least one Scorpène submarine (and helicopters). “We have begun the submission procedure to the Romanian Parliament,” he told the Romanian press.
Dincu has since been compelled to resign. However, his successor, Angel Tilvăr, follows in his footsteps. In April, it submitted a request to the Romanian Parliament to authorise the purchase of “submarine-type vessels” to enable the Romanian Navy to “carry out reconnaissance, information collection, and ‘combat actions’ against enemy surface ships and submarines,” whether in “territorial waters, international waters, hostile coastal areas, or areas with a high degree of risk, far from its naval bases.”
The Scorpene Class Submarine
The Scorpène-class submarine is a conventionally powered, next-generation submarine designed and manufactured for export by the Naval Group (formerly DCNS). The navies of Chile (two units), Malaysia (two units), Brazil (four units), and India (six units) operate Scorpène submarines.
Naval Group offers three versions of its submarine: the Scorpène Compact, designed for coastal operations; the Scorpène Basic, and the Scorpène 2000. It is covert, user-friendly, and self-sufficient due to its third-party Air independent propulsion [AIP] system generation, which provides 18 days of autonomy at sea.
With a length of 60 to 82 metres and a submerged displacement of up to 2000 tonnes, the Scorpène is equipped with the Subtics combat system, six 533 mm torpedo tubes containing 18 torpedoes, and SM39 Exocet anti-ship missiles.
The Scorpène 2000 is silent due to the incorporation of numerous acoustic enhancement innovations and sonar systems of the most recent iteration. It can be outfitted with flank arrays and a retractable towed array sonar system to facilitate coastal operations. Due to the submarine’s advanced automation, it has a small crew and can transport six commandos.