Achieving New Depths of Innovation

14 Dec 2022

Aptly christened Impeccable and Illustrious, the RSN’s new Type 218SG submarines – better known as the Invincible-class submarines – carry Singapore’s aspirations towards excellence and inspiration in the protection of our territorial waters. They were launched in Kiel, Germany, in a ceremony officiated by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his spouse Madam Ho Ching.

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In his speech, Prime Minister Lee commended the tireless efforts of personnel from DSTA, the RSN, as well as industry partner ThyssenKrupp Marine Systems (tkMS) in keeping up the project’s momentum over the last two years. He also highlighted how our defence scientists and engineers had partnered tkMS to modify the German Type-214 submarine design and tailor the systems on board to suit Singapore’s needs and operational requirements, adding: “Because we took considerable steps to custom-design our submarines, they have been classified as a type of their own – the Type-218SG. It is made in Germany, and uniquely Singapore!”

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At the same time, our team took the opportunity to introduce technological enhancements to the new Invincible-class submarines. For instance, they designed and integrated an in-house Combat Management System that supports decision-making through data analytics, enabling the crew to sense-make and collect relevant information to prioritise the next course of action. In addition, the team is working on automating the submarine’s systems to reduce the cognitive load placed on the crew, which would help them better focus on more mission-critical tasks. Among other things, the team also incorporated ergonomics and drove the submarines’ localisation efforts to enhance user experience and adapt the submarines for Singapore’s operating environment.

As the submarines moved into the design and construction phases, we established a Resident Project Office (RPO) in Germany to oversee the progress, including the integration and testing of various systems.

We also continued to pursue greater depths of innovation. For example, we led the development of a new decision support engine that could recommend the type of manoeuvre that the crew should take under various circumstances based on factors such as vessel speed, safety distance, and the closest point to approach.

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Members of the submarine team in Germany.

As submarines are complex engineering systems that operate in highly challenging environments, a close partnership between DSTA, the RSN, and tkMS was key to the successful delivery of the next-generation submarines. This was especially so amid supply chain disruptions and the need for additional precautionary measures due to COVID-19, which required the various stakeholders to exercise flexibility and agility in the planning of the submarines’ development and trials.

Deputy Senior Programme Manager (Naval Systems) Neo Ya Kai, who leads the RPO team, said: “The success of the programme is a testament of the strong ops-tech partnership that DSTA shares with the RSN, and of our close technical collaboration with the industry experts in Germany. Working on the submarines up close has been an eye-opening experience, and I could not have done it without the strong support of my teammates.”

Senior Programme Manager (Naval Systems) Cheah Yew Jin added: “It’s been a rewarding journey with my colleagues, both in Singapore and Germany. Witnessing the submarine programme reach yet another important milestone brings a sense of joy and pride, knowing how far we have come from the initial design phase. Our team will continue to contribute our expertise and deliver enhanced submarine capabilities to the RSN.”

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