Indonesia Acquires Latest Scorpène Evolved Submarines with Lithium-Ion Batteries

Indonesia inks a landmark agreement with France's Naval Group to buy two sophisticated Scorpène Evolved submarines equipped with lithium-ion batteries, bolstering defense ties. The multibillion-dollar contract, supported by French government financing, aims to strengthen Indonesia's marine capabilities amid regional concerns.

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Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P. Chacko is the publisher of Frontier India. He holds an M.B.A in International Business. Books: Author: Foxtrot to Arihant: The Story of Indian Navy's Submarine Arm; Co Author : Warring Navies - India and Pakistan. *views are Personal

Indonesia continues to acquire “top-of-the-line” battleships, the payment for which is uncertain. With almost 17,000 islands, Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world. Some of these islands, like the Natuna Islands, are coveted by China. Therefore, it must modernize and fortify its Navy (Tentara Nasional Indonesia Angkatan Laut, or TNI-AL).

Jakarta announced in 2021 that it intended to purchase six Italian-built multi-mission frigates (FREMM) from Fincantieri. However, this project has not yet come to pass, so the Italian industrial enterprise was forced to accept an order for two versatile offshore patrol vessels of the PPA-class (Pattugliatori Polivalenti d’Altura, Thaon di Revel class) for 1.8 billion euros. The Indonesian Ministry of Defense announced the contract on March 28.

However, the government confirmed that it ordered two Scorpène Evolved submarines on the same day.

“In accordance with the defense cooperation agreement signed between the French and Indonesian governments in August 2021, the Indonesian authorities have chosen Naval Group and PT PAL for their submarine program,” it stated. The contract amount was not specified, but based on information from previously signed contracts, it would be around two billion dollars.

The French shipbuilding consortium Naval Group also announced that on March 28, it, together with the Indonesian state shipbuilding consortium PT PAL, signed a contract to construct two large diesel-electric submarines of the Scorpene project in a modified version called Scorpène Evolved Full LiB, for the Indonesian Navy.

The French group had been eyeing this market for a long time. During President Hollande’s visit to Jakarta in March 2017, he signed a memorandum of understanding with PT PAL to offer the TNI-AL a “latest-generation multi-purpose submarine from the Scorpène class.” Five years later, President Hollande reinforced this cooperation by signing a strategic partnership agreement [SPA].

Thus, PT PAL will build the two Scorpène Evolved submarines, with the Naval Group facilitating technology transfer.

With a surface displacement of up to 2000 tonnes and a length of 72 meters, the Scorpène Evolved is equipped with lithium-ion batteries (LiB), giving it an autonomy of over 78 days (12 days submerged) and a range of 8000 nautical miles. This technology is less restrictive compared to an Air-independent propulsion (AIP) system and conventional batteries. According to Naval Group, the Scorpène Evolved can navigate at 20 knots at depths of over 300 meters. Equipped with the SUBTICS combat management system, it has six launch tubes (for eighteen weapons). Scorpene submarine is operated by a crew of 31, and the submarine’s sea availability surpasses 240 days annually.

Indonesia became the first customer for the Scorpène Evolved modification and the fifth customer for the Scorpène family overall (following Chile, Malaysia, Brazil, and India).

“With the Scorpène Evolved Full LiB, Indonesia has chosen a high-performance submarine that has proven itself at sea, which will enhance the country’s maritime sovereignty. In addition to submarines, our strategic partnership with PT PAL will also allow the Indonesian defense industry to actively prepare for the future of naval combat,” said Pierre-Éric Pommellet, CEO of Naval Group.

Since 2016, Indonesia has been negotiating the possibility of acquiring Scorpène project submarines, dissatisfied with the cooperation with South Korean corporation Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering (DSME) in building three DSME1400 diesel-electric submarines (a modified German 209/1200 project) for the Indonesian fleet. PT PAL in Surabaya built the third submarine under the 2011 DSME contract, and it was only commissioned in 2021.

On June 7, 2021, Indonesia signed a memorandum of understanding with France to purchase six Scorpène project submarines and an armament package. On February 10, 2022, the defense ministers of Indonesia and France witnessed the signing of a memorandum of understanding between PT PAL and Naval Group. This agreement covered the procurement and construction plan for six Scorpène project submarines at PT PAL, equipped with air-independent propulsion systems, and the supply of armaments, spare parts, and personnel training support. In October 2023, Naval Group updated its offer to Indonesia, proposing the latest variant, Scorpène Evolved, equipped with lithium-ion batteries. Only two submarines have now signed the contract.

Like all other major Indonesian Air Force and Navy procurement programs, this contract is entirely dependent on foreign financing. Naval Group partnered with the French Government’s Treasury Directorate in March to fully finance this program through three credit sources. These include a credit line from the French bank Banque Publique d’investissement and a direct government loan from the Treasury Directorate, which will finance up to 85% of Naval Group’s Indonesian contract. The third source of credit is expected to be a private commercial lender, which has yet to be determined. This tranche will finance the remaining 15% of Naval Group’s contract and up to 100% of PT PAL’s Indonesian state contract. Work on the first submarine is planned to begin 14 months after the contract comes into force once the financing sources are identified and the initial payment is received.

Currently, Indonesia has four submarines: three (Nagapasa, Ardadedali, and Alugoro) of the South Korean (German) DSME1400 project, commissioned between 2017 and 2021, and one Cakra of the original German 209/1300 project, which has been in service since 1981. Another 209/1300-type submarine, KRI Nanggala, was lost accidentally in April 2021.


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